August 14, 2008
We rose at five for an early start, and were on the road by 7 am. We walked to the end of Lake Bogoria, along the lake shore, and saw many animals: zebra, warthog, jackals and more of everything from the day before. Nine miles later, we stopped at the gate of the Reserve and paid our entry fee on the way out, since we had come from a direction most don’t attempt. Michael was interviewed about the trek and Makindu by the local tourist authorities; watch your local TV stations for an upcoming feature.
Now out on the open road, we made tracks for the first time without rocky trails to slow us down. Seven miles farther on, we reached Sandei, a small town where we created another sensation. The local elementary school let out classes so that the school children could come gape at the camels and us. Townspeople brought out beaded goods and an impromptu market broke out.
We then headed off over the nearby ridge for an “off-road opportunity” suggested by a British geographer working to promote a new route to Lake Baringo (good luck with that!). Up hill and down for another 8 miles, we wound up at Legumgum and camped on the river of the same name. There was a pleasant grove of trees and the river offered hope of a bath to cool down from a long day. Warnings of crocodiles and hippos produced a certain amount of caution, and the normal crowd of on-lookers made bathing a bit less attractive. However, it became clear that animal warnings were greatly overstated and we were getting numb to onlookers, so the men cleaned up in the river while the women used a rainwater shower rigged up by our camel train hosts.
A noteworthy development was the arrival of the town drunk who got very interested in Tommy’s electronic gear and solar panels. He seemed friendly enough and tried to impress us by repeatedly making the sign of the cross, but after falling off his bike and nearly stepping on the equipment, things went quickly down hill. He claimed the river bottom was his and wanted a rental payment. This went on for some time until he became boisterous and a couple of local kids came to take him away, with support from our camel crew. Before it was over, he had bloodied the head of one and the foot of another, and we spent the evening patching up the wounded. Elders from the town arrived with apologies and the chief offered his personal regrets as we departed the next day. The man would be “dealt with.”
That excitement aside, everyone was exhausted from our longest day — nearly 25 miles — and we ended an early evening with our usual hearty dinner. During the night, we heard a lot of local fauna — baboons, monkeys, and hippos – but nothing could keep us from sleep.
August 15, 2008
Again we were up at 5 am for an early start just after 7. Having failed to reach Lake Baringo on Day 4, we set out in earnest for the Lake. Again on open road, we made good time, covering 18 miles in all. We covered a number of ethnic regions along the way, from Kalenjin to Njemps to Pokot. It was a day of hard trekking, during which we saw few animals beyond some ostriches along the road. The landscape became increasingly severe, marked by acacia (thorn) trees and “wait a bit” bushes with hook-like thorns best dealt with by just thrashing through.
The day was very hot – above 100 degrees through the middle of the day – and the walk was a struggle for everyone. Ashley was particularly hard hit. Given the conditions and our uncertainty over the distance ahead, we decided to stop short of the Lake and found a spot along a fast flowing stream to make camp. The place was remote so we had few visitors beyond cattle herders driving their cattle to the stream. Refreshing baths in the stream and using its water to cool down our drinks brought a much more pleasant ending to a long, hot day. As Michael, Roger, and the camel crew took a late bath at the stream, one of the herders informed them that the stream was for the cattle – but he was nice about it.
A lively Frisbee match broke out, and Dennis decided to school Emily in the finer points of Frisbee tossing. Meanwhile, Lena, sous chef extraordinaire, made us chapati pizza and pasta – a special treat after a long hot couple of days. We turned in early once again, and our sleep was only disturbed by nocturnal sounds from passing ostriches and barking baboons.
August 16, 2008
Another early start and we were back on the road at 7:30 am. Bill was suffering from heat exhaustion and seems to have picked up a bug so he wound up riding a camel. We were moving through back country and had to do a lot of trail cutting for the camels, but it proved very difficult to clear a path for both camels and rider. Having reached the long sought shore of Lake Baringo, we called it a day early and set up camp around noon.
This was a welcome pause for us all, and we took the opportunity to rest up and see what the Lake had to offer. The local fishermen made boats of the huge reeds in the lake, and floating mats of reeds actually extended the shoreline out into the lake. The area offered a profusion of beautiful African birds, and Amanda provided a bird walk, adding to her many contributions as manager of the Walk.
Once again, the locals brought the market to us and offered a variety of beaded goods, stools, carvings, and bows and arrows. Many purchases were made, and Emily came away armed and dangerous. Dennis bought a lovely beaded bottle for Ksh 200 only to have the young seller return later to offer a full refund. The most likely story line is that he sold his father’s snuff bottle and there was hell to pay at home. Amanda prevailed upon the local population to dance for us, and it was not long before the wazungu were part of the dance. Dennis and Amanda cut particularly fine figures.
The Lake also offered our first hippos, since we had camped in Hippo Alley where they graze after nightfall. Our sighting was limited to them bobbing in the Lake, but we certainly heard them that night when it was grazing time. They complained about unusual intruders but basically minded their own business – Thank God!
Amanda arranged to buy a goat from the locals which was slaughtered for fresh meat and a tasty meal. Fresh goat liver was a special treat. The day ended with the arrival of rain, which proved to be a torrential downpour that lasted all night. Still we managed to sleep.