Kenya, Part 3: Camping in the Bush and Ride up to Maralal

4 -5 August 2011

The journey down from Lake Turkana continued across the beautiful savannahs of northern Kenya, ending in Maralal, up on an escarpment. Our convoy had bush-camped a few nights on this trip but most of them were hurried as we rode right up to sunset. Now, with the convoy smaller and no party in a hurry to get to Nairobi, we had ourselves a memorable night of camping in the bush, just past the town of Baragoi. From there, we had one final tough ride up the mountainside to finish the route in Maralal.

Riding into the town of Baragoi, the biggest town between Loyangalani on the lake and Maralal.

We didn’t expect to find petrol in Baragoi, but we topped up just in case. Fuel was slightly higher at KSh135/L ($5.49/gal) compared to the nationally-fixed price of KSh115/L ($4.68/gal).

Of course, we were the most interesting thing to happen in town that day or maybe even that week, and we quickly drew a big crowd, but everyone was pleasant.

Carlos loves little kids and he’s inspecting a wire push-car. The kid in the foreground was yearning for some attention…

…so Carlos pulled him up to sit on the tank. The others said his name was Baracka, named after Obama, and we figured he would be the most popular kid in town for a few days after this.

We rode a few kilometers out of town and came across Africa! This was the most enigmatic landscape that I had ridden through – a huge valley with volcanoes dotting the landscape, the earth red and covered in acacias. We rode up this small dirt path to find a place to camp up on one side of the valley.

We had plenty of time to enjoy the closing moments of the day…

…and take in this huge landscape…

…with no signs of civilization around.

Carlos with his ride thru Africa, a KTM 640 and his shelter, a compact one-man tent. I enjoyed riding with Carlos. He was a kind soul and we shared many common interests.

Peter and Jill provided dinner that evening and here they’re serving up rice with sausage and onion soup out the back of their Defender motorhome. After dinner, we watched the stars shining bright above us and I pointed out the Milky Way and the Southern Cross to my companions. Carlos, being a geek, pulled out his Android phone and launched his Google SkyMap app that when pointed at the night sky revealed star names and constellations.

Just before sunrise on the African savannah.

The area was covered in thorny acacias…

…but we found some open spaces to park our vehicles and tents.

Something bright is coming up over that hill…

…the sun! First rays touching all life in the valley and signaling a new day has begun.

Catching the reflection of the first rays off my top box with stickers of the two major continents that I’m riding through, South America and Africa and a sticker of my destination, India.

My license plate from Illinois, covered in dirt. I wondered if it would get stolen, but so far, nope. Mega zip ties and safety wire holding it on through all those vibrations.

The savannahs of northern Kenya, covered in acacias, bathed in early morning rays.

Feeling small and insignificant in this massive landscape. Truly humbling.

Magic light from the early morning sun lighting up the acacias.

Volcanoes of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya.

A thorny acacia, trying to defend what little leaves it has from all the herbivores in this land.

Enjoying a peaceful morning in the African bush and being thankful for getting the chance to ride on this journey and experiencing Mother Nature in all her beauty.

Looking south across the savannah and pondering about what lay ahead for us as we rode the last day on the Lake Turkana route.

Cactus next to my tent.

Carlos pulling out small thorns from his balding rear tire after we rode out of the bush. No worries on my Heidenaus.

From Baragoi, there are two routes to Maralal. Peter and Jill took the main route, which they said was pretty rough with many water crossings and Carlos and I took the secondary route through Barsaloi, which had a very steep climb up from the savannah to Maralal on the mountain top.

Enjoying the morning’s ride across northern Kenya’s bushland.

Beautiful light shining across the valleys and mountains of the wilderness in northern Kenya.

Camels grazing on whatever they can find in this parched valley.

A long line of cattle walking in our direction.

Uh oh, traffic jam in the bush. It felt like there were hundreds of cows and all were headed in our direction, so lots of honking ensued in trying to navigate through this sea of livestock.

After surviving a 3 km sea of cattle, we saw what they were all coming for – their tribal herdsmen were digging wells in this dry riverbed and fetching water for their animals.

The route was characteristic of the first part of the Lake Turkana route with its many dry riverbed crossings, but…

…these were bigger and set in deeper valleys with steeper climbs on both sides.

Carlos was waiting for me in Barsaloi and he had hit his fuel reserve again. Here he is getting a handout from sanDRina, the fuel tanker for KTMs, haha.

