The barren land of Lake Turkana
We are driving on the A2 (the northern road) towards Ethiopia. Which starts as a highway with 3 lanes on both sides slowly changes into a country road (1 lane on both sides) where you have to be careful that the traffic coming towards you is not taking your lane as well.
The road is in good condition which is helping us making the necessary km’s to get to lake Turkana, which is situated, along the border with Ethiopia, in North West Kenia.
From the A2 we take a turn to the left and enter the D371, a tar and gravel road, just recently done due to the wind park that has been developed on the east shore of lake Turkana. It is one of Kenia’s biggest wind parks which can generate almost 1/5th of Kenia’s power supply and will get rid of the polluted diesel engines. The project started 10 years ago, but due to a lot of problems (power struggle, corruption, tribal disagreement) the project just recently (2018) finished. It is a massive sights as 365 wind turbines are soaring the sky and catching the strong and constant wind that is present in this area.
We are stopping in a small town called Ngurunit for the night where we have a personal askari (cool name for guard) waking over us all night. It’s a public campsite run by the community (most of them Samburu) set along the river and surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is a great place for hiking, but we have set our eyes for lake Turkana or the jade sea, which it is now being called among locals.
We are leaving early in the morning as we still have a lot of hours to drive even though it is only 150 km a way. The road winds through the country side while we pass small settlement and herders with over 50 camels. Yes, you are reading correctly, camels are a common thing around the area due to the dry environment and the shortage of water. This is clearly visible, especially now, as rain should have already been there.
Upon entering the wind park, the road changes from gravel to tar. We have the road all to ourselves and are enjoying this F1 race track. With speed over 100 km we are driving through the park.
The road changes into a rocky pebbled road after leaving the wind park and although this road is terrible, especially for our tyres, we are enjoying every bit of it as we finally see lake Turkana also known as the jade sea. It is so blue that we can’t see where the lake ends, and the sky begins.
Groups of huts, only made of sticks and goat skin, are situated along the shore line on the rocky surface. Big herds of goats and sheep are looking in between the pebbles for the last few plants and grass that can handle the harsh environment.
On the shore line we find fishermen preparing the nets while others are in the water on improvised boats. The boats here are made of three logs of wood tied together. It is incredible to see that it floats, but it is even more incredible that the inhabitants have the guts to go into the water as lake Turkana used to have the biggest population of Nile crocodiles in the world. And they still resides their.
Due to all the pictures of this beautiful environment we are running late, so we push through to our next destination, Loiyangalani. This small town, surrounded by pillow lava, is the meeting point of the great northern tribes, Turkana and Samburu, Gabbra and El Molo. With clashing colours, feather head dresses and blood-red robes it is one of the most exotic parts of Kenia. This town is also your last stop to get fuel or groceries before you had north along the shore line towards Sibiloi NP.
The more north you go the more barren the land becomes due to incinerable heat and the unfertile environment. Nothing grows here accept a few trees which flock around the many river beds we have to cross. We would have had a hard time living here, but settlement after settlement of local tribes are doing that exact thing. They are taking water from the lake, while having their own life stock for milk and meat. We are amazed by their resilience, living, in our eyes, this harsh life.
Moite is the biggest settlement, halfway lake Turkana, but our road turns inland towards Sibiloi. The gravel/sandy roads make way for a hilly road full of hard rocks which stretches for km’s. Our car is taking a beating, well more to say, the tyres are taking it. The land here is so tough we don’t see any settlement for hours. Luckily, we have a good 4x4 as we don’t want to have a break down here. You would really be in trouble if that would happen. After a couple of hours, we reach the gate of Sibiloi NP we have finally reached our destination.
Some advice from us when driving the east side of lake Turkana:
- Grab a good cup of coffee at Delum's Farmshop & cafe. Great place to have a break.
- Make sure you have enough fuel before leaving Loiyangalani as you would not find any fuel station or jerry cans before you enter either Ethiopia or the A2
- Also stock up on supplies, food and water as you will not find any along the way
- The road is only accessible by 4x4
- Make sure your car is in pristine condition. A break down or accident can really bring you in serious trouble the more north you go
- The same goes for you, as the nearest doctor will be hundreds of kms away
- Reduce your tyre pressure for the rocky and sandy parts. How much all depends on the weight of your car
- And last, but not least, don’t drive during wet season (after rain) as you are bound to get stuck
- Take the D371 from Laisamis which is in good condition in stead of the corrugated road C79 to Lake Turkana.