LOYINGALANI: The Journey there

The trip took how many days? Well I left Ngong, where I live, on Wednesday the 16th of May and I got back on Friday the 25th May. So about ten days in all.

I was not planning on going to Turkana. The trip came at a time when I was suffering from mental and emotional fatigue from living in the city and seeing the same things over and over again. It was a trip just in time.

My boyfriend came excited on one of the evenings and told me our German neighbor,Hardy, was organizing a trip to Turkana and I should talk to him.

Hardy was very excited at the idea of me joining his team. They were visiting Turkana as part of his project, The fifty Treasures of Kenya. I was excited that I would be travelling with someone who knows much about the region. He proved to be a wonderful guide and travel companion.

We agreed we would leave early Wednesday morning.

Wednesday was a lovely day it was spent mostly travelling. I was late in going to Hardy’s place. He appeared annoyed by that. Well it was my fault listening to Jane- my househelp about him being tardy. He is German after all.

Kenya looked very different with the rain and all. It was green everywhere and very beautiful. The only problem I had was, it took us so long to be in the countryside proper. In fact, I only felt as if the journey out of the big city began when we left Nyahururu going to Rumuruti.

I saw many of the ugly buildings we are putting up everywhere. And there was one that had collapsed. Thank God no one had moved into it. There are too many human structures. But that is just a feeling I have.

We did the usual stop over at the Rift Valley view point near Limuru. It was very very beautiful and green. The greenest I have seen Kenya my whole life. I felt as if I was travelling in another country. Karin- she is from Switzerland, kept saying it reminded her of Europe. And I got false hope, but a positive feeling nonetheless, that perhaps global warming will make Africa greener.

We got back into the car and drove on. Hardy took the opportunity to tell us about the area. He showed us Mount Longonot and Hells gate. To be honest, it was the first time I could see the connection between Longonot and hells gate park. You could also see the smoke rising from Ol Karia.

Hell’s gate looked like a big vagina in the distance. The surrounding countryside was green and it reddish on the inside with fishers tower standing at the entrance like a clitoris.

I mentioned it but people were too shocked to a proper discussion.

We went on our way and only stopped by the equator to take photos.

When we got to Nyahururu I made sure I bought some alcohol. Smirnoff vodka blue label. Apparently I would not find good alcohol in Loyingalani. It turned out to be a lie. But it was good. It saved me a lot of money. The bad thing is I kept getting tempted to start drinking away.

We had a short stop in Rumuruti for lunch. It was some nyama choma and not enough vegetables. That is when I realised that I had forgotten to carry with me some fruits and herbs. We had gone into another world.

The drive between Nyahururu and Maralal was so nice. This is where the adventure truly began. We saw buffalos, antelopes, lizards, turtles, an elephant, giraffes and zebras. The sky was ablaze with a glorious sunset. I tried to take as many photos as I could.

The guest house in Maralal was also nice. There was hot water and the beds were decent. The food was expensive but delicious. We hang out and slept by 11 pm. We agreed to wake up early and take a drive to the Rift Valley view point near Maralal. I must say, I was very excited to have a chance to see the Rift Valley from another view point. When I did, I realized how massive it is.

Hardy woke us the following morning. We went to hard rock café for breakfast. By now I was really aware that I had forgotten to carry apples and some fruits for the journey. It now really hit home that getting fresh vegetables and other nice things would be difficult in Lake Turkana. I was shocked it had not occurred to Hardy. He has been to those parts many times. Later on I learnt it was an assumption I had. And it had been many years in between the trips.

After breakfast, we saw Mount Kenya in the distance and stopped to take a few photos and then we drove to the view point. It was very beautiful and the landscape was spectacular. You could see Suguta valley in the distance and the Wamba mountains. Maralal looked small and fog covered as we left the valley that houses it.

Some Wazees came to hang out and talk to Hardy. I could immediately tell they were just greedy bastards. I never liked how Hardy was talking to them either. He told them about his project and what he wanted to do with communities. They also talked about the tourist activities they did at the place. His advice was certainly welcome but I also thought about the sustainability of it and how they would preserve their heritage.

