Lake Turkana - The wonder of a desert
January 1, 1970
by Linda Kabora
Turkana county is the northwesternmost region in Kenya. The climate is very hot and dry. Let me emphasize that, the climate is very hot and dry.”You need to be careful that you are not dehydrated!” is what I was adviced when planning for the trip there. I was going to be traveling with a group of friends for a whole five days! Now, I love traveling and I delight in seeing new places. I just do not want to be in a place of excessive heat and fainting of dehydration. Turns out I need not have worried. The county in itself is the wonder of a desert. The trip is one of the most worthwhile destinations that I have ever been to. We left Nairobi in no particular hurry. We were going to use a comfortable Mitsubishi Fuso Tourist track for the journey. Turkana is also accessible via a flight from Nairobi. Most flights headed to Turkana will often make a quick stopover at Eldoret International Airport. The flight to Turkana is normally about an hour and 30 minutes making allowance for the stopover. For us, it was going to be a road trip. We gave ourselves a whole day for crossing through the counties, gathering fresh produce in Nanyuki, Meru and Karatina towns to take to our missionary friends living in Turkana. Not even many Kenyans have been to Turkana. It is, however, a grand destination that you want to visit and enjoy. I summarized my experience in the below points for your indulgence when planning for that lifetime trip up North!
Carry lots of water for the journey.
As you will notice, the temperatures soar during the day. You also sweat a lot. So take in lots of water, and so that you know, when you come back to the city, your skin might actually be glowing (all that water plus your skin pores releasing the sweat does a lot of good!). Please remember to use a good quality of sunscreen for your skin.
2. Interact with the local community.
As you will notice, the local community, (The Rendille tribe) are very friendly. Expect no hostility from them. They will be willing to share the details of their lives with you. Even a pic of their houses(manyattas). In turn, you can offer them water or goodies for the children.
3. Visit Lake Turkana.
This is the real wonder. It’s the world’s largest permanent lake in a desert. Formerly known as Lake Rudolf, it has an island within called the central Island, which is an active volcano. The lake was formerly named in honor of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria. The name was later changed by the founding father of Kenya with respect to the community living around the lake. Its simply a wonderful sight and you should visit to confirm. The color of the Lake is Jade from a distance. You won’t even notice that you are approaching the lake unless you study the horizon a bit too carefully. On the side of the lake that we visited, the shore is made up of soft volcanic stones with soft waves brushing against them. When approaching the lake, the winds are a bit too strong. We had breakfast on the shores and later watched as fishermen ventured out into the lake for a catch.
4. Experience the Sunset
The desert landscape is breathtaking. Since there are no buildings or tall trees, it’s actually possible to watch the sunset with no distraction at all. The same case if you want to catch the sunrise or the rising of the moon. The moonrise is particularly special. You could see the moon steadily rising from one end of the horizon to the other. See the below picture of the sunset near an oasis and consider living through the sunset moment in a desert.
5. Visit the beach in the desert.
Complete with the palm trees and the sand, you will not believe that you are in the desert. The breeze has an awesome effect on the sweltering desert heat. Be wary of sharp thorns on the ground though. You will also notice a number of Oasis on these beaches and wells sunk to cater for the camels owned by the locals. There are medicinal trees also flourishing among the palm trees. There is the Neem tree for example that the locals swear that it can cure all manner of stomach upsets.
6. Welcome to Camels paradise
I had never seen a camel so up close than I did while I visited Turkana. The desert is not hopeless in terms of hosting and sustaining life. There are a number of Oases dotting the vast desert land. Like this Oasis we found and were soon joined by a herd of camels coming for their evening drink. I could not resist taking this shot with the graceful desert animals. Notice how their color blends with the background of the landscape.
7.You must see the El Molo
The El Molo are a people group living within the vicinities of Lake Turkana. The lake offers them their livelihood. Their main diet consists of Fish from the lake and ground Cassava flour made into a thick paste. Of late the tribe has recorded dwindling numbers indicating that maybe the tribe would become extinct in the next few years. They live on the shores of the vast lake. The sell fish and woven accessories that you can carry as a souvenir to the city. While we were there they let us see their little houses simply built to cater for their small body frames. They love visitors as selling their crafts is one of their sources of income. Before taking pictures, always inquire if its alright with the individual. Some do not like visitors taking their photographs or that of their children. If you do, against their wish, you could get into an unpleasant situation. We choose the safe way and decided not to photograph individuals. In the pictures below, I am walking around the village and later having an amazing view of the lake from one of the community’s boats.