It was very entertaining for the local kids, who…

…gave me this scorpion, set against the Kevlar mesh of my Motoport riding suit. That’s a pretty serious stinger on the tail. I’m not superstitious but after I received this scorpion gift, I experienced…

…my first real offroad crash. Don’t worry, no injuries to me or the bike. I quickly got up and Carlos captured this picture of me conquering the fall, not giving it a chance to bring me down. Then we quickly picked up sanDRina and checked for any damage, which was limited to just a few scratches on the plastic hand guards and the tank. She’s a tough girl.

I was riding really good all morning and was charging up this hillside in second gear, making all the right calls for which path to choose, but this smooth rock in the foreground caught me off guard and I hesitated just for a second on deciding whether to go to the right of it, which would’ve been the better call, but then at the last second, I decided to go to the left of it and its smooth face caught the torque from the rear wheel and spun me out. My strong Oxtar TCX Comp motocross boots did their job in preventing any injuries to my feet and my Kevlar Motoport riding suit prevented any injuries to my skin. Teknic gloves did their job in preventing any injuries to my hand and my Arai helmet didn’t even touch the ground. After a lunch break of bananas and Ethiopian peanut butter sandwiches, we rode on.

As we climbed higher toward Maralal, the trees got bigger but the ground was still sandy.

More steep climbs out of dry riverbed crossings.

Carlos waiting for me as he took in the view of the mountaintops.

Summiting a path after a steep climb up a narrow road that was leaning away from the mountains with many rain ruts.

A Suzuki DR650 and a KTM 640 enjoying the offroad in the mountains of northern Kenya.

Almost done with all the serious offroading and just a few more kilometers to Maralal.

As we rode into Maralal, Carlos and I high-fived each other. We made it. We rode the infamous Lake Turkana route and not only survived it but thoroughly enjoyed it. All that sand and those sharp rocks definitely raised my tension at times but by the end of it, I was comfortable again riding in deep sand and don’t fret sharp rocks anymore. I was glad to have Carlos for riding company and as bikers know, if you want to improve your riding ability, it’s best to ride with someone who’s more skilled than you because it will encourage you to push your envelope, which I certainly did on this ride. Pushing your limits means crossing your limits and my fall in the rocks brought me back into my comfort zone but that was now much further out than before this ride.

The Lake Turkana route is one of those epic rides that should feature in every adventure biker’s dreams at night. The route went across deserts, featuring deep sand and sharp volcanic rocks, through savannah and finally up into mountains. The tough terrain ensures that this wilderness will remain as so for years to come and it truly captures what wilderness in Africa is all about, or at least what I dreamt it was all about and my dreams came true.

Next: Kenya, Part 4: Into Nairobi and End of Part 1 of my RTW Journey

Previous: Kenya, Part 2: The Deserts of Turkana into African Savannah

Kenya, Part 2: The Deserts of Turkana into African Savannah

2 – 4 August 2011

The first leg of the Lake Turkana Route, from the border with Ethiopia to Loyangalani, was an epic journey through an untamed part of Africa. I only had two falls in the sand and quickly got to grips with the loose surface and started enjoying myself over the desert landscape. After a day’s rest in Loyangalani, our convoy of a Land Rover motorhome, a KTM 640 and sanDRina set off on the next leg, heading south, away from the lake and towards the town of Baragoi. The landscape changed from desert to savannah with acacia trees dotting this big sky land of the Great Rift Valley through Kenya.

The Samburu Women’s Camp in Loyangalani, a respite in the desert.

Mama Samburu, a headstrong woman successfully running this campground that’s mainly used by overland travelers and others who venture out this far. She was very friendly and helpful in getting things like local SIM cards and a mechanic for Peter and Jill’s Defender that was suffering from a broken suspension mount.

The campsite was shady with palm trees and the constant stiff breeze that Lake Turkana is known for made it comfortable during the heat of the day.

The best feature of the campsite were these open-top, always-running hot showers. Lake Turkana is defined by volcanism and there are hot springs nearby that the showers are tapped into, so they’re constantly flowing and there’s no guilt in having a half hour or even a full hour shower. I took four showers during my day off, with the last one being a night shower where I spent a long time staring up at the stars while being bathed in warm water. Oh and thanks to US AID for providing the durable shower lining. The sacks they use to distribute food aid are known to be of high quality and are priced for their multiple uses.

Carlos giving some TLC (tender loving care) to his KTM 640 by washing off all her dirt. I used to be like that with my GSX-R600 and kept her in pristine condition but with sanDRina, washing her doesn’t make sense and I think it wears off some of her character. There’s probably dirt on her all the way from Bolivia! Camping in our tents was the same price (K600, $6.50) as staying in these Turkana huts, so we bikers opted for that.

