Our expedition wanders ever deeper into the hinterland but we do not tire. We are energized by the curiosity of things to come and are fuelled by wanderlust, snacks and diesel. The forth day of our adventure finds us in high spirits, we have found our travel rhythm and it beats to a strong and steady drum. If you haven’t already, you can see how far we have come to get us here in Part 1 and Part 2 of our journey. In the meantime what do the days ahead hold in store? More than we can imagine…
After a great time at Nakuprat-Gotu, we make the decision that a pit-stop is required. Living out of a car is not easy, all the neatly packed things are in disarray, some of the frozen food has gone ‘squelchy’, we’re covered in dust and need to re-group.
Hitting the tarmac again after bouncing around for hours on end is such heaven as we now head towards Mount Ololokwe, the mountain that I nearly drowned on. I love this road it’s really going to open up the region, I see a road trip to Ethiopia in my future. Now if we can sort out Kapenguria – Lokichogio and Garissa – Mandera roads we’re golden.
We’ve decided to hold up at Sabache Camp which is located in a really unique spot. Just look at its location, when people ask me to describe where it is my running gag is “It’s IN the mountain”. I said it was a gag, I didn’t say it was funny.
The camp is a short 10-min drive from the highway and in my opinion is one of the best campsites in this area. We’re only here for one night and it’s good to see some old faces. Dipa the owner, who never looks happy to see a guest, Ngoke the guide who is quiet but always friendly and Mzee who is never in a hurry except when it comes to giving you a bill. We’re camping here as well but they let us use the showers in the rooms, amazing how a simple shower can invigorate both the mind and body.
It’s a real pain putting up camp for just one night but this is a welcome chance to sort out all our gear stuff and prep for the next leg of the journey tomorrow. Camping here is Ksh 500.
The next day we say our goodbyes, I hope to see you guys again soon, sorry about crashing the camp’s power supply trying to keep our fridge running. Owe you one.
Getting To Ngurunit
Okay I’ve dilly-dallied enough lets get to the meat of this article. So we head out along the highway once aiming for Laisamis, where we’ll branch off to Ngurunit. I’m going on and on about this road as it’s a very big deal, unless you are from this side of Kenya or have ever visited it’s difficult to explain just how important this road is for access to this part of Kenya that has been cut off from the rest of the country since time immemorial.
Ololokwe to Laisamis takes us about 1 1/2hrs. On arrival a police officer tells us there is no way we can get to Ngurunit from Laisamis as the Milgis Lugga is in full flood (the Milgis is one of Kenya’s largest seasonal rivers that flows between the Ndoto Mountains and the Matthews range) I believe his exact words are. “Hiyo mto ni kali! Inaweza tupa mtu mpaka Nyahururu.” Doesn’t sound like something we want to mess with does it? So the only option is to drive an additional 50km up the highway until the small town of Logo Logo and head east from there.
At this point I’m slightly worried about taking this track, I start thinking of ‘What if’s’. ‘What if we get stuck? What if something goes wrong on the car? What if we get a flat we can’t change? My mind is rife with all manner of scenarios, none of which end well and it’s the only time during the entire trip that this happens. The track is mostly sandy going, however you can see if it rains there might be an issue or two here. It seems to dry back up again pretty quick as we’ve missed some rain by about 2 days.
By this time it’s scorching (understatement) hot but we take it slow, stopping to stretch our legs and constantly re-fill our water bottles. We’ve been travelling with all our drinking water and an additional 2 20-litre jerricans.
50 km later we re-join the main Laisamis – Ngurunit Rd recently done and is well -graded murram surface and we can just about start to see our destination. Although the last 10km or so to Ngurunit is some crazy corrugation.
In the end I am glad that my fears are unfounded, we arrive in Ngurunit with no problems whatsoever. In hindsight I’m kind of glad that circumstances forced us to take the route we did, I would never have chosen it otherwise but now I have seen a part of the country I would never have seen otherwise.
Lasumu Camp Site is located at the foothills of the Ndoto Mountains which themselves run the along the border of Samburu and Marsabit counties. It is within the homestead of the Lemunyete family one of the first families to settle in the area way back in the 70’s. The communities are comprised of mainly the of the Samburu and Rendille people.
As you can see the camping grounds are very well shaded, perfect in the very high temperatures.
