“Let’s do something big”. Those four innocuous words uttered six months before this trip slowly snowballs into what turns out to be a 10-ten day monstrosity, spanning a total of 1,500km through some of Kenya’s least visited but most beautiful desert landscapes. The more experienced among you might be saying “Pffft, 10 days? Bunch of pussies”, but for me this is big, really big. This is the longest camping trip I’ve ever taken and if you really want to get out of your comfort zone and find true adventure then Northern Kenya is definitely the place to do it.
Nakuprat – Gotu Conservancy is located in Isiolo County and is home to approximately 15,000 semi-nomadic pastrolists from both the Borana and Turkana communities. The conservancy is one of 33 community conservancies under the Northern Rangelands Trust umbrella and acts as a buffer and corridor for Sera Community Conservancy, Shaba, Buffalo Springs and Samburu National Reserves, as it is the last protected area before Meru North district.
The map below shows the conservancy relative to its surroundings. It has a really weird shape, wonder how that narrow strip of land below Shaba National Reserve came to be?
From Isiolo to Shaba takes roughly 1hr and is easy going on smooth tarmac. The route we take to get to the conservancy is through the reserve is not without drama, there is supposed to be a drive – through agreement for getting to the conservancy through Shaba but this seems not be in effect. Sort this out people! However a bit of diplomacy gets us through without having to pay the reserve gate fees.
Once through the Shaba gate we now begin to get a feel of what lies ahead. Weird that I’ve never been to Shaba before [edit: I have since visited the reserve in detail] so it’s cool getting this chance to go through the reserve.
Just inside the reserve we come across one of my favourite animals, the Grevys Zebra. They are part of the North’s ‘Special Five, do you know what the other four are? In hindsight I can’t believe I missed the Great Grevy’s Rally held earlier this year, such beautiful animals.
My excitement wanes the further on we drive as lunchtime comes and goes, we’re through the reserve and still a-rocking and a-rolling through the arid landscape. The Muse has shut down (she does this when hungry) and I’m left talking to what might as well be a sack of potatoes.
My GPS track of our journey. In total it takes us 2 1/2 hours from Shaba gate to the campsite as the track is windy (as you can see below) and quite rocky in places.
The campsite is located right next to the Ewaso Nyiro river under the shade of some doum palms. We find evidence the camp has been used in the past but clearly no ones been here for months.
The first order of business is having lunch, The Muse jumps out of the car before it slows to halt ‘bodyguard style’ and is munching away even before I put the handbrake up. For some time all other activity stops, the silence only punctuated by the sounds of our snarling and masticating…its not pretty.
After re-fuelling, we set about clearing the campsite. Wild camping is all about do-it-yourself and a shovel and a panga are must haves for this kind of travel, they really come-in handy and can be used for a myriad of purposes.
So camp is all set up and my, my what a handsome follow indeed!
Our campsite has a nice little beach for short walks along the river. A 4-ft croc slips into the water ahead of me as I’m heading for a ‘shower’. So maybe no swimming? Definitely no swimming. I don’t tell The Muse about the croc about this until after I’ve taken this photo.
Crocs aside, the river-front is really nice. The thing about seasonal rivers like the Ewaso is because of the seasonal change in flow it never looks the same. If you ever find yourself here, you’d see a totally different river than I did.
As the day ends, we get a little treat. We see a meteoroid light up the sky as it burns up coming through the atmosphere breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces, its so big I could swear it hits land fall just below the horizon. Never seen anything quite like it. No pictures but I don’t need them, I saw it with my own eyes.
Dinner is a slightly more genteel affair than lunch was; less ‘lions at a kill’ and more ‘dinner with the queen’ kind of affair. Honestly thank goodness for the miracle that is the Cookswell Jiko, we eat like kings.
The best time of any camping experience, bellies full, beers in hand we spend the evening conversating, philosophising and solving the worlds problems. Campers will know what I mean, it’s a big part of why we do what we do.
Well, that’s it for Part 1 of this series. Come with me to Part 2 where I take you up and around the conservancy and I also end up learning a major lesson in humility. In the meantime if you need a breather let’s meet on Instagram, ama?
For now goodnight….and good luck!