Guy and Lu preparing dinner for us at the Samburu Women’s Camp. They were circumnavigating Africa in their blue Defender, giving about a year for the journey.

Happy campers in Loyangalani: Peter and Jill, Carlos and Guy and Lu.

A dinner of grilled fish and Kenya’s Tusker beer.

Carlos’ clean looking KTM and the dusty sanDRina (she’ll get a wash when it rains). Carlos decided to take off and ride solo, hoping to make it to Baragoi, about 140 kms (87 mi) away before his fuel ran out, but…

…he was back in two hours as he hit his reserve within 16 kms (10 mi). After making fun of me for carrying so much fuel, here he is taking some of my extra reserves, hehe. I’ve learned to ignore the chidings from other bikers when they complain about how much stuff I’m carrying and all the planning that I do for rough stretches, because it’s me who smiles when things don’t go according to plan and my contingencies come into effect. I left with a full tank of 40 L (10.5 gal ) of petrol and then had two 20 L jerrycans of petrol in the accompanying motorhomes. 80 L (21 gal) of petrol for 900 kms (560 mi) of offroad might seem like overkill, but not when I’m sharing that with others.

After another relaxing evening in Loyangalani, our convoy of three set off the next morning. A sign just outside Loyangalani showing that going east would take us to Marsabit, but we were heading south to Maralal, the end of the Lake Turkana Route.

A gathering of huts from the Turkana tribe, after whom the lake gets its name. The people have adapted to their environment as the huts are designed so that they can withstand the constant winds around the lake. They were less affected by British colonialism than other tribes in Kenya due to the remote and harsh land that they live on and thus their traditional culture is still strong.

Riding a craggy track with a huge expanse of emerald waters spreading out in front of us. From Loyangalani south, the route closely followed the lake for a bit and the views were epic.

The rocky shores of Lake Turkana, supposedly famous for crocodiles, but I didn’t see any.

The road surface around Lake Turkana, covered in loose rocks that…

…ate into my Heidenau K60 Scouts. The sharp rocks that I rode over on the Lake Turkana route took bites out of my knobbies but I had no punctures.

Even though the track is in a very remote area, some parts of it were paved in concrete, such as steep uphill sections where grip on the loose rocks is lacking.

Cactus berries. Ferdi and Katie left a day before us and shared these next few photos with me.

Kayous was sitting up front and keeping an eye out for any wildlife, such as this…

…Dik-dik, a small antelope that lives in the shrubland of eastern and southern Africa.

An ostrich, standing tall over Kenyan savannah.

A cooking gas cylinder turned into a mailbox at the turnoff to Tuum.

A Secretary bird looking around for lunch. Unlike other birds of prey, it hunts for small prey on foot, rather than from the air. Its name derives from a French corruption of its Arabic name of saqr-et-tair meaning hunter bird.

A lone acacia tree in the sands of Turkana. Leaving Lake Turkana behind, the route went across some open dryland as it headed for that valley up ahead.

Riding the 50/50 Heidenau K60 tire over a variety of surfaces. I was used to the sand by now and was keeping up with Carlos, a more skilled offroad rider.

The vegetation picked up the further south we went with the sand keeping up.

Enjoying the Lake Turkana Route with sanDRina being lighter than normal.

Some cement pavement across a dry riverbed. I caught up with…

…Carlos who was taking some respite from the heat.

Carlos riding the Lake Turkana route.

His KTM 640 was setup much lighter than sanDRina, which is ideal for offroad touring, but I prefer hard boxes for safety and stickers!

Riding the sands of the Lake Turkana Route.

Blue and brown, two of my favorite colors, in abundance in Kenya’s Big Sky country.

The trees got taller and the color of the ground changed as we rode past South Horr, getting greener and redder.

Passing a huge dried riverbed that…

…made for a nice stop for lunch.

These donkeys thought so, too, enjoying the shade from the thin leaves of this acacia canopy.

Children from a nearby Samburu village quickly ran over to see what was going on.

It was a beautiful day to be riding red earth through green acacias under a big blue sky.

Oopsie, another drop in the sand. I think that was some brain-fade after lunch and thanks to Peter for helping with the pick up.

The land rises up from Lake Turkana at 400 m (1,300 ft) to 1000 m (3,280 ft) at South Horr and gets close to 1,500 m (4,920 ft) near Baragoi with lots of steep climbs up rock faces along the way.

