We took the Turkana route from Ethiopia to Nairobi in mid Jan in a group of 3 cars (2 land cruisers and a defender). I’ve set out some info below which will hopefully be helpful to anyone following.
The security situation is currently bad in Kenya, with the elections diverting police away from the most dangerous areas, and numerous reports of banditary on the road.
See attached for example (we travelled through here two days after the incident).
Bandit attack in Isiolo leaves two dead | News24 Kenya
However, there is clearly a lot of traffic still running the route, and with careful planning you should get through ok.
As far as security goes, the worst stretches are between Marsabait and Nanyuki (in particular, the stretch just north of Archer’s Post), and in the immediate vicinity of the town of Baragoi. Whether you take the Moyale road or the Turkana route, you will have to go through one of these areas. Some old hands have told me the Moyale Rd isn’t as bad as it once was, with the Chinese having smoothed some of the worst bits, but the main reason to avoid it is how much the corrugations and pot holes destroy your car / bike / truck.
Some details form the Turkana route to help you make your decision:
The last fuel in Ethiopia is in the towns of Jinka and Konso (proper filling stations), though jerry can fuel is available in Turmi
For us, from our last fill in Jinka until the next pumped fuel in Isiolo was 950km. Stock up on food in Addis / Arba Minch. Supplies after that are limited to some bread / veggies / biscuits. You won’t be able to get anything between Turmi and Loyangalani (probably 3 days).
From Jinka, the best way to Turmi is on the good gravel road just south of Key Afer (the road through the Mago National Park is more or less impassable). (NB In Turmi you can get a 1 hour massage for $12 at the Buska Lodge!)
All of your immigration and customs papers are done in Omerate (quite simple, c.45 mins), and you can change money in the small shop opposite the Olympia cafe in town (the rate is 4 Kenyan Shilling per Birr, which is bad, but they won’t negotiate, and seem like decent guys)
Once finished, you need to head back c.18km on the road until you see a dirt road off to your right (ie heading south). There are a number of NGO / government signs there, including one which says ‘bon voyage’. In decent weather (ie dry), you should be able to make it to Ileret, the first town in Kenya, on the same day.
On the way, you will pass 3 police check points. The first has a corrupt guard on it, who will try to extract cash from you by claiming you need a piece of paper for the cars from Omerate. You may want to pre-empt them by asking for that paper in Omerate, but if all else fails, and you don’t want to bribe, you can always pretend to drive back to Omerate, and give the town with the guard a couple of kms birth off road. He let us go after a 20 min wait and a lot of arguing. The last 2 check points are very relaxed.
You need to register at the Police station in Ileret (c.15 mins), where there is a very nice policeman who can give you advice on local conditions.
The road for us in general was good (we didn’t get stuck once), but it would be a completely different story in the rain, given you drive through near constant river beds. If the weather is good, the shortest route is through the Sibiloi national park. This costs $20 per person, plus $15 per person to camp (which can be avoided by wild camping, and claiming you slept outside the park). Tracks4Africa was pretty accurate on this route, and a big help.
All of this area is very remote, with few people. The first town you will reach is called Loyangalani, where you can get diesel in jerry cans from the mission if you are desperate, plus you should be able to pick up a few basic supplies. You can drive from Ileret to Loyangalani in a long day (8 hours or so of driving).
From Loyangalani, there is a slightly shorter day’s drive to South Horr, where there is a good campsite as you enter town on the left called Samburu Sports Club. It has a big sign. The road is very rocky over this route, so pretty slow going. South Horr is a very nice town, so make sure to go and have a walk around, and order your bread in advance to pick up the next morning from the bakery.
From South Horr, you have two choices, either head South via Baragoi to Maralal (where there is pumped fuel), or head East for a camp in Isiolo (where there is also pumped fuel). We met some guys running the Lake Turkana wind farm project in South Horr who drive the route regularly, and they strongly recommended against the Baragoi route, given the frequency of banditry (which has since been verified by others in Nairobi).
We took the road East, via Laisamis, which was a fairly good dirt track until around 20km from Laisamis where it gets badly corrugated. These corrugations continue until you hit the beautiful new tarmac about 20km the other side of Laisamis. We met a tour guide on this route who wanted us to take the road through Losai Nature Reserve to Merille with him, which he said was good. We didn’t follow, but I wished we had given all the horrible corrugation. Which ever way you take for this day though, don’t hang around. The road between Laisamis and Isiolo is particularly dangerous.
The guys at the Shell garage in Isiolo were very helpful with directions / advice. We stayed at the Rangelands campsite in Isiolo, which was very nice and safe, but if you’re there nice and early, you may wish to push on to Nanyuki, which is a much safer town overall.
I hope all this is useful. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.