As we drive off the premises of our hosts we can still enjoy a few kilometres of majestic new roads the Chinese are constructing. Next to it are the power lines that have to connect Nairobi and its surroundings with a big windmill park on the southeastern shore of lake Turkana. After a few kilometres the road stops and becomes a dirt road, from now on until Omorate (Ethiopia) there will be nothing but dirt roads, 700 kilometres long!
We don’t have that much off-road experience. But it starts off rather easy. After a while nature calls. End up taking a dump with some waterbucks and a huge assortiment of waterbirds as our witnesses. Very idyllic.
We ride on and we pass Maralal. In the dusty Maralal we eat in the hotel of a Swiss lady. The road going from Maralal to South Horr used to be the worst in Kenya. Now it’s a bit better. But we’re still struggling. We drive more than 200 km. and sometimes we even don’t manage to drive 30 km/h. The road is rocky but lucky for us it hasn’t been raining, because than it would become very slippery.
On the road I pick up one of the many old pastoralists. They are all very colorful. Without any hesitation he jumps on my motorbike with a flexibility that surprises me for his age. With his little spear in the hand we drive him to the next village. His name is Dju and that’s about as much information I can get from him. There are not many people walking along these roads and candidate hitchhikers are very limited.
Before we reach Baragoi we meet two camel herders, who are desperate for some water. We are very much inclined to give it to them because of the Kalashnikovs that are nonchalant hanging around their shoulders. There’s a lot of cattle rustling in this area. That explains the weapons. A lot of Kenyan’s believe this region is dangerous because of this. But as long as we don’t steal any cattle it’s ok I think.
Before we enter Baragoi we see a sign: “killing each other for cattle, is only food for hyena’s”. It’s a small reminder from the government that it’s just not worth it to bash each other’s head in for a few cows. Masaï and the other pastoralists see it slightly different to them your status is determined by the amount of cows you possess.
It’s been a very heavy day. The washboard roads are terrible it feels like a testing circuit for an endurance car. We are broken. Knackered. We drink a beer and eat in a local place (chapatti with coal)
There are clearly not a lot of tourists that pass through this town. We are fresh meat. A guy, who calls himself big fish, follows us around. He wants to guide us. He wants to sell stuff from his little shop. Even in the morning he tries to come and show his goods. He tells us he has contacts in Loyangalani, a town further north next to Lake Turkana, all very promising. We end up in our beds at 8 pm.
We get up early and have breakfast at the same place as our dinner (Somali pancakes and extreme sweet tea). The next stop is South Horr. We expected it to be bigger than Baragoi but it’s even smaller. We have lunch and after a long search for a very well hidden petrol pump in a small (catholic?) mission, we fill up our motorcycles.
After South Horr the road becomes a bit better. It becomes even excellent after we join the road that is used for carrying big electric power generating windmills up the hills. The hills are full of them and when this windmill park is fully operational it will generate 18% of Kenya electric power.
My motor on the other hand is lacking some power. Kermit can’t take these dusty roads no more. All of a sudden Kermit’s motor becomes shaky when I try to ride more than 70 km/h. I assume it’s the air filter that is all clogged up and I’m right. I tap the dust out (there is no water to be found in this desert). And yes it works!!
We find some shade under one of the very rare trees. The landscape is build up out of volcanic boulders. As We continue we suddenly see a big turquoise water mass. It’s lake Turkana. We reach it after 320 kilometers off-road! But that’s only half of the work, we still have a long way to go until the Ethiopian border.
There are a lot of rocks on the roads. We take another brake. It’s hot. Taking enough brakes and drinking enough water will be the key to survive these next three days. We have a cold Stoney (local ginger beer) when we arrive in Loyangalani and we eat some amazing tilapia, fresh from the lake.
A Dutch guy who’s traveling overland to Capetown is camping next to us. He did part of the road up north to Sibiloi national park with a Dutch couple overlanders that I coincidentally met on Lamu. He reassures us and tells us that the road isn’t that bad. We check the road on an smartphone application he has, it’s called “tracks for Africa”.
“Every overlander I met has this application” he tells us. Willem and I look at each other and start to laugh.