Peter and Jill’s Defender motorhome slowly making it up the steep climbs. Their truck was suffering as that huge vehicle only had a 1.6 L diesel engine that overheated on long uphill pulls but they would make it to South Africa.

Taking breaks under any shade that I could find as I was enjoying the ride through this beautiful landscape.

As the route got closer to Baragoi, there were many hills and valleys to traverse with the troughs covered in sand.

Riding onto big open land in the great valleys of northern Kenya.

sanDRina catching some shade under this lone acacia tree as the route wound its way across this expansive valley.

Heavy clouds as the route started climbing up the side of this huge valley.

sanDRina, my companion on my journey across Africa.

Deep ruts in the road from the rainy season as the land got greener near Baragoi.

This kind of riding, through wide, open land is what I cherish the most. Cultural insights are interesting and meeting local people is enriching but it’s being in wilderness that I crave the most and am glad I could relish the feeling for days on end on the Lake Turkana Route.

What I really like about crossing huge swathes of wilderness is seeing gradual changes in the land, like the slow change from the rocky deserts around Lake Turkana into the acacia-covered savannahs around Baragoi. This helps me understand how the environment functions on a different timescale than the fast-paced lives of its dominant species, us humans. Even though I was riding a motorcycle fast through this big land, its enchancement slows me down and lets me connect with nature.

Next: Kenya, Part 3: Camping in the Bush and Ride up to Maralal

Previous: Kenya, Part 1: Riding the Sands and Rocks along Lake Turkana

Kenya, Part 1: Riding the Sands and Rocks along Lake Turkana

31 July – 2 August 2011

Karibu Kenya! Welcome to the land of vast savannahs, desolate deserts, verdant forests and sublime beaches. Kenya straddles the equator and is blessed with a variety of landscapes and peoples who have made this the most developed East African country. Most of that development lies in the southern portion of the country with much of the north still being untamed.

I entered Kenya at Lake Turkana and went down its eastern shore, passing through the towns of Illoret, Loyangalani, Baragoi and Maralal, where civilization (in the form of regular petrol stations) was recognizable once again. Starting from the remote Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia, the route involves a 900 km (560 mi) stretch between petrol stations, meaning that water and food were also in scarcity. I teamed up with fellow overland travelers for this route so that they could carry extra fuel, water and food for me in exchange for a chicken curry. The company was also enjoyable in the remote wildernesses.

Most of the overland route down eastern Africa is paved and relatively easy, expect for this crossing between Ethiopia and Kenya. The more popular route is to enter Kenya at Moyale and then head down the bone-jarring and suspension-breaking road to Marsabit and onto Isiolo (currently being paved). But the more adventurous route is to enter Kenya at Lake Turkana and experience a bit of Wild Africa. The terrain is tougher (mostly sand and sharp rocks), longer and more varied (ranging from hot desert to mountainous forests).

Come along for the ride as I head into some pristine African wilderness…

After getting our passports stamped out in Omorate, the last town in southern Ethiopia, our convoy of overland travelers turned south for the Kenyan border. The route started off with soft sand through acacia trees.

The Lake Turkana Route, coming down the eastern shore. Click on it to go to the interactive version in Google Maps. The first night was spent camping in wilds of Sibiloi National Park, followed by camping in the bush before Loyangalani. After a day of rest at the campsite in Loyangalani, the convoy got smaller and we bush camped just past Baragoi before getting into Maralal. From there, the asphalt starts soon and the adventure gets tamed.

sanDRina was over-loaded for tackling deep sand and I had two falls. It was nice to have Ferdi and Katie following behind in their VW Syncro as Ferdi was ready to jump out and help me up.

Not the most ideal tires for riding sand, but I managed.

There was a trail to follow on the ground and it roughly matched the trail in the Tracks4Africa GPS mapset, which is made mainly by tracks from travelers.

Crossing one of the 30 dry riverbed crossings that the Turkana Route is famous for. This route is only possible in the dry season and we were riding it just at the tail-end of the rainy season, so some riverbeds were moist and muddy, but most were just sandy and rutted.

I was taking it slow on the sandy stretches, after my two drops and just kept jammin’ to my tunes and not thinking about the hundreds of kilometers ahead through more sand and expected rocks.

Where the terrain was hard enough, I could get some more speed and get up on the pegs and feel more comfortable. Offroad riding is much better when standing on the pegs, but you need enough speed and that comes with confidence.