Sometimes I am very wrong about things.So I could be wrong here. In this case what I saw was some wazees trying to make a quick buck out of a mzungu without really giving two shits about what he is really saying. And a mzungu really focused on getting his idea out there without worrying too much about whether the idea has really been communicated to the recipients.

At first I thought I should keep quiet about my displeasure and then I decided it would be foolish to keep quiet. Hardy and I got into a heated debate about what should be done to run a successful sustainable tourism campaign. How to really get people to appreciate for themselves the things that attract people from other countries.

Hardy said that laws and education and benefits for the people should be done simultaneously. I was of the opinion that informing people would the most important point and they would then decide the laws for themselves once they understood the reason for preserving the site. He said no the laws must be there to provide guidelines and punish those who transgressed. That is how it had worked in Germany.

I nearly told him Kenya is not Germany. And then I got tired of it and he did too. But I was happy that I challenged his thoughts. Later on in Turkana, it occurred to him what I was talking about when he got into a discussion about introducing sustainable tourism there.

The only way we can preserve our heritage is if we keep it for ourselves and not just as something to earn us tourist dollars. That is why educating the people is important. But then again I have to be aware of the kind of education it will be. Merely telling people they can earn money from tourism will not work. We only preserve things we feel are important not for us but for our children. Tourism can earn us money but does it make us appreciate our country more?

As we had the heated discussion, we slowly drove into Suguta valley.

I slept on the journey and missed some parts. All of us were tired from the previous day’s drive and from waking up early. Still I enjoyed looking out of the window when I could. Karin and I changed seats but it was difficult for her to take photos.

Mary was mostly quiet. I had gotten cautious about talking to her the day before. She is very competitive. Sometimes in a bad way. As we drove through South Horr I remember remarking that the flowers growing around were very nice. She told me that they were not flowers. I got annoyed and asked her what they were. And then it occurred to me that flowers to her were only those sold in flower shops. I shut up and decided to keep out of her hair as much as I could.

The driver, whose name was Augustino, was very talkative along the way. I also never liked him much. He was very contemptuous towards those who lived traditional lives and to women. I decided to keep out of his hair as well. Right after my discussion with Hardy. He tried the old men v women discussion. He asked me whether Kenya was ready for a woman president. I told him that we are but women must fight for it because men also do the same. That shut him up.

It was just in time for some lovely wildlife moment. With Mount Kulal standing out in the distance, we stopped to observe some ostriches.

There were two couples of ostriches doing a mating dance. The first couple was kind of far from each other. The second couple got us captivated. They hang around each other for a while and then the chic decided to go.The male ostrich disappointed us. He tried to pursue her but gave up mid way. Useless!!!

We drove on and had lunch in a small town just before South Horr. I could not use the loos there and had to stop in the bush. Some government VIP stopped there as well. The men rushed over to say hi while we, the girls, never bothered. I think he got annoyed because he drove on and I thought we would have driven North together.

It was not scary at all meeting herdsman carrying guns. They looked very friendly and relaxed. Their guns were decorated but I was too afraid to take a photo. Now when I think about it, we should have asked them for a photo.

We never took a stop until we saw the lake.

There it was at last. You can see the Southern Island at the tip at the lake.This is the image you see of lake Turkana when you search on the internet. That and the central island. The Southern Island is what was used for the Niko na Safaricom campaign.

We got to Loyngalani very late in the evening. We got mesmerized and  stopped for long to take photos of the lake. The surrounding land is very harsh and full of stones. I have never seen so many stones in my life. The sunset was very beautiful. Spectacular is how you can describe it.I made a point to look out for it then whole time I stayed in Loyingalani. And everyday it spellbound me.

I opened the bottle of vodka for a sundowner. Augustino was very funny. He really insisted I pour some out for the ancestors. Despite his contempt he cannot erase some things from the past in himself.

Here are more pis from the two day journey to Loyingalani

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