A journey to the Jade Sea – Lake Turkana

A journey to the Jade Sea is not to be taken lightly. You need around a 1000 km’s of diesel, enough water for the two of us for 5 days and a vehicle that won’t fall apart over the never ending boulders, 20+ river crossings (luckily all dry otherwise we would still be there digging) and a set of tires with some form of takkie decorum that will allow you to tackle the volcanic rock that lies everywhere.

Before we set off we bought a bundle of firewood from an old lady that had spent half a day collecting it and carrying it back to the village on her head (weighing in at approx 40 kg’s), we paid $1.50. With the camp fires sorted, we were now ready to depart Omorate.

The major concern over the previous few weeks was whether the 2 major rivers (100m wide) before Kenya were flowing or not. These only flow during the rainy season and only for a few days at a time, due to our timing we were IN the rainy season. With much anxiety we headed South, luckily for us but unluckily for the local tribes, the area had not received too much rain. Both rivers were bone dry and we were able to cross with some hefty 4×4 action. If these two rivers had been in full flow we would either have to sit and wait for the water level to drop or turn back. Mike was not even considering the latter!

We crossed into Kenya around 3pm and drove slowly across the invisible border wondering if we would ever come back to Ethiopia. What an amazing country!!! We stayed longer then we expected and loved every minute.

After registering with the police in Illeret we headed South along Lake Turkana, famously known as the Jade Sea. You truly see why when you first catch a glimpse of this spectacular Lake.

Thankfully tracks 4 Africa had a bush camp spot just as the Sibloi National Park started AND it was right on the lake. We thought we would be all alone after missioning for 5km through the bush to the inevitable way-point. Finally we were there, nobody in sight expect for 6 crocodiles at the waters edge and a few birds; Pelicans, Goliath Herons and a Fish Eagle, to name but a few. But Africa being Africa it wasn’t long before a group of youngsters arrived and proceeded to stare at us from about 2m from where we were sitting (A stare more bizarre than what you would experience in India. Luckily they all headed back home before dark.

Day 2, just to add to the complexity of the trip our back left inflation valve for the tire sprung a leak. Luckily not too severe, we changed the tire and placed a temporary fix on the valve so we could still use the tire if needed.

Wanting to bush camp the 2nd night we asked the warden at the exit gate whether it would be safe, but due to inter-tribal conflict (cattle theft because of the drought) he suggested it would be safer to stay in the park. We camped at what seemed to be an amazing spot, CROCODILE CORNER!!! Plenty of crocs, birds and……bugs, yes, as the sun set about a million little flying bugs took off and surrounded the entire area. B cooked up a spag-bol which I doubt she could replicate partly due to the bug content in the dish, it was amazing!!! Funny thing is the next day B couldn’t eat it due to many bugs she saw in the left-overs.

Day 3 involved taking the less driven route along the lake rather then to North Horr which was incredibly bumpy. The tracks were barely visible at times and at other times we could not exceed 10km/hr for 30 minute stretches, this was due to the open savanna plains forming a flood plain from the mountains to the East, thus we had numerous rivers to cross, all dry luckily. A few had to be crossed by foot just to make sure we knew where the tracks were on the other side before trying to cross. Thumper came to the rescue for another Land cruiser who was stuck in one of the riverbeds. 6 hours later and 100km further South we finally arrived at Loyangalani, green grass, Tusker and time to re-coupe.

Day 4 we sadly headed away from Lake Turkana and inland. Kenya, the country of shocking roads, lay on a spread of corrugated, sandy and rocky roads but once we passed South Horr the country side became spectacular. With open savannah plains where animals roamed freely and there is hardly a soul in sight. We pulled off the road and went down some side road until we found a nice tree to camp under. We saw Grants Gazelle, Ostrich and Korrie Bustards around our bush “camp site”. What an amazing night, it was full moon, and you could see for miles, we used the last of our firewood to cook up a goulash……..or should I rather say to cook up a salt?!? I am not sure what went wrong with the carefully prepared meal but it tasted more like salt then meat, not one for the bush recipes!!!

Day 5 and we were off to Maralal, it was a short but bumpy ride. One that seemed to get bumpier by the meter. Once in the Town centre of Maralal, if you looked closely you would see that only three of your tires touched the ground at any given time due to the dongas. We pulled into the Yare Camel campsite and kicked back on the lovely green grass.  Well not entirely, because we first had to spend 2 hours looking for Mike’s wallet that had disappeared, we now know that a wallet can fall behind the glove compartment!!!

Day 6 and it was the final stretch to Isiolo and a TAR road!!! Easy, 120km of partially decent roads…….or not……..60km into the drive and the shackle for our rear leaf springs broke and disappeared. SHIT, we were in the middle of nowhere and we needed a mechanic. After careful inspection we decided we could drive at 20km/hr until the tar road and then on to Isiolo to get it fixed. In Isiolo we found the best mechanic at the Shell garage and we were all fixed in 3 hours. $100 for the part and $10 for the labor.

So with Lake Turkana down, Mike walks around proudly having tackled the roads with not A LOT that could have gone wrong. I think this would be a great route for the Camel Adventure guys to tackle.


With wood for the campfire – You are always ready to head on out

Tire repair at a lodge just off the Lake

Beautiful scenery en-route

Beautiful scenery en-route

Camp site in the middle of nowhere

Camp site that was very quickly over-run by bugs – Spag alla bug

Finally we hit some cement for a solid ride, lasted about 20 meters – Doh!

2 Responses to “A journey to the Jade Sea – Lake Turkana”

  1. Irene says:

    Amazing! Amazing! this is happiness! Exploring and adventure. I love reading your adventures so much. What next?

  2. gerro says:

    Michael you remember when I lost my wallet in Namib. Again a fantastic story and what a trip

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