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We are in Ethiopia now in our Landy, and will be crossing into Kenya at the start of December (will be in Addis in a week or so).
We want to avoid the nasty congregated Moyale-Marsabit road and go via Turkana. We have info from someone who did this last year and said it was a great route.
1. Has anyone been this way recently / got any info on road condition, safety etc.
2. Does anyone want to join us, we've been told its best to do this in a small group if poss.
I really wouldn't go via Turkana at the moment. 40+ police were killed by bandits a couple of weeks ago at Baragoi and retaliation/government intervention expected. Apparently lots of villagers are trying to flee the area.
It would certainly be best to check on the current situation in the region, particularly as these things can flare up & die down quite quickly. Don't forget there have also been a few problems on the Moyale route recently. So look into both option.
One of the best reports on this route from 2010 & in the opposite direction to you, but still could be handy information, is here: http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hub...-turkana-54407
It is indeed a very comprehensive report but I have to say that traveling that way in 2011 it was no longer very accurate in terms of road conditions/journey times/accommodation options (things do of course change). In particular the GPS refs were off both for us and our traveling companions - I suspect the GPS was just differently callibrated to ours. We did however have some other tracks/directions that were a great help. If anyone wants them please shout.
But as I said above I wouldn't consider this route for the time being. This latest violence looks to be on a different scale from the sporadic problems the region has suffered over the last few years.
You don't need to pass the Baragoi area. From the eastern edge of Sibiloi you can take a track directly to North Horr, Kalacha up to Marsabit. And from Marsabit you can travel down to Isiolo.
By doing that you are also passing the Chalbi desert which is one of the most impressive areas I have ever been.
In today's Sunday Times there's a report of continuing trouble in Ethiopia's South Omo. The government is forcing tribes off their lands to make way for developments, with much human rights abuses and torture. Sufficient for the UK to probably halt its aid to the country. (Looks like it's behind a pay-wall on the website).
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.
Here is the latest on Lake Turkana south to north (travelled last week):
First of all, forget any worries you may have about his route - there is NOTHING difficult about the drive & there are no roads that should damage your vehicle, assuming you are driving a 4x4 in the dry season. There were only a handful of occasions where we engaged low ratio - & they were mainly to be kind to the car rather than through absolute necessity. The main thing you need to consider is the isolation & whether you would be comfortable with this. We travelled with two other vehicles, but would have been perfectly happy to do the route alone - just carry enough water to see you through a few extra days should you have any problems with your vehicle. You must also be prepared to take your time - going too quickly is how cars are damaged on this route &, more importantly, the route is too beautiful to rush. The break-down of the route we took is as follows:
Day 1: Nanyuki to Archers Post. 118km, 2hrs.
Last fuel for the route at Isiolo, 36km before Archers Post. Tar road. Camping at Bamoja Camp, GPS N0 37.924 E37 39.621 for an outrageous & non-negotiable 800KSH per person. Nice location on the river, but loud, rude locals with an attitude partying all night.
Day 2: Archers Post to South Horr. 271km, 7 1/2hrs.
Take the A2 north from Archers Post, through Losai NP (no fees, public road) and turn west at Laisamis. Tar until 22km before Laisamis, 22km of corrugation until you turn off the A2, then easy gravel tracks. Stunning drive through friendly Samburu grazing lands & views of beautiful, dramatic mountains. Camping at Samburu Camp, South Horr GPS N2 06.329 E36 55.427.
Day 3: South Horr to Loiangolani. 88km, 5hrs.
Gravel roads through dramatic, volcanic boulder fields. First view of the beautiful Lake Turkana - this is where you start to feel the isolation, until you come into the surprising oasis town of Loiangolani. Camping at Palm Shades GPS N2 45.379 E36 43.236. Water available at Palm Shades (drinkable spring water) & we hear you can also get fuel here at the Mission, but we didn’t try.
Day 4: Loiangolani to wild camp GPS N3 19.862 E36 17.677. 115km, 5 1/2 hrs.
A couple of short, steep-ish descents into & out of river beds. Nothing challenging.
Day 5: Wild camp to wild camp on edge of Sibiloi NP GPS N3 56.908 E36 28.306. 111km, 5 1/2 hrs.
We intended to avoid Sibiloi NP by taking what we thought was a public road around the outside. This can be done if traveling north to south. But from the south, if you take the route along the edge of the lake, you cannot avoid going through a park gate & they sting you for $20 p/person - the boundary has been recently redrawn to be outside the road. Grrrrr! You can avoid the $15 camping fee by saying you will wild camp outside the park. Ironically, the slowest part of the whole route is the road inside the park - not difficult, just slow.
Day 6: Sibiloi NP to Ethiopia wild camp GPS N4 35.564 E36 14.592. 118km, 4 1/2 hrs.
Some sandy river crossings, but easy if dry. Probably one of the few places in Ethiopia where you can wild camp - make the most of it! Beware of bees - they disappear at dusk.
Day 7: Wild Camp to Turmi via customs & Immigration at Omorate. 129km, 3 1/4 hrs.
Rainy season detours mean that there are lots of potential tracks to follow. Just follow the most used tracks until you hit the main gravel track 17km short of Omorate. Camping at Mango Campsite GPS N4 58.549 E36 30.931.
Day 8: Turmi to Jinka & the first fuel. 124km, 4hrs.
Total distance between fuel (Isiolo - Jinka): Almost exactly 1000km
Formalities for Lake Turkana Route. When traveling north to Ethiopia there is no Kenyan border post if you take the Lake Turkana route. Therefore carnets & passports must be stamped out in Nairobi. For the carnet see Chris at Jungle Junction for details. For the passport you need to go to Nyayo House Immigration in Central Nairobi (GPSS1 17.222 E36 49.117). To save time being sent round the houses, go straight round to the Aliens Immigration dept - entrance on the left hand side of the building. Go straight to Room 14 - situated in the corridor to your right hand side when you enter to big hall.
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