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  #1  
Old 10 Jul 2011
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Lake Turkana route from Kenya to Ethiopia

Quite a few people have contacted me having read my blog and seen that I did this route in early 2010. I figured it would be helpful if I put my response on here.

It's quite detailed. Some people think that following in others' footsteps ruins the experience and goes against the spirit of overlanding, and if you're one of those folks, then this isn't for you. However, if you want to have a clear idea of what the route entails, read on.

The road is rough, and the going is slow. You may have issues with punctures if you don't have good quality tyres. Consider taking a couple of spare tyres if you can. Also, seriously consider trying to go in convoy. Not only will it be helpful if you get a puncture, get stuck or whatever, but it's also a lot safer and imo, more enjoyable (provided you have right travel buddies!)

When we went it was the safest route north, and we did in a convoy of 2 trucks and 2 cars. Whilst the road was really rough, it was also probably one of the highlights of the entire trip (which is no mean feat considering we travelled 40000kms over 19 months - so we saw a lot of things!!) and in fact we didn't feel threatened at any time. Once you're north of Maralal it gets really safe anyway.

It took us 7 days to get from Nairobi to the Omo Valley in south west Ethiopia, although one of those nights was spent with one of the trucks stuck in a river bed, so we could have taken 6 days. You could probably do it quicker if you don't have trucks, but it is a helluva rough road so going is slow.

Before you leave Nairobi get your carnet stamped because there is no customs at Illeret. Ask Chris at Jungle Junction to help you. (Please tell him Roxy and Steve say hi!)

Also, if you have any mechanical issues Chris has some awesome mechanics who can fix just about anything.

What you want to do is head north out of Nairobi to Nanyuki. It's good tar road. There's a Nakumatt which you can stock up at, and fill up your fuel tanks and jerry cans. Get a lot of fresh water - this will most likely be the last place you can get good clean water for a long time.

Head west on the C76 (what's locally called the old stock road) towards Rumuruti. It's a good quality dirt road, although there are sections with black cotton, so be careful if it's wet. Also if you're in a truck, be careful of the elephant gates, which are steel cables strung over the road with steel cables hanging down. It prevents elephants from crossing into farmland via the road, but can cause serious damage to higher profile vehicles if you drive through the cables at speed.

South of Maralal be relatively careful of where you camp if you bush camp, it's not that safe - lots of shiftas. Most violence is inter-tribal, but you can fall foul of opportunistic theft if you're exposed. It's much much safer than the Marsabit to Moyale route though.

We camped in the yard of a game farm run by some muzungu's, a white Kenyan Tom, his sister and her English husband Harry. They're all very friendly people, and were happy to let us camp overnight. We also drove past a police compound which I guess we could have camped in if we had asked.

Once you hit Rumuruti turn north onto the C77. This is a really shitty road, going will be slow, the road is really potholed. Head north to Kisima, and north to Maralal.

There is a fuel station at Maralal, but don't count on there being fuel available. If there is, fill your tanks. The road starts to get rocky and rough. Drop your tyre pressure somewhat to allow for some give going over the rocks. Obv. don't drop your pressure too far so that you expose your sidewalls to the rocks.

From Maralal continue north to Baragoi and South Horr. The road gets really rough, some very rocky and steep sections. Take it slowly.

We bush camped on an old abandoned farm about 100m off the road. There is loads of wood around (including old fence posts which are very convenient firewood!) so you can make a good fire. There aren't many people around, so it's safe (although try get far enough away from the road that you can't be seen from the road - no point in advertising your location)

In Baragoi there are another two fuel stations and a booze store - stock up if you can!!

Once you're north of Baragoi you start leaving civilisation behind you, things start to take on a lunar landscape appearance and you arrive at Lake Turkana. Head to Loyangalani, and stay at the Palm Shade campsite. It's one of the few with a bit of shade, and is a great little place. Be careful of scorpions around Lake Turkana. (apparently also be aware of crocs and vipers, although we didn't see any).

Leaving Lake Turkana's shores you head into the Chalbi Desert, a stony desert. The pace picks up. Awesome places to bush camp under Acacia trees in the desert.

You have to go through Sibiloi National Park, which is something like $20 (can't remember exactly) per person. Tell them you're only staying for 1 night, even if you end up staying longer - there is no exit gate. There is a map available but it's horribly out of date - roads on the map no longer exist in the park.

Head to Illiret, on the north side of the park. Find the police station and register your exit from Kenya with the police. They don't have a stamp or anything, but if you ask they will write a letter for you stating they have recorded your exit from Kenya, which you then give to the Ethiopian officials in Omorate when you stamp in.

There is a mission in Illiret with a nice Franciscan monk who will let you camp in their grounds. They are low on fresh water (they rely on rain water), but you may be able to get some from him if you need it.

North of Illiret it's really sandy and the track meanders all over the show, depending on when it last rained. There are a lot of river bed crossings, but it's not too bad. At some point you will cross an invisible line and arrive in Ethiopia! Yay!