Choosing my path before entering this dry riverbed. The entrances and the exits are the trickiest since they’re steep and covered in sand. Gravity at the entrance gives me momentum, which I have to direct over my desirable path and then keep the momentum up, since the middle could be soft and bog me down. I carry this momentum through and choose my exit path and keep the throttle open until I crest back onto the mainland.

It was getting hot and I enjoyed the wind blowing through my mest suit whenever I got the chance to stand on the pegs.

Smiles all around as we enjoyed a real sense of adventure, crossing remote wilderness and looking for the border with Kenya. We passed through many small villages that smelt of fish coming from the nearby Lake Turkana. We must’ve looked truly alien to them.

The land flattened out and at times the trail disappeared and reappeared, but the GPS kept us on track. This is what the border between Ethiopia and Kenya looks like at Lake Turkana. That’s right, there is no border, except…

…a line in the GPS maps showing that we had entered Kenya. Since this route is so remote and used only by travelers, there is no official border crossing. I love it, because it highlights how borders are such a man-made notion.

The Syncro making it across a sandy riverbed with…

…Katie at the wheel. She was thoroughly enjoying this excursion into Africa and was glad to have met Ferdi who introduced her to a life of camping and traveling.

Rolling into Illoret, the first town on the Kenyan side, about 16 kms (10 mi) from the border.

We caught up with the other travelers in our convoy who had been waiting for us since we all planned to camp together that night.

There is no immigration or customs post on the Kenyan side of the Turkana route, but this police official here in Illoret wrote us a letter addressed to immigration in Nairobi saying that we entered Kenya on this date with this vehicle. Upon reaching Nairobi, we’re supposed to take this letter to immigration where they finally stamp in our passports.

While waiting for our letters, the police official shared the rest of his lunch with us, giving us our first taste of Kenyan food: ugali, cabbage fry and chicken in a sauce. It tasted good but I’m not a fan of ugali (maize meal).

Getting a glimpse of Lake Turkana on the horizon as we entered Sibiloi National Park.

Navigating a sandy riverbed. I was getting tired as the day neared its end.

The track looked like it was bush-whacked through dried acacia trees and we were glad that no one got a puncture from being so close to sharp thorns.

Climbing a steep and rocky incline. This was a tough stretch. I couldn’t keep my uphill momentum due to the large size of the rocks (baseball size) as they kept throwing the handlebar around. sanDRina’s clutch was also getting tired and we took a break halfway. Guy in the blue Land Rover offered to carry one of my panniers and Peter in the red Land Rover took the other. Relieving sanDRina of about 40 kgs (88 lbs) was just what we needed to make the riding fun again.

Ferdi and Katie climbing up the rocky route with the sun setting on Lake Turkana.

We setup camp just before dark and Katie gave me two liters of water to shower with, which felt great after a hard day’s ride.

It was time to keep my side of the bargain with my fellow travelers who were carrying fuel, water, food and now my panniers for me. I paid up the best way I know how: preparing one of my chicken curries! Everyone helped in cutting the veggies and Peter and Jill offered their kitchen for me to cook my curries in. I also made a potato curry.

Serving my chicken curry out the back of Peter and Jill’s Land Rover. This was definitely the most remote place that I had cooked my curry and was pleased to share it with my fellow travelers under a starry sky on the shores of Lake Turkana.

Just before sunrise in Sibiloi National Park.

It was a rough night as sand kept blowing through my mesh tent and settled down on everything. The warm temperatures meant that I couldn’t stay inside my sleeping bag and thus had sand stuck on my sweat. Oh and that’s my pillow, one of my packing cubes.

The others took off quite quickly, while Ferdi, Katie and I enjoyed a slower pace to the morning.

I was riding much better without the weight of the two panniers and was enjoying myself, standing on the pegs through bleak landscape with Lake Turkana hidden behind the dusty haze, swept up by the strong winds.

I didn’t expect wildlife in such a desolate setting but we saw zebra, kudu and other antelope in Sibiloi National Park.

Taking a mango break as the temperatures picked up through the day.

Leaving my boot mark in the sand. I took nothing but photos and left nothing except foot (boot) prints.

I was in my groove and riding to the rhythms of the land with its undulations and loose surface making us dance in the desert.

Looking east towards the Chalbi Desert with a lone leafless shrub watching over the whole land.

A distance board at a junction in the desert. Heading east across the Chalbi Desert from here would take us to Marsabit, but we were heading south to Loiyangallani, but first to Karsa Gate, the entrance to Sibiloi National Park.

The Syncro cresting the desert road.

