Turquoise seems to be a favorite color in Ethiopia, at least for house choice. But even though our morning view was of the rather gloomish looking police station, the hospitality of the local guys more than colored our brief stay in Turmi.
the Happy Campers and Gadi
Gadi, the policeman who offered us to camp for the night at the station, was one of the first to stop by our “home on wheels” in the morning to check on our well-being. He informed us that we lucked to come on the market day, a day generally once or twice a week in major Omo Valley towns that brought local tribes to sell their goods. Some tribes would travel for up to two days each way to make it to the market. Considering that different towns had different weekdays designated for their own events, and the schedule seemed to be iffy for the other places to be passed, we sure weren’t going to miss out on what was described as a colorful event.
As the morning came, we climbed out of the tents and paused for a moment. When we setup camp the night before, it was already dark, so we didn’t quite see exactly where we were – just that it was flat and sandy. In the morning, however, the view that opened up was truly awe-inspiring – we were in the desert, smack dab in the middle of it. For as far as the eye could see, it was flat, empty, and very beautiful. It has set the mood for a great day to come.
Lone vehicle in the desert
This morning, we were planning to reach the Kenya-Ethiopia border and enter Ethiopia. The interesting part is that this is considered to be an unofficial border. It’s not listed in any guidebooks, not mentioned on any other literature. Hell, the road wasn’t even indicated on our map!
We awoke early in the morning at the shore of the lake Turkana. Around us was the picturesque village of 2 dozen tiny houses with roofs of dry grass. The fishing boats were gently bobbing on the tiny ripples (as it would be hard to call them waves) that rolled around lazily along the lake’s surface. The village just awoke and people were slowly going about their business. Herders were leaving with their sheep and goats and women were starting fire for the days cooking. The tranquility of the atmosphere made the place very hard to leave.
However, on the flipside, there was Angelo, who, while no longer drunk, was still very unhappy. He demanded an outrageous (by Kenyan standards) compensation for his role in showing us the village. We paid him what we thought was fair and went hastily on our way. As we proceeded further, the barren volcanic landscape behind us gave way to a sandy desert. It was a nice change from a driving standpoint – rather than jumping on rocks, we could go much faster on the hard sandy surface. The road at this point was just a set of tracks imprinted onto the sand by the previous vehicle. In some places the road was completely disappearing from view into the thin layer of sand and was indicated by the rocks placed to the side of it by either some government authority or the locals themselves. The remoteness of the place discussed the previous day was now starkly apparant. There was not a single vehicle that we encountered for 5 hours that we drove from the village.
Can you find the road?
Our directions consisted of a route described to us by a guy we met on an online travel forum. Turned out to be surprisingly accurate.
July 10th, 2011 – Post has been updated with photos
Located hundreds of kilometers from any paved roads, there is an emerald-green lake that comes out of the desert landscape like a mirage. It’s length is longer than Kenya’s entire coastline, yet it’s barely populated with a few villages sprinkled along the coast. The inhabitable land around it prevents any sort of farming or even cattle grazing, other than goats, so the only tribes that live here depend primarily on fishing.
The lake is known not just for its beauty, but also for the large population of the Nile crocodiles which live in its waters. Thus swimming in the lake becomes an interesting exercise which necessitates a certain level of alertness.
We covered the 105km distance to the lake within just 4 short hours, as the road was primarily going through a sandy track. While the car would sway uncomfortably like a ship on waves every time we would take a turn in the sand, we were able to average a solid 30-35km hour which was a big improvement over anything we’ve seen in the past 2 days.
Reaching Lake Turkana
We awoke in the morning to the sounds of camels in the background.
As we started to pack our stuff inside the car, we noticed some fresh traces of a friend we picked up along the way a while back. A short back story: When we were bush camping in Malawi over a month ago, we had a forest mouse get inside our car and it’s been living and traveling with us ever since. Generally, it doesn’t cause much trouble during the day, but when the night falls and we go to bed, there’s no telling what she will do.
On a good day, she will just nibble on whatever food we forget to remove from inside the car. On a bad day, she’s been known to chew on tobacco, tampons, multivitamins, and candles – after which she will generally express her disappointment for lack of better food by pooping all over the vehicle. We’ve been meaning to get a mousetrap for the past 5 weeks, but somehow got around to it. As a result, she is probably the best traveled rat in all of Africa.