You will get to a check point with a little hut. Register with the police if they're there, if not don't worry. You will eventually meet a dirt road going east/west. Turn left and drive to Omorate. There you will find immigration and customs where you will have to check in and get passport and carnet stamped. To get birr (local currency) go further into town and find the hotel. Ask around and you will be able to change dollars on the black market.

Now turn around and head out of Omorate the way you came in and get to Turmi which has a really nice little campsite called Kaesa Mango River Camp. You might be able to buy fuel from barrels if you ask around.

If you can, go to Jinka to see the Mursi people (lip disks). It's all a bit commercialised (you have to pay for a photo, but only like 1 or 2 birr per person) and gets a bit chaotic coz they all want the cash but it's an awesome experience. In Jinka we stayed at the Rock Campsite which is really good. There is a fuel station in Jinka - this is probably your first guaranteed chance of getting fuel since Nanyuki, so a good 600+ kms.

Hope this helps
Cheers
Steve

www.overafrica.org

Last edited by steve.lorimer; 11 Jul 2011 at 11:36.
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  #2  
Old 10 Jul 2011
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Thanks for that mate

What are the wet and dry months for that route?
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  #3  
Old 11 Jul 2011
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There's also this thread from a little while ago

http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hub...-turkana-54407

Seems like every month is a dry one in that area at the moment. I was there Jan / Feb 2011 and some places had no rain in the last 12 months. From memory I think rains were due around April, but maybe that didn't arrive this year.
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  #4  
Old 11 Jul 2011
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We are very interested in you post.

We are riding from Cape Town to Shanghai and this leg is an "intersting one".

Any idea where to get tyres in Nairobi? We ride KTM 990 Adventures on Pirelli Scorpions (presently in Zambia) but want a more off road orientated tyre from Kenya to Egypt.

Thanks,

Rupert & Fanny

www.bigbiketrip.net

Quite a few people have contacted me having read my blog and seen that I did this route in early 2010. I figured it would be helpful if I put my response on here.

It's quite detailed. Some people think that following in others' footsteps ruins the experience and goes against the spirit of overlanding, and if you're one of those folks, then this isn't for you. However, if you want to have a clear idea of what the route entails, read on.

The road is rough, and the going is slow. You may have issues with punctures if you don't have good quality tyres. Consider taking a couple of spare tyres if you can. Also, seriously consider trying to go in convoy. Not only will it be helpful if you get a puncture, get stuck or whatever, but it's also a lot safer and imo, more enjoyable (provided you have right travel buddies!)

When we went it was the safest route north, and we did in a convoy of 2 trucks and 2 cars. Whilst the road was really rough, it was also probably one of the highlights of the entire trip (which is no mean feat considering we travelled 40000kms over 19 months - so we saw a lot of things!!) and in fact we didn't feel threatened at any time. Once you're north of Maralal it gets really safe anyway.

It took us 7 days to get from Nairobi to the Omo Valley in south west Ethiopia, although one of those nights was spent with one of the trucks stuck in a river bed, so we could have taken 6 days. You could probably do it quicker if you don't have trucks, but it is a helluva rough road so going is slow.

Before you leave Nairobi get your carnet stamped because there is no customs at Illeret. Ask Chris at Jungle Junction to help you. (Please tell him Roxy and Steve say hi!)

Also, if you have any mechanical issues Chris has some awesome mechanics who can fix just about anything.

What you want to do is head north out of Nairobi to Nanyuki. It's good tar road. There's a Nakumatt which you can stock up at, and fill up your fuel tanks and jerry cans. Get a lot of fresh water - this will most likely be the last place you can get good clean water for a long time.

Head west on the C76 (what's locally called the old stock road) towards Rumuruti. It's a good quality dirt road, although there are sections with black cotton, so be careful if it's wet. Also if you're in a truck, be careful of the elephant gates, which are steel cables strung over the road with steel cables hanging down. It prevents elephants from crossing into farmland via the road, but can cause serious damage to higher profile vehicles if you drive through the cables at speed.

South of Maralal be relatively careful of where you camp if you bush camp, it's not that safe - lots of shiftas. Most violence is inter-tribal, but you can fall foul of opportunistic theft if you're exposed. It's much much safer than the Marsabit to Moyale route though.

We camped in the yard of a game farm run by some muzungu's, a white Kenyan Tom, his sister and her English husband Harry. They're all very friendly people, and were happy to let us camp overnight. We also drove past a police compound which I guess we could have camped in if we had asked.

Once you hit Rumuruti turn north onto the C77. This is a really shitty road, going will be slow, the road is really potholed. Head north to Kisima, and north to Maralal.

There is a fuel station at Maralal, but don't count on there being fuel available. If there is, fill your tanks. The road starts to get rocky and rough. Drop your tyre pressure somewhat to allow for some give going over the rocks. Obv. don't drop your pressure too far so that you expose your sidewalls to the rocks.

From Maralal continue north to Baragoi and South Horr. The road gets really rough