Day 130 Kenya : Turmi - Ilheret

Day 130 Kenya

Trip Distance 198 km (123 m) Total Distance 15100 km (9385 m)
Road Condition 100% off road    
Time to travel 7.5 hrs    
Wild Camp - police station N4 18.778 E36 13.666 Windy, windy, windy, VERY windy with a policeman's long drop for a loo

And so we broke camp as the sun rose in the east SG104988 and set off on the road to Kenya. SG104993   The surface had now become softer with some stone SG104991 but the sharp stones of yesterday had disappeared, thank goodness.  30km later we entered the Omo Valley River bed as we crossed over to the other side heading for Turmi where we thought Iain would have waited.  The track was now getting softer and softer and we crossed ever more tributaries, river beds and wadis.  Luckily for us (not so for the Ethiopians), the rains haven't come this year so the crossings were fairly uneventful and the cars (and drivers) took them in their stride.  We used low range for most river crossings as the beds were extremely soft but neither car dug in or ever got stuck and we were running, and had been since yesterday, with 20% less air in the tyres.

Finally we reached Turmi - the village of the legendary bull-jumping - but with Iain nowhere in sight we needed to press on to find him.  We went through the village centre and with mime and signing we discovered that Iain had in fact gone through heading for Omorate just a bit earlier than us.  It turns out that he had camped in the Omo Valley River bed just 20km ahead of us when he realised, after waiting, that we had probably pulled over and wouldn't be joining him.

So we set off for Omorate, for Immigration and hopefully a stamp in our carnets.  When we arrived, we discovered that Omorate has, in fact, a full Customs office and they requested our carnets for stamping without any prompting.  Phew, one less thing to worry about.  Within 30 minutes our passports were registered and stamped out of Ethiopia along with the carnets and we set off for town. 

Arriving in Omorate centre we discovered that there was nothing there - it was a true frontier town with little to call it's own.  No fresh veggies or eggs and no fuel (although Iain managed to buy 5l in a black market purchase).  But we did find a money changer in the Tourist Hotel (thus named but more like a dirty mud hut than any hotel I have ever seen!) along with the contact for Iain's petrol.  We whiled away an hour waiting for the money changer to get some Kenyan Shillings for our last Ethiopian Birr and for the petrol to make it's appearance.  Once the transactions had been completed we set off heading for the turn off to Kenya, back-tracking along the road from Omorate for 18kms.

I should mention at this stage that the last 18kms to Omorate were absolutely horrid with constant corrugations on a badly cambered track.  In order to negotiate the corrugations we were speeding along at around 80kmph mindful that one wrong turn of the wheel or a car approaching us, itself doing these speeds, and having to pass by each other could result in some nasty accident.  But there was nothing else to do, except grit our teeth and go for it.  We negotiated it safely into town.  At these speeds we had seen some sand tracks running alongside the main track with the entries flashing by us.  We learnt from that and on our way back to the Kenya turn-off made full use of them resulting in a MUCH more comfortable ride.

We turned off onto the Banyafort road and having chatted about it in Omorate, 2kms down the road, pulled up under a tree for some lunch.  After a well deserved break of about an hour, we set off again and immediately hit deep, soft sand.  At this stage, although the cars were eating it up, Iain was battling with his bike and we stopped for a chat.  He was seriously considering turning back for Omorate to take the western road down the lake which on the paper map was marked as a national road.  Probably only slightly better than what we were on but with access to more fuel - he was really worried that he wouldn't have enough considering the conditions that would increase his consumption by 50%.  We all chatted together.  We had committed ourselves to helping Iain and didn't want him to turn back.  Jorg and Anja offered to take all of his panniers and additional load and carry them in Willy.  That way he would have more control of the bike and decrease his consumption.  We agreed that he would try for another 10kms or so without his luggage and if it was any better, he would make a decision then whether or not to carry on.  Turning back was something he didn't want to do as he had set his heart on doing the Omo Valley route.  So we pushed on again with Willy easily carrying the extra weight and Iain looking far more comfortable, in control and much, much happier.

Some time later, we skirted around a village and suddenly we  came across the final Ethiopian Immigration post.  A rundown tin shack in the middle of nowhere marked by nothing.  But out came 2 Immigration officers tugging on their uniforms as we approached.  They checked our passports to make sure we had been stamped out, noted down our details and waved us off as we headed south again..

Suddenly we crossed over into Kenya leaving Ethiopia behind.  No border posts and nothing to mark our crossing. Just a dot on the GPS to mark our spot. SG104997

It was a relief to be able to stop and have a cuppa without an audience of people staring. With no other souls in sight at last, we set off for our next stop in Ilheret.

And there it was.  In front of us, our first view of Lake Turkana.  Alongside it, a village was clinging to the side of a sandy hill made up of beehive huts patched with plastic a_P1000467 and people popping out of every conceivable hole as we drove passed.  We stopped to ask directions and a local man pointed to the top of the hill.  In relatively good English he said that we had to make our way to the police station at the top of the hill to register before we could continue on.  So we did.  On arrival at the police station, we duly registered and had a chat with them.  They were a really friendly bunch of guys.  They suggested as it was so late that we wouldn't be able to enter the park and that we should stay with them for the night rather than set off for the 2 hour drive to the gate and have to wild camp as it wasn't very safe.  As it turns out, there isn't a gate on the north side, so entering the park isn't a problem any time of the day or night. As for the safety of the area - it turns out that the police are only there to keep the peace.  In their words, that part of the country is about 100 years behind and the local tribes are still into stealing each other animals and killing each other, so they have been stationed there to keep the tribesmen from killing each other and to sort out the issues with the animals..... if they can. 

Not having had a shower for 2 (or was it 3??) days, we decided that a swim in the lake was in order so that we could at least clean ourselves.  So a quick drive to the lake side and once we'd changed into our swimming gear, it was off to the water.  In the water we were joined by a group of young girls who had also been bathing.  Nothing like at home though, as they swam around with only skimpy bottoms on.  According to Iain, it was the first time he'd been bathing with bare-breasted nubile young girls.  We shared our shower gel with them and they delighted in the new smell and the way it foamed on their bodies and hair.  DSCN0372

Then it was back to the police station before the sun went down.  As we approached the station the wind was blowing gently and freshening a little but we ignored it.  We wouldn't be able to do that a couple of hours later!  Supper was made, beds and tents prepared and after politely turning down an invitation to join the policemen to watch athletics (TV and satellite dish hooked up to 2 car batteries!), we went to bed with the tents flapping in the ever stronger breeze. 

#1 Tracey on 9.08.2009 at 11:28 AM

Jan and Trev

I am so pleased to see you are making 'friends' - howz a photo of Trev - need to see you are still travelling with him - ha ha - cant wait to see you - thinking about you - safe travels my loves

kisss with tongue for Trev