This is typically us, we only use a free offline gps/map app, Maps.me, while other people take things more serious and buy all sorts of different maps and gadgets. We use a bit of common sense and if it’s not enough we just ask around. But the lands up north are empty and maybe our free application won’t be enough… I go to bed a bit more worried.
The next day we try to leave as early as possible but the extensive breakfast and the fact that we still have to buy petrol and food means that we leave eventually around ten. The sun is already quite high and it’s already scorching hot. We buy petrol in a shady shop. Once we order the petrol the shop owner and his boys start pouring petrol in different sizes of jerry cans to measure everything. This is the way I always though I would buy petrol in Africa but it’s actually the first time I have to buy it out of plastic bottles and jerry cans. We have no idea what we are buying and hopefully the quality is not to bad. Occasions like these are the reason why I installed a fuel filter.
We drive out town and we drive on some rocky terrain. On our left hand sight lays Lake Turkana on the right hand sight the smoking hot Chalbi desert. The road is easy, just riding north all the way, all day. No more washboards but the road stays very demanding. We hit some serious sand patches in the empty riverbeds we cross. We are complete virgins when it comes to riding in the sand. We toss from left to right and we get stuck. We get stuck several times. The motorcycles and the luggage are too heavy for the deep sand. Willem gets stuck several times.
We decide to take a lunch brake after one of these horrible sand sections. After this brake the situation becomes even worse. We’re very close to the lakeshore and the sand is just too deep. After only covering 2 km we take another brake because the sun is at his highest point and the whole situation becomes unbearable. We find some little shade under a tree. Even just a bit of shade is very difficult the find here. The whole environment can only be described as “hostile”. The Flies have no boundaries whatsoever. All the trees have enormous thorns (very uncomfortable for a stop in the shade and inconvenient for the tires of our motorbikes). On top of that everything is dry, very dry. If you open your mouth it turns into a desert instantly.
After our brake it is my turn to get stuck into the sand. Looking at the trails I’m definitely not the only one who got stuck in this section. It costs a lot of sweat and energy to dig out my motorcycle. I want to quit and turn back towards Loyangalani but that means we will have to cross the same sandy road again. It’s just better to push forward and to hope for some better roads.
Just before sunset it becomes a bit cooler and we can still cover a few “easy” miles before it becomes completely dark. We decide to pitch our tent just next to two Dasanach (name of the local tribe) families. No communication whatsoever is possible. They just laugh when we try to show them we just want to pitch our tent next to theirs. Without any clear permission we do it anyway. It must be said that even our tent looks sturdier than theirs. Their houses are made out of deadwood, plastic sheets and ropes.
Before the sun disappears and darkness takes over, I decide to walk to the lake and clean my air filter, which is again causing power problems. I want to finish the problem for once and for all by giving it a thorough, yet gentle scrub. A guy who calls himself Arusha accompanies me to the shore. I start off, thinking to go on a 200 m walk which ends up to be 2 km.
I ask with a lot of ridiculous gestures if there are any crocodiles in the water (Turkana is apparently full of them!). The guy shakes his head and than he starts to laugh. He diverts from our straight path to the lake and starts to yell at some bushes. He signals me to wait and out of the bush a guy pops up with a big, flat object in his hands, surrounded by flies. As he comes closer it becomes clear that he’s carrying a 1,5 m long crocodile who’s in one of the last stages of mummification (it’s too dry here for something to rot). I’m a bit disgusted and I’m happy when the four of us reach the lake. I start to clean my filter while the two other guys have fun with the crocodile, pretending to release it in the salty water.
To clean my air filter I make on big sacrifice: my toothbrush. I know it will take some days before I can scrub the dental plaque again from my teeth. Water is scarce anyways so not cleaning my teeth wins us at least a few mouths full of water.
On our way back my difficult conversation with Arusha turns a bit weird. He doesn’t speak a word of English but all of a sudden he says: “I not nobody, I am Iluminati” He repeats is several times and I’m a bit baffled. How does this guy know about this so called (fictional?) international conspiracy organisation? It leaves me puzzled. We prepare some noodles, drink the cooked noodle water (as not to spill any valuable fluids) and go to bed. Once the sun is set the warm winds pick up. Even behind a bush our tent wiggles in all directions .