Exiting Sibiloi National Park and getting our first taste of how things work in Kenya. The fee for being in the park was $20 per person and then the fee for a motorcycle was 300 Kenyan Shillings ($3.25). For the van, the Kenya Wildlife Service officer said it was K1000 but it was negotiable. Ok, so we got it down to K500. Nice to be in a land where everything’s negotiable.

After getting past the gate, we stopped for lunch (leftover chicken curry and rice) and I relieved Ferdi and Katie from carrying my extra fuel around and put 20 L (5.3 gal) of go-juice into sanDRina.

Poor Kayous had his space reduced by my pannier but we were becoming friends by now and I think he understood. Thanks, buddy.

The Syncro and a tall acacia tree. Ferdi and Katie were on a bit of a schedule as they had friends flying into Nairobi who were going to travel around with them for a bit, so we were pushing to make it to Loyangalani by nightfall.

Riding through Africa. By now, my confidence level was high for riding on loose surfaces and I was very comfortable riding sanDRina at a fast pace through this landscape.

Coming up to a sharp left turn. Before this, I wasn’t comfortable with rear braking while standing on the pegs, but I had that under control now and had no pucker moments on this ride. It was nice to have Ferdi and Katie following as they took all these wonderful photos of me. In return, I offered to film them from the front – that’s why my GoPro helmet camera is pointing back at them.

The landscape changed with the changing light and I soaked up every view.

Riding corrugations as the route allowed a faster pace.

Taking a break and discussing with Ferdi whether we could make it to Loyangalani tonight or not. Check out the difference in gear between an overlanding motorcyclist and an overlanding motorhomer. Ferdi and Katie commented on how tough riding a motorcycle through this terrain must be compared to sitting in a van.

Katie capturing a close-up of my Arai XD helmet and Oakley goggles.

A wonderful ride as the afternoon grew long.

I was fatiguing but managed to keep my riding attention in check.

The landscape was covered in loose rocks and where the trail was heavily rutted or corrugated, we just rode beside the trail.

Where there were no rocks, it was fine sand, but a hard surface meant that we could keep the pace up.

We rode up to sunset and then finally gave up on making it to Loyangalani.

We bush-camped about 40 kms (25 mi) north of Loyangalani. The winds were very strong and I setup my tent behind the Syncro. I enjoyed the luxurious feeling of a bush shower from a few liters of precious water and then had a relaxing evening with a home-cooked meal amid good company.

Waking up for sunrise on the savannah.

Kayous feeling comfortable-enough to approach me and play around a bit. I’d love to travel with a dog. Maybe there’s a sidecar in my future…

We were almost through the desert as the landscape slowly morphed into savannah.

I parked my tent under this wind-blown acacia and used my pannier and rocks to make sure it wouldn’t get picked up by the strong winds.

After another slow morning, we got back on the road heading to Loyangalani.

But within a few kilometers, Ferdi flashed me with his lights and said he was hearing a loud screeching sound. I followed him a bit and traced it to his right front wheel. Putting the Syncro up on the high lift revealed the culprit – a stone lodged between the brake rotor and a protective plate. All was good and we were off soon.

Riding through a volcanic boulder field, studded with yellow leafless acacias. At times, the trail disappeared into the boulder field and there was some serious rock climbing going on, where sanDRina’s big front wheel came in handy for easily scaling over basketball-sized boulders.

Finally getting up close to Lake Turkana, after riding alongside it for the past 250 kms (155 mi). It is the world’s largest permanent desert lake and a prominent feature in the East African Rift.

Its alternative name is the Jade Sea, due to the greenness from algae at the surface. The lake is endoheric (meaning it doesn’t have an outlet) and thus is slightly salty. Evaporation in the only means of exit for the water but that’s not a problem in the hot and dry environment.

The Turkana people living on the shores of their giant lake that provides them with fish and potable but not palatable water. It is a rough existence but they seem to have found some balance with nature. But that balance can easily be tipped when the climate gets hard on them. The area around Lake Turkana has seen hominins pass through over the past few million years and the dry environment has yielded many hominid fossils, such as Turkana Boy that reveal a bit more of the story of human evolution.

The Lake Turkana route was just as epic as I had imagined it. The sand was deep, the rocks were sharp and the riding was tough, but my offroad riding skills improved once more and I was feeling in my element after the first day. It helped that I could offload my panniers to my fellow travelers as that made sanDRina much more responsive in the changing conditions.

Next: Kenya, Part 2: The Deserts of Turkana into African Savannah

Previous: Ethiopia, Part 9: Off-Road Convoy thru Omo Valley