The ride was quite eventful. One, being atop of the lorry allowed us aerial view of the changing landscape. Two, the scorching sun was unrelenting and the fact that I didn’t have a hat or sunscreen came to “scorch” me. Three, we were covered in dust everywhere including our lungs I believe. It was however interesting as fellow hitch hikers engaged us in conversations regarding our “madness” of wanting to travel, yet the area was not our home area. Four, we got to get a better insight of the area,its people, its cultures and an in-depth class on the clashes that occur in the region.We passed several villages and the extent of hardships faced will break your heart.
The area as mentioned is barren, the sun on a rampage to show off, and the landscape moving from soil to hard volcanic rock that seemed to also reflect the heat. We went for kilometers upon kilometers of nothing, nothing, nothing then found several homesteads with people living there. I honestly do not understand how the people survive here.
This town is a wonder. After kilometers and kilometers of bareness, we started seeing several bushes in the yonder. As we came closer, we were met by yellow flowers, mango trees and water actually flowing in the river. This looked like a miracle and I still cannot comprehend how.This would be our stop over for lunch and a well-deserved rest. We however ended up staying for longer than expected as we waited for the heat to recede as otherwise, it would make the tires explode. After a couple of hours, we proceeded onward and after a few minutes of leaving the town, we again went back to the norm, barren landscape.
Finally after almost 11hours, we finally got a glimpse of Lake Turkana in the yonder. The sun was setting and its beautiful reflection was shimmering on the waters. The sight is truly a beauty to behold. The ride started being a bit scary as it seemed like we were descending, which isn’t a great feeling when you are atop a lorry.
After 12hours on the road , 131km covered from Baragoi, having engaged with several communities en-route, enjoyed the great scenery and driven through part of Chalbi desert, we finally arrived in Loiyangalani.
It is the worlds largest permanent desert lake and the worlds largest alkaline lake. The lake is quit amazing to look at, as well as to cool off from the sweltering heat.The surrounding area of the lake is covered in volcanic rock and you may end up staying here for hours, like I did. Be careful however, to get tips from the locals on the “safe” area to swim, as the lake is crocodile infested.
I was amused and rattled by the fact that I only saw men swimming and enjoying the water. The women would only draw water from it and head back home. I chose a spot a small distance from where the men were and started to enjoy my swim. People eyed me suspiciously, but I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying my swim. I had traveled too far to swim in this lake, to let a few stares hold me back. Eventually, one lady finally garnered enough courage after watching me for a while and moved beyond the edge. She took a quick dip and ran out smiling, like a little girl who had just discovered candy.
The lake is also used for transportation and thus you will see the boats loaded with luggage and the businessmen pushing the boat deeper into the water. The reason I didn’t take a ride was when I saw them scooping water from it as it floated on the lake, I was not going to be a part of that.
I didn’t get much time to interact with the locals due to both time constraints and language barrier. I however pulled a “rabbit in the hat” trick and managed to talk to the young men in the area. On the last night at the hotel, I went and sat at a table set in the middle of the lounge area. Soon, a few guys joined me and luckily one spoke Kiswahili and thus became my translator. They gave me tales of their travels when they go in search of pasture, what they refer to as ‘kuenda fora”, to life as a moran, marriage, their culture and their lifestyle. I was really elated as I had finally gotten to hear the men’s version. It was however also sad to hear tales of “child brides” and the practice of “FGM” in the region, even though the practice is illegal in Kenya. Dear government of Kenya, I urge you to put more boots on ground to protect the little girls getting abused in parts of this region.
As we arrived, we didn’t even know where we would stay, but reckoned there must be at least a guest house in the region. We had decided if worst came to worst, we would just go to the chiefs camp and seek refuge. Fortunately, we discovered that there are various options and we were given a contact of a hotel owner in the region who was gracious enough to come pick us from the home of the cargo owner. That is how we ended up at Malabo Resort which totally impressed me. First, its rooms are spacious, clean and it has running water. The area is also very green, it actually has trees and flowers and the staff are very friendly. They have the option of camping, hotel rooms and manyattas. The owners are also really nice and offered me a ride back with them to Nanyuki from where I could then get my transport to Nairobi. I still cannot believe such a beautiful place exists way up there and would recommend it to everyone.
There is no public transportation from Baragoi to Loiyangalani . One can fly to Loyangalani via helicopter or chartered flights from Nairobi. However, if you are adventurous like me, feel free to backpack and hitch a ride from a lorry/truck. An alternative route that I later discovered would be to progress from Nairobi to Marsabit by bus, which is picked in Eastleigh. From Marsabit, there are buses that head to Loiyangalani.
It was indeed an exciting feeling to have successfully backpacked solo from Nairobi to Loiyangalani in two weeks, covered over 1300km overland via public transport, experienced Samburu life in Suguta Marmar and Maralal towns, Turkana life in Baragoi town and swam in Lake Turkana. I could also officially, honestly and authoritatively respond that Yes, it is safe for a lady to travel and or backpack solo in Kenya. For more on the Northern Kenya experience, check out:
Suguta Marmar and Maralal :http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/exploring-suguta-marmar-and-maralal/
Challenges faced: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/challenges-of-backpacking-northern-kenya/
Lake Turkana Festival: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/marsabit-lake-turkana-festival/