“Dream big and dare to fail.” Norman Vaughan.
This day’s drive will certainly be in the top 5 drives of our entire African exploration. It was simply astounding and unique in our experience. I have posted as many photos as time allowed but they alone cannot do justice to this amazing encounter with one of the wildest and harshest areas of our planet. The diversity to be found in Kenya is so varied that I am afraid it deserves more time than we are able to allocate. How the hardy Turkana fisher-folk manage to live in this extreme environment astounds one. The heat is unforgiving, the lake water is too salty for most to drink, there is no shade or shelter and the driest of dry winds blows almost all the time. In isolated areas there are a few camels and goats, but mostly the environment is too harsh even for them. The Turkana here at least have plenty of fish from the lake to live on.
After our customary 8H00 departure we started seeing plenty of camels for the first time. These are much valued, not surprising considering the going price is about US$700 per head. We encountered a short section of road where major road reconstruction is beginning. This was only 22km from South Horr and we wondered if this was to do with the wind farms or in fact due to the discovery of extensive oil deposits in the Lake Turkana region. Once again if you wish to find this area in its wild and seldom travelled state, better go soon as there are big changes coming. Later the roadworks peter out and one once again encounters roads of lave scree and pebbles. The road becomes very corrugated and bumpy and we took it very slowly for long stretches. As soon as one begins to near the lake the surroundings are dominated by black lava boulders or scree as far as the eye can see. This is a surreal and lunaesque landscape, awesome in its rugged hostility. There was not a living creature in sight.
After 3hrs and 62km one suddenly has a first sighting of the lake. It shimmers in the distance a greenish blue in colour. It is only closer to the lake, under certain light conditions, that it becomes the green colour of jade. One descends the Kibrot Pass down to the lake which is concreted in sections. The rest of the driving surface, in fact not too bad, consisted of volcanic stones. We took our time here as the views of the lake are as wonderful a spectacle as we had encountered on our entire journey. These unreal surroundings were complemented by herds of camels being driven along by their Turkana herdsmen. You then drive along the lakeshore for a while before coming upon the Palm Shade Campsite sign and turnoff (N02 45,410 E36 43,017) in the oasis-like rustic village of Loiyangalani. The ourskirts of the village are dominated by the low temporary huts of the Turkana people, unfortunately their grass roofs have largely been replaced by the unsightly use of plastic.
A very strong hot wind came up that evening as we had been warned to expect. Once you hear it roaring through the palm fronds of the campsite you will realise why this is not named Whispering Palms! The wind is hot and energy sapping but at least it cools things down a little in this very hot part of the world. Apparently when this wind does not blow, lake and sand flies become a pestilence. These oasis-like palms provide wonderful shade in the campsite which is endowed with fresh water springs. We filled our used water containers for washing and boiling water. One camps on grass, now becoming a relative luxury. There is a restaurant of sorts and bandas for those so inclined. Once again there are rustic cold showers and flush toilets, real luxuries in this isolated area. This campsite is a very worthy overnight stop, besides which there is not any other to choose from.
CAMPING COSTS: KSh500pppn (US$5).
Already we were so pleased to have opted for this much-feared route instead of the easier option. Especially rewarding for me was how much our travelling companion Wayne was enjoying himself. By force of circumstance, being on his own, he was planning on the Marsabit – Moyale route. We still had some time to go, with 2 nights camping right on the lakeshore and already our greatest expectations were being fulfilled.
The route is absolutely straight forward, and is accurately indicated on T4A so there is no need for a geek section today. The 87km leg today had taken us 5hr, indicative of the state of the roads, our new-found caution and finally mostly because of the absolutely jaw-dropping scenery. The drive from South Horr to Loiyangalani, especially the last section along the lakeshore, is surely as awe inspiring as any on this planet!
MAIN. Our first views of the “Jade Sea”.
1 and 2. Just north of South Horr, the road through the acacia forests.
3. Our second sighting of vulturine guinea fowl.
4. Where the road is being upgraded, perhaps in the future the whole road will look like this? All because of oil?
5, 6 and 7. Lava boulder fields as one nears the lake.
9. Wayne and Anne.
10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18. Our first views of Lake Turkana.
19. A view of South Island on the lake.
20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26. Turkana folk with their camels.
27. Lake Turkana shoreline, only a soda lake could be so barren.
28. The road along the lakeshore.
29. Classic acacia.
30. The mountains bordering the lake.
31. Turkana huts at village of Loyoigolani.
32. Whispering palms” (sic) camp site, there are palms.