It’s funny how people’s opinions differ on road conditions. We have learned a long time ago not to take the opinions of all overlanders and locals too serious when they tell us about the road conditions we are likely to travel.
Most of the times they get it wrong, and sometimes horribly wrong. When I did the research on this route next to Lake Turkana I stumbled onto a website of a South African that did the same route in a Toyota VX big ass 4×4 a year or so ago. He stated that for motorcycles this is an absolute no-no. If an 4×4 driver is not a biker as well, they will most of the time not be able to tell a biker what he or she wants to hear.
Then you ask a local about the roads around his own village and they normally can’t even get to a point where you understand it’s either horrific or a highway. Well, that is generalising, it’s not always like that, we got some good info on this route from an overlander that did it weeks before, just to mention he is a very experienced overlander.
As we embark on the next leg of the route up to Sibiloi Park, some local guides greeted us and in the same breath and sentence told us, this is a good road you will be there in 2 hours! Yaaaa right, I thought to myself, and ask them when last they drove that road. Long time ago, and cannot remember, and with that I just laughed, greeted and rode off.
The road turned rocky just outside the town up the escarpment as the lava fields surround the town and continues north. There were some nasty bits which we cleared with much ease. The resting day we had in ‘oasis’ town paid off and we were able to make up time before it got too hot.
To sum up this road, short and sweet, you have a choice of sand or rocks and for rocks you have a choice between big, small or lava rocks.
We each carried our additional 15L petrol, an additional 10L water with me and full trippers were on our backs. One small miscalculation was that I am heavier consuming water than my bike is on fuel. Even the early morning sun was already trying to dry us into biltong.
From Loiyangalani it’s all rock riding only the size changes with nice hard pack sand in the many dry riverbeds we crossed. One thing I absolutely loved about the terrain and riding here was the absolute desolation. The places people can visit and really be alone are getting less and less all over the world. There’s a strange excitement about being this alone and knowing if things go wrong the outcome might not be that positive. There’s no back up, no phone call to 911 or quick helicopter evacuation.
I guess it’s that what keeps us all alive and happy, well for us for sure. It’s exhilarating stuff and it’s wonderful to get away from people for a while.
Up on the escarpment the road turns into a rocky track that snakes through the empty open spaces. In one of the river beds we came across group of people scooping water from a well for their camels. We pulled in under the trees and were greeted with sceptic looks from them. I walked closer to them and greeted the men that were dumping the water into the buckets for the camels.
It was only then that we saw how big this water well was. It’s roughly 4meters deep and 5meters across tapering down. They build steps down to the water and the men stood in a row passing the bucket to the top guy. It looked like a very old well.
They offered us one of the buckets, I tipped it over my head, basted, it felt good! I wished I could sit there the entire day throwing water over myself. Elsebie washed her face and got some water over her back, but it was time to leave, the sun was sucking water!
Before Karsa gate the road really turned nasty, the two track road turned into one bad rocky bed. Our hands took a real beating and the bikes fans were working overtime in the heat. In the back of my mind I could not stop worrying about the tyres, these rock are sharp and it does not take much to slice a tyre.
Eventually, late the afternoon, we rode up to the park gate and just fell down on the cement under the cool shade of the roof. The two guards just smiled and went on their merry way watching soaps on their solar powered Dish TV. We did not have the energy to ride any more, and asked whether we could camp there.
No problem, they replied, but if you want to, at Head Quarters 9km away there’s a small canteen they might have a beer or two! After half an hour rest we dragged ourselves back to the bikes and head off to HQ 9km away. Man, 9kms can be far!!
We could not believe it, at HQ, they had a small canteen and they had COLD beer. We sat down and gulped down some beers and drinks while some of the staff told us all their food and necessities gets delivered by boat from the other side of the lake. Nothings gets trucked or driven into the park from the outside. They claim the road down to Nairobi and Eldoret from the other side of the park is in a very good condition. People stay for 2 months duty at a time. Even their drinking water gets delivered in 200L drums.
There are dedicated camp spots in the park, all non-serviced and in the worst places imaginable. We stocked up on more beers and some eggs and pulled in next to a dry river bed under some big trees for the night.
At Karsa gate the guards showed us a map of the park roads, and which route we were supposed to take up to Illiret. I heard from other people some of the roads in the park are disused and the map, they still sell for 6USD, is not correct. Luckily Tracks4Africa had some tracks that I thought would help so it should not be a problem to get to our next destination, Illiret 170km away.
As we left the next morning early. The first 10km of road was quite good and we thought if this can last we would be in Illiret late the afternoon. Well it did not last! One thing we learned was that planning goes out the window on routes like these.
Also the claims that the park are maintaining the roads were bullshit. Our speed dropped to 20km/h average and our fuel consumption to a 16km/p/L range, which presented another new problem. Our next place to get fuel would only be in Turmi, Ethiopia and still a good 500km away.
This is where the proverbial shit hits the fan in buckets load. Exactly at the intersection to Koobi Fora the thick sand starts. This is why this terrain is so unpredictable, only 2mm of rain and it can be a fast ride able track. The weight of the bikes and the soft powdery sand makes riding it virtually impossible, there’s no hard pack bottom to these tracks and 4×4’s had spin up the sand to a such an extent that it offers no grip.
The bikes keep digging into the sand, when we get them to start to float the track changes. Add to that the track is overgrown with bushes and thorns and our progress slowed to a crawl. Neither of us is new to sand riding and can cope with any sand track. This is the first time that we got into sand tracks that just did not want to play ball. Also the weight of the bikes was not in our advantage.
One man gave me an old 5L oil can wrap in dirty old sponges and tied with old electric cable as a home make cooler for their water. We were really tired, and took us some time to cool down and feel normal again.
Eventually the men showed us around and they even had the nicest showers, we decided to set up camp in front of the main house for the evening. Without us asking they told us they would make us some fried fish and rice as it will help with building energy for the next day, we are going to need it.
They filled our water bottles from their 200L water drums that have been shipped to them. Other than that there’s nothing except old Land Rover wrecks that once in days gone by made it there and died there.
The setup is a research centre for fossils and they are just looking after the place. We went to bed knowing that the next day’s riding were going to be as hard.
Apologies for the pictures, we weren’t really in the mood taking pictures when riding, we only took pictures at times when stopping for rest breaks and the heat also did not help.