We set up up camp and prepare to feel at home, the plan is to stay here for 3 days, so the following pics will be over those entire 3 days. This is the ethos of this trip, we have taken a lot of time off because we do not want to rush from location to location.
One the great things about being in no rush is it’s a perfect chance to get the laundry done, the lugga right outside the campsite comes in handy for that, sand is murder on the hands though. Something I come to realize is washing up liquid is perfect for clothes as well!
For some reason this camel is quite curious about my stack of clean clothes, must be the fresh lemony scent (now with added pro-active turbo formula!).
The camp does have a few rooms and manyattas for those who might not wish to camp.
Up And About
This a country for hikers, Mount Poi has long been a favourite for rock climbers. For some reason I can’t help but think this would be a great place to visit with energetic kids/teenagers, there are so many different walks of differing lengths around the camp and surrounding areas.
The lugga is a highway of sorts for pedestrians and sometimes vehicles in many areas of Northern Kenya, much more pleasant than hacking through bush for sure.
We head down to watch a football match in Ngurunit Village. It’s only a 15 min walk from camp so no need to drive.
Quite a fun game to watch in a lovely setting. In the photo below you’ll notice the female fans on the sidelines. It’s quite interesting to notice the social dynamics during the game, the separation of the sexes, ladies grouped together glancing at the guys and giggling with each other. Some things are no different wherever in the world you go.
Some of the kindred spirits at the campsite largely composed of Mountain Club of Kenya members who are looking for some climbing in the area. We had actually met the group way back in Isiolo on the first day of the trip, we shared our plans and hoped to meet here, they’ve actually been to Lake Turkana during the time we’ve been in Nakuprat – Gotu and Ololokwe! Pleasure to meet all of you guys and thanks to Fish for the awesome egg curry.
We attempt a hike up to the famous falls with natural slides that are a major attraction here, they are only a 1.5 from camp just below some hills. It’s bizarre, just 15 min from the arid lowlands and we might as well be in the Aberdares, as we go higher we’re walking through a lush forest with more green than we’ve seen in days. Plant lovers would have a field day here.
As we approach where we think the pools are a major storm comes out of nowhere, the smell of ozone is in the air, thunder and echoing of the mountains and lightning crashing across the sky. The river becomes a torrent so we cannot tell if were even in the right place so we turn back. The rain creates lines of waterfalls rushing down the mountains which is pretty cool to see.
…and nights spent under a full moon on the the warm, sandy lugga.
- The camp does not have meals and as such you should be totally self sufficient. However for large groups local food can be arranged with prior notice. Do not expect to buy provisions in Ngurunit Village, Isiolo is the last major town for shopping.
- There are showers and long drop toilets in the camp but I would still advise that it would be a good idea for you to come along with a large part of your own water supply, both potable and non-potable.
- There is absolutely no network in the Ngurunit area (whichever cell company you use) so be prepared to be cut off from the rest of the world for your stay here. Awesome!
- Camping costs are Ksh 500 per person and there are 10 single – man tents for hire at Ksh 1000 per day.
- Plan your trip just after the rainy season if you can, the landscapes are beautiful, water is not such a problem and it is much cooler. It’s just all around a much more pleasant experience.
- For any enquires contact Stephen Labarakwe (+254) 0706-385 905 or at lasamucamp@gmailcom
A trip to places like Ngurunit and the Ndoto Mountains is a different travel experience than most are accustomed to. There might not be wildlife and swanky lodges but for me that’s a big part of it’s charm. Many brochures on Kenya offer you an authentic community experience but thats mostly bull, here interactions are on a much more natural and human level. No one trying to sell you curios, no dancers suddenly appearing from the dark after dinner, it’s a part of Kenya untouched by the tourism juggernaut. There’s a down side to that though, as places like this are not sold by our tourism operators, most foreign and local visitors might never get to know about just how different an experience you can have in Kenya.
So now for now the people of Ngurunit go about their business as they have done in the past awaiting only the intrepid, the outliers and those with a sense of adventure.
I hope you join me for the last and final installment of my Northern Kenya trip coming up soon and yes, if you can believe it I’m going even further north. I know, at this point I might need an intervention. In the meantime check out this fantastic article by my travel crush Rupi Mangat on her visit to the very same area. Jambo Nairobi also has info about climbing Aldera hill from the camp.