Camp Henry was an interesting place, we first picked a spot under a shady tree because it was a really hot afternoon but when Marcus jumped out he noticed a big concrete table and at the end of the table on the ground was a pool of dried blood and behind this was a pole slung between two trees with hooks suspended along it! Realising that this was where they slaughtered their goats we thought it wise to move!
Also in the camp was a German born Kenyan who was on a safari with his brother and wife who were visiting from Germany. Also with them was his African cook/cleaner who had been with him for 28 years and done many safaris with him. The camp had a nice rotunda sheltered from the heat and the wind but they had virtually taken over the entire thing and were quite arrogant about not wanting to share it. We like our own space anyway so camped away from them and sat under a sky of stars. Up early the next day because we knew it was going to be a very long day but one thing I can’t do is have a Dingo’s breakfast so we had our normal cereal and toast with a mug of hot tea. For those who don’t know what a “Dingo’s Breakfast” is, it is a “piss and a look around”! First up we needed to fuel up and having seen a Shell service station up the street we headed for it but as we came up to it Marcus had second thoughts, it was dirty, looked quite run down and not looked after. The gut feel was we didn’t want to take a chance on their diesel so kept going and found a Total further up that was clean and well looked after so fuelled up there instead. A good move it seems because a couple of weeks later we met a Welsh bloke called Rob who had stopped at the Shell in Marsabit and got a tankful of dirty diesel. Anyway we set off for Mt Kulal which is an eroded-down extinct volcano located east of Lake Turkana at an elevation of 2,300 metres so much cooler than down on the flats. Mt Kulal has been a biosphere reserve since 1978. The road we took was a small rough road through a very dry arid region. Along the way we saw the occasional village and often came across herders looking after their herds of camels or goats, not much else can survive out here.
Having not had any rains for nearly 12 months it is so dry out here and as we drove past the herders, who I might add were anywhere between 7 and 16 year old boys, they would come running out to the road asking for water. The previous day we had had a few similar experiences and so we stopped at a store in Marsabit and bought a 24 pack of water in anticipation of finding a lot more thirsty herders. When we stopped and gave them water it was like we were giving them the finest bottle of Burgundy wine, they really showed their appreciation.
Some of the herds of camels were in the hundreds and all being moved along looking for some sort of vegetation to eat, not that there was much around. Occasionally we came across baby camels lying under the shade of a tree while mum was off trying to find some feed.
It was a fantastic drive and one that we found incredibly interesting and it really drove home to us just how harsh the conditions were out here for the people who lived here. We soon got to the turn off to Mt Kulal and instantly we could tell that very few vehicles actually took the turn off to the mountain. the track was very narrow and rocky and as we climbed further up the track deteriorated even further to the point where I thought it a great idea to put the Cruiser into Low 4 wheel drive as a precaution. The one thing that has always stuck in my mind after doing the CFA off road driver course was that it was much easier to put it into Low 4 at the start of the hill than to have to try and stop half way up and do it.
So we snuck up nice and slowly until eventually we came to the village at the top and found our intended camp site. Then it all turned into a bit of a circus because the security man on the gate wouldn’t let us in and there was no one else around but then a man came up and said that we must follow him to the camp site via another track. However the security man was saying no don’t follow him just wait, so we were unsure what to do because man number two was quite insistent that we follow him. So in the end we started backing up to the second track to follow him and just as we were turning man number three turns up all breathless and says he is the local guide and not to follow man number two because he is not all there in the head! Eventually the guide who had by this time introduced himself as Shakri had been able to make contact with the manager of the African Inland Church who had a cottage to rent as well as allowing camping and we were given access. When we had a look at the cottage and after seeing the big black clouds building over the mountain it was an easy decision to make, we took the cottage for the sum of 1400 Kenyan shillings or $20 Australian! It was lucky we did because as we sat on the front verandah looking out over Lake Turkana 50 kilometres away the rain started and it poured for about an hour, or long enough to have completely drenched our roof top tent which we had put a tarp over. The cottage had a great kitchen although no gas bottle for the gas stove, a lounge room, bathroom, laundry and four bedrooms so we were spoilt for choice! After the rain stopped Shakri came and picked us up and took us to a fantastic view point to watch the sun go down but unfortunately there was so much cloud we didn’t actually get to see it set but the views were worth it anyway.
Shakri is married to a school teacher, has four children and runs a small shop in the town to supplement his guiding income. We had dinner and read for a while before hitting the sack but shortly after getting to sleep we were woken by some screeching noises on the roof and it wasn’t long before Marcus realised that the wind had come up and the branches of the Bouganvilia plant outside was rubbing it’s thorns along the roof thus making the screeching noises! Outside Marcus went in his underpants (always wanted to be a super hero) and did some serious pruning and we slept like babies there after. The next morning Shakri was back at 8am to take us on a hike up into the biosphere reserve and we set off up the track that man number one was going to lead us up the previous afternoon and we are so glad we didn’t end up doing so because the track was full of boulders 2 or 3 feet high!
