Turkana is a very inhospitable place, even camels find it hard.
There’s one popular route from Kenya to Ethiopia, well not that people want to drive it, it’s the only shortcut connecting the two countries, and it’s the last bit of dirt road that connects Cape town to Egypt, other than that the entire route from south to north is tarred. It’s a bad corrugated dirt road with lots of volcanic rocks and rutted from all the trucks, not technical at all but for the better part only tests a vehicle’s suspension and the driver’s patience.
The other route is a less travelled road for different reasons via Lake Turkana, it forms part of the lava fields from Mojale and Marsabit and runs all the way to Lake Turkana, formerly known as Lake Rudolph or locally called the turquoise lake. We got told at Jungle Junction about this route by a few travellers that came down from Ethiopia to Kenia, but warned us that this is not recommend as there’s much more to this route than just a scenic ride up to Ethiopia. We wanted to go this way because it offer so much more than the Marsabit area.
We tried to source as much info on this route. Marcus and Karina two Estonians on an 1100GS did it three or four months earlier and they broke their bike’s sub frame and had to pay silly money to get a pick-up van to take the bike to Jungle Jungle. They were sitting at JJ’s for nearly two months waiting for a new one, besides that Marcus got heat stroke on that route and they nearly ran out of water and fuel. Another Turkish rider and his wife Deniz and Elif also did part of the route and he got out of it with a broken gearbox after a fall. He had a backup truck carrying his fuel and his wife Elif were at least able to ride in the truck.
What makes this route so dangerous and interesting is that over landers need to carry their own fuel and water for the nearly 900km of the route up Lake Turkana. Most travellers’ team up with 4×4’s or trucks to carry their fuel and water and for added support when things go wrong. Just to add some more zest to this mix for this adventure the route follows the lava rocks and sand that’s also crossing into Marsabit, making riding it slow, dangerous and potentially a killer of tyres.
The road have much less traffic and the rocks do not round off so nice as on the Marabit road. Which leave them nice and sharp for soft tyres. The main issue is that there is no back up whatsoever, it is remote and you can not just summons a helicopter or rescue effort if things go wrong. This is desolation valley!
The route around the outside of park is the favourite for over landers and bikers to North Horr and then Marsabit. It’s not as technical as the route through the park and down to South Horr. We also had many conflicting stories about the roads. Some said the roads inside the park are maintained and therefore good and others say the roads around the park are better. That said, the road condition here can change in a blink of an eye, and what was a good road yesterday today is impassable.
Well, inside the park the roads are maintained but not at the standards we would except, I would rather say they are not maintained, and that makes it even more difficult as some of their repairs worsened the tracks and not improved it. The road around the park to North Horr and Marsabit allows 4ton trucks to take food and stuff to the people at Illiret. We decided to use the one in the park as it snakes along the lake up to Illiret.
We decided when back in Kenya from Uganda to look for some overlanders to team up with when back at JJ’s. One couple with two friendly blond haired girls were planning to go that way but did not had space for our stuff in their car, and they in the end also did not do the route as the risk of car trouble and two kids were too great.
Eventually we decided to buy some extra fuel cans and water cans and go at it on our own. There’s sure to be places for us to get water and petrol. We do not need to convince a local to give us 70L or 100L of fuel as with 4×4’s and so drain their only source. They would sure be able to spare us 10L or 20L.
I knew this was not going to be a easy ride and was worried about Elsebie, the bike was going to be much heavier and the riding on the wrong side of difficult. She is a competent rider, and I owe her this trip to prove to herself she is competent enough for such trips.
There were two or three routes to Loiyangalani, unfortunate for us we had to take the one from Isiolo to Maralet to fill our bikes, extra fuel cans and get water. This was the last town we were able to get fuel and water. These people also do not see bikers often and we were surrounded by eager eyes from the locals. We set out late afternoon on very heavily laden bikes on route to Baragoie and South Horr.
Not 5km out of town and the road turned to slow, 4×4, technical rock climbing all the way up the escarpment. We only managed 25km for the rest of the afternoon and were looking for a camp spot when we got to this campsite. There’s also a small cottage and on enquiry it was less than we normally paid for camping! The friendly staff helped us unpack, got us some beers, and due to the altitude and the cold at night they made us a Cedar wood fire in the cottage. It is the first time we smelled Cedar wood in a fireplace and it gives off a very nice pleasant sweet smell.
We could not believe our eyes that such a nice cottage will be on a road like this never mind in the wilderness. They said the owner hopes in future more people will visit the lake and he is taking the bull by the horns.
The road to Baragoie and South Horr snakes between and up mountain ranges and some of the most beautiful surrounding imaginable. The going was slow and although it was partly overcast it was hell hot. The entire road up to South Horr was badly run out and corrugated, little did we know the 1st and second gear 20km/h riding was what Murphy had planned for us for much of this route to Ethiopia.