So where did we leave off? Our arrival…hunger pangs…the blazing meteoroid….all that was in Part 1. So it’s a new day and we’re up early, aiming to visit the small settlement of Gotu where the Gotu Waterfalls are located and also pass by the famous Magado Crater. Tarn has to head back to Nanyuki for a wedding so we say our goodbyes and head our separate ways. This day will not go according to plan.
We’re headed to the Gotu falls first and stop at the Ranger Station (4km from the campsite) to pick up Ranger Mahmoud as a guide. The falls are 20km away from the campsite along a slightly rocky road, not a bad ride in a 4×4. and takes about 45min.
The Gotu falls ‘bridge’ is one of those bridges you hear about in the news that sweep away cars and people during the rainy season and cuts off this particular community from access to Merti and beyond. Worth noting that article in the link is dated 2012 and I can confirm this bridge still does not exist, good going CDF. But in fairness there is currently evidence of work in progress.
The falls though are worth the trip especially as the Ewaso Nyiro is in full flow. Plan your trip just after the rainy season to see the full effect, it is such a powerful image more so considering how arid the area is. The Ewaso is truly the lifeline of the North.
I haven’t shared any of my shaky videos since my Ololokwe trip, I know how much you’ve missed them.
Time is running out if we want to make it to the crater but I’m thirsty and I notice what looks like a hotel so we pop in for a soda. I’m actually quite impressed by the level of investment in such a quiet part of the country so I ask to speak to owner to get some info about it. After a few minutes a tall, unassuming, be-spectacled man, lower body wrapped in a shuka comes over and introduces himself as Baba Simpirre.
Here’s what’s running through my mind at the time, “Ok local guy in the back of beyond, I’ll interview him for ten minutes and blow this joint”. True to form I’ve started our chat in halting elementary Swahili (in many remote places people don’t speak English let alone Swahili) and it’s going swimmingly. After a few minutes, being such the gracious man he is, he puts me out of my misery and switches to English. Turns out he is Dr Hussein Issak, who received his PhD in ornithology from Oxford no less, worked for the Museums of Kenya for over 20 years and is now the Executive Director of the Kivulini Trust. Oookay, I’ve been suitably schooled, I have judged a book by it’s cover and been found wanting, but I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong.
But what starts off on that slightly embarrassing note becomes one of the highlights of my trip here. We spend hours discussing birds, conservation, politics, the marginalization of Northern Kenya and it’s hopes for the future. I learn more about the area than I ever would have reading any number of books or newspaper articles.We also take an extended tour of the camp, and when I say extended I mean we were almost invited to inspect the plumbing.
We also discuss a lot of the work the trust does, using culture to foster harmony between communities in Northern Kenya. One of the highlights Northern Kenya is the Kalacha Cultural Festival held annually and bringing together more than 14 communities from all over the region. I’ve managed to secure you all a personal invite to this years event.
As the afternoon drones on,something hits me: Baba Simpirre does-not-stop-talking, this guy can vibe. As its now getting late, extracting ourselves from here becomes an operation of top priority that demands to be carried out with military precision. So as The Muse creates a distraction and I feint to the left, we are finally able to say goodbye to this most interesting and passionate of characters.
As we head back to camp, it’s now too late to visit the crater but you know what? I don’t care. I got to meet one of Kenya’s true patriots, those that are happy to work behind the scenes and just get on with it. That day honestly couldn’t have gone any better. These are some of the experiences that remind me why I travel as I do, no structured tourism itinerary could ever give offer the same experience. I mean what are the chances we were there at the same time? That I spotted the hotel? That I was thirsty? That I asked for the owner? What if…..
We drop off Mahmoud and decide to end the day at the Bojodera Springs. These are about a 5min walk from the campsite but you can drive there as well.
Again very strange to see this little oasis of crystal clear water seep up in the middle of what is ordinarily such a dry area.
The springs are on an elevated position and flow right into the river that you can see in the back ground.
We see out the days end here just mucking about, basically doing what we came to do.
Before I leave the conservancy I interview (it’s an addiction of mine) 2 of the rangers who have been so kind as to watch over us at the campsite, Mohammed and Kokor from Unit Bravo Delta. As with many community conservancies many rangers are ex-poachers who are now on the front lines of protecting all those cute elephants and other wildlife we love to click ‘like’ on. For me rangers are the true heroes of conservation, out there every day, in difficult conditions, safeguarding this country’s heritage.
Historically the conservancy was quite popular for bird shooting but since that went the way of the dodo the few visitors who do come are mostly day trippers staying in the Shaba Reserve and visiting either the falls or the crater.The story the rangers tell one readers of this site are now becoming accustomed to; they need visitors. They realize that while conservation is important without tangible financial benefits to the conservancies population, conservation will always be an uphill task. They speak quite highly of Hassan the new conservancy manager and seem to place a lot of faith in him. So there is hope and a real sense of optimism, and that I can roll with.
- This is wild camping and the site is remote, you must carry all your supplies, Isiolo is your last chance for this.
- In remote areas like this always observe common sense and caution. All it takes is one idiot to ruin an entire trip, and help is a long way away.
- Camping cost is Ksh 2000pp and covers conservancy fees as well.
- There is little to no mobile network once you leave Shaba, say your goodbyes there.
- If you are not into camping there is clean budget accommodation at Camp Simpirre in Gotu. Contact 0721301150.
- I am proud to debut the Tourism Hotline (0701 295 357) for any tourism enquiries you may have about the any of the 33 conservancies under the The Northern Rangeland Trust. You can also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Great job guys!
How can I end this, I think I’ve said my peace. What is the way forward for conservancies such as these as regards tourism? I’ll say the same thing I always say, Step one is always empowering potential visitors by giving out as much information as possible. While it’s true that this kind of travel is not for everyone, exposing a destination such as this to Kenya and the rest of the world must begin somewhere and marketing without practical information behind it is a house built on sand.
My journey through Northern Kenya is not over, there are still many miles to go and hope you’ll continue to join me on this adventure. If you enjoyed this part of the trip click here to continue your journey though these stunning landscapes in Part 3.
Now I really have to go. The Muse is hungry……..and you won’t like her when she’s hungry.
***A big thanks to Tarn for suggesting this leg of the trip and facilitating my visit there. Also to Claire of Joy’s Camp who offered me so much information where there was none to be had.***