The walk was very nice however all the villagers take their cows, goats and any other animal up into the forest to feed during the day so the forest was a bit abused. At the end of the day though there had been very little rain here for a very long time too so the villagers need to keep their stock alive some how.
In Kenya the Africans all talk about the Short rains and the long rains, this year there had been no short rains and the long rains which were due in early March had still not come and it was late April. On the way back from our walk we stopped in at Shakri’s shop and Pauline bought some necklaces and a Kikoy (sarong). We also left two soccer balls with him and he was going to make sure that they were given to the school when they returned from their holidays the following week.
The rain clouds were really threatening again so we thought it a good idea to get back down the steep track before it started to rain. It was a nice slow drive down the track but the views we had coming up had been replaced by thick cloud and mist which was a shame. We got back down to the turn of and considered it safe enough now to stop for a coffee and no sooner had we got everything out and it started to pour, we had broken the drought! In the pace of time it took us to have our cup of coffee the temperature had dropped to the point where we were quite cold as we drove off. The rain was so heavy that we were reduced to a crawl, the windscreen wipers were on high just to see where we were going and the waterways had gone from nothing to two feet deep fast flowing rivers.
We soon came to a wide perfectly graded road that was a smooth as a babies bum and then started going past a mass of wind turbines along the ridges as we drove along. Kenya has put in 365 wind turbines in this area and to get them all here had to put in this excellent road all the way from a main tar road two hundred odd kilometres away.
Soon after leaving the wind turbines behind the road turned back to a rough rocky track again and soon took us down to the shore of Lake Turkana where it followed the lake all the way to Loiyangalani where we stopped for the night. All along the shore were very small family communes that were nestled in amongst the rock, there was nothing else not even a blade of grass. These families survive by fishing the waters of Lake Turkana and what they don’t eat they sell as dried fish, a more harsh existence you could not imagine but they all had big smiles and waves as we went past.
At the camp we stopped at in Loiyangalani we bumped into the German safari group again and again they had taken over a complete rotunda but this time there was a second one for us. We decided to buy dinner that night and were served in our rotunda a huge meal of serving bowls full of rice, fish stew and cabbage and was absolutely delicious but we hardly made a dent on the bowls so full were they. We left early again the next morning thinking that it could again be a very big day on the road and it was. We had a choice of go back to the tar road on the superb road built to bring the wind turbines in on or take a much less used track going down through the towns of South Horr, Baragoi, Barsaloi, Wamba and eventually out onto the tar road.
There were stages we were driving for a few hours without seeing another vehicle or any people so proper remote. We could have and should have stopped part of the way down and wild camped which would have been special but for some crazy reason just kept driving. When we popped out onto the main road we chose a camp site called the Sabache Community Camp which was in a valley nestled in between two huge mountains, a more beautiful place you couldn’t even imagine. However it was very basic with drop toilets and cold showers and the price they wanted was 6,000 Kenyan shillings or $84 for two people to camp so that took the shine off it from the start but we were too exhausted to look for something else.
However soon after we made camp two Samburu men turned up and went off to get firewood for us, then lit the fire and told us that one of them would stay with us all night to protect us! We declined the offer of protection and eventually they left and we had what was probably the quietest night in Kenya so far. The next morning the Samburu men were back and offered to show us how to light a fire without matches which we thought would be fun. So they set to with two sticks and some dry elephant poo and three of them took turns to twist stick one on to stick two to get enough friction to light the fire. It wasn’t looking to good and even I had several turns as they got tired but a combination of Ellie poo that was not so dry and being to used to using matches prevented the lighting of said fire. It was a very funny experience for all of us and at one stage I managed to get some smoke coming up which they were all very impressed with!
The eldest man had quite a severe limp and when I asked about it the younger Samburu, David told me that many years ago he had been bitten by a Cobra and had used traditional medicine instead of seeing a doctor, so he ended up sustaining a lot of damage to his muscles in that leg as a result.
Before we went home at Christmas we had visited Nanyuki and stayed at the Soames Hotel which was just delightful so we thought we might spoil ourselves again and spend a night there on the way back to Nairobi. We arrived around lunchtime so enjoyed some great food and then spent the afternoon writing blog posts, reading and just relaxing. There had been no rains here since we were here in December and it was really dry and the grass was no longer a rich green but rather a dirty brown but in the last few days they had been receiving some afternoon storms so things are looking up.
The lack of rain had actually been good for us as our replacement roof top tent had still not turned up by the time we got back to Nairobi. It seems that it was the Kenyan Revenue Authority who were holding things up now and had to first approve the shipment before it had even left South Africa and this approval had been turned down. So they resubmitted the request with no changes and this time it was approved, it just beggars belief how this works. Then the transporters have taken a week to finally get it onto a plane and when it arrives in Nairobi the receiving agent has to apply to the Kenyan Revenue Authority for a duty and VAT invoice. Again it all turns to shit because the online system has gone down yet again so we have to wait until the next day to see if it is up again. Yes the next day it was up again and we receive the invoice which we then have to take to a bank and pay with cash only! We are still waiting to be given the go ahead to pick it up from Customs at the airport. Only in Kenya!