Twenty daring travelers with an indomitable spirit and a crew of five from Xtrym Adventures braved the December heat and almost impassable roads, leaving behind their loved ones over the last Christmas holiday to explore the Northern frontier.One thousand three hundred and eighty eight kilometers later, ten counties and a total of six stops in an overland truck made up the Odyssey.

Destination: Turkanaland (and back to Nairobi).

Duration:Eight days.

 

The start

The trip to Turkanaland from Nairobi started early the morning of Boxing day. The plan was to head to Kitale via Eldoret with a pop up lunch break at a place called Kolol  in Eldoret. However this was to change upon a request from most guys to have us start the trip a bit late considering the previous day was Christmas. A number of guys were travelling that day to make it for the trip hence a one-two hours delay.

Late arrival at Saiwa Swamp National Park;Kitale

Because of the late departure from Nairobi, we were behind schedule on day one. The road was smooth and soothing all the way through Nakuru,Eldoret and Kitale town. The journey was quiet and uneventful, everyone was almost quiet and tired apart from a bunch of extroverts who kept the truck entertained every so often whenever they were awake. At this point everyone had started warming up to each other and making friends here and there, I mean, it was the easiest if not the best tool for survival for the following eight days.

We got to Kitale just about that hour when the light of day quickly fades towards the dark of evening leaving behind a dramatic sunset with different shades of the spectrum that ushers in the night.

After approximately one hour,we got to the first sign post that pointed into a diversion that was to take us to Saiwa Swamp National Park; our home for that night.

Nothing was as comforting as seeing a sign post that lead to our last destination of the day.

Unfortunately the comforting feeling was not to last for long.

With the darkness, came some form of uncertainty; turns,bends, poor, signage, road diversions and general fatigue. All these robbed us close to three hours as our able driver tried to maneuver his way through the madness.

We only got to the park some moments to 11:00pm.

Saiwa Swamp National Park:Home for the night.

This was where we spent the night. Everyone was exhausted but despite the fatigue, the crew had our tents set up and in no time, the chef embarked on a ‘movement’ to take our taste buds to the moon and back,he never disappointed.It tasted like home-made food.

I don’t necessarily like camping…I have this phobia of imaginary things wrapping themselves around me for warmth,and many other not so interesting fears. But on this one case,my fear for snakes and creepy crawlies was somehow put to rest the moment I saw our KWS warden sprinkle some soapy concoction around the camping area.I am yet to read more on soap and its superpowers but at this stage, it is safe to assume it worked.

We had a bonfire lit up which promised some kind of warmth and safety in the otherwise cold Kitale night under the stars next to the swamp.

Saiwa Swamp National Park, is the smallest national park in Kenya, and is home for the rare swamp dwelling Sitatunga antelope.

Kitale to Lodwar.

Day 2 was going to be a long one. However, we couldn’t leave the park without exploring it a bit with hopes of catching the elusive Sitatunga antelope.

We had been psychologically prepared the previous night that the trip was going to be severely long and the road was far from good,but first we made a quick stop in Kapenguria town (West Pokot), for some purchases.

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In a little under an hour we started the long awaited journey to Turkana,destination; Lodwar town.

The road from Kapenguria to Kainuk:a trading centre south of Turkana  county was not bad as we had imagined.  

Kainuk loosely translates to a place with plenty of water which I guessed  was water from river Turkwel. It enjoys a good deal of tropical climate and agribusiness is the main economic activity of the border town.

  

The most noticeable thing as you enter Kainuk is the infamous Kainuk Bridge. It stretches 30M across Turkwel  river. The bridge sits on the river, not above the river. You can imagine how scared stiff I was when our heavy overland truck crossed over. Still glad it did not break, or the water never swept us away.

I also noted many kids swimming at the bridge,it looked like a normal thing for them but I found it extremely risky.

Insecurity in the area is a common occurrence and it is not unusual to see residents walking with firearms. There are many reported cases of bandit attacks between the people of West Pokot and Turkana. It is because of this that travelers pay for security from Kainuk to Lokichar; a stretch of  roughly 83 Km.However,the deplorable state of the road make it difficult to navigate. Washed bridges, tiny pieces of tarmac that signify the existence of a road before,larger than life potholes and collapsed roads was the order of the day. This definitely was the worse bit of the entire trip. But I guess off road lovers would probably have a field day.

The remaining stretch from Lokichar  to Lodwar town wasn’t as bad.It had a mix of fully carpeted and rough roads in equal measure.

The long strip was characterized by dry spaced out trees and shrubs, young kids fetching water from from unseen sources,herders with hunger stricken cattle grazing on imaginary grass,unattended charcoal sacks for sale, scorching sun and camels crossing roads in search of water… perhaps.

                  

At this point we were exhausted and thirsty simple because all the water we carried was almost boiling from the heat. The trip ended fourteen hours later at St.Teresa’s Pastoral Center in Lodwar town.

I highly recommend the center to anyone who needs a nice and quiet night’s sleep after our kind of trip. The self contained rooms, mosquito nets and AC in the simple simple rooms made all the difference.

Watch out for Turkanaland Part II…