One of my Kenyan friends who I met in Mombasa, Ivan, is a freelance photojournalist, Ivan Lieman Photography. Ivan was going on a road trip from Mombasa to the Turkana Region in North Kenya to take photos of the ‘rare solar hybrid eclipse’ and invited me to join him.
I was lucky enough to have some friends living in Nairobi so I stayed at their apartment before Ivan picked me up on for what ended up being my favourite road trip ever.
We stopped off in various little towns such as Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kitale, Marich Pass, Lokichar, Lodwar, Kalacol and finally to Eliye Springs in the Turkana region. This took a good few days as the road conditions are a journey in itself. It would sometimes take us the whole day just to get 300km, the roads were really that bad. Spending that amount of time made me really appreciate the beautiful landscape and the stunning people. I fell in love with Kenya.
The scenery would constantly change from the wet mountains at Marich Pass (driving through fog and rain) to the scorching desert on the road to Lodwar with the local Turkana people in their traditional dress – all in one day. No matter what, you would always see someone walking down the street whether it be by themselves or herding livestock.
The men would wear a hat with a feather, shuka folded up to a mini-skirt (to walk through the low bushes), wrist knives (made of steel and goat hide), always carried a stave and a small stool so they never sat on the hot midday sand (also to rest their heads on). The ladies wore shuka’s, kangas and had brightly coloured beads around their neck which symbolised various things such as wealth, whether she was married or not, widowed, number of children etc. The women also had, almost, all their hair shaved off and a few beads attached to the loose ends of hair). They are stunning people.
We arrived just in time to see the small town of Lodwar in full action with tourists. Many had travelled from America, Germany, England etc to witness this ‘rare eclipse’. On the day of eclipse Ivan got a driver and we went all over the area unsure of where to go for the best place to witness it. Eventually we found a spot in the middle of the desert full of people, after driving through little local villages, one being next to a stunning lake. I loved it as I got to see some incredible places and people. A lot of these people had rarely seen many mzungu (white people) before, especially with blonde hair, and they would follow you around the villages. It definitely helped that Ivan spoke Swahili but on top of that the Turkana people have their own language as well. There was rarely any English spoken so I was a little lost sometimes but got the general gist of what was going on.
The actual eclipse was over in a matter of seconds (from clear sky to cloud cover for the eclipse!) and everyone packed up and left. Ivan managed to get a few photos for work which he sent off once we were back in Lodwar for the night.
Ivan and I met a few of our mates in Eliye Springs and we set up camp on the edge of Lake Turkana. We chilled out here having massive siestas and the occasional dip in the lake as it was so hot to do anything else! Whilst everyone left a day or two after the eclipse, Ivan and I stayed on and had the place to ourselves. It was amazing and I met some incredible people who came over for a chat and gave some us locally made gifts.
After watching the sunset over the largest desert lake in the world with some local children, we cooked with simple utensils over a fire and made some delicious food – my Masai family had taught me well.
Back to Lodwar for brekky of chicken livers (maini) and chapati and to ‘pole pole’ (slowly slowly) make our journey back towards Nairobi. Another food on our staple diet was nyama choma (roast goat) usually served with ugali and kachumbari (tomato and onion salad) or sukuma (leafy green vegetable, mainly collards – similar to kale) – YUM!
After Marich Pass we took a different route heading towards Lake Baringo and eventually to Lake Bogoria. On the way we passed through Kerio Vally and The Great Rift Valley and spent a day in Lake Bogoria National Reserve having a picnic whilst watching the stunning flamingos. We were going to set up camp here but a massive storm came across the lake and we had to make a run for the car. We ended up finding some little huts that we were able to stay in and we set up the jiko (cooking utensil) to cook dinner.
Our next couple of stops were around Mt Kenya in Nanyuki and Meru. After driving through the many tea plantations, we arrived as Castle Forest – now this was a contrast. It was an actual tropical forest at the base of Mt Kenya and it was quite cold. We went for a walk and found a waterfall to chill out at before going back to camp and preparing dinner over the fire.
We finally made the drive back into Nairobi and the city peak-hour traffic welcomed us. It took us an hour to get 7km to our hostel.
Last dinner with Ivan, as he was off back to Mombasa to organise a trip to the Central African Republic for work whilst I went the other way, to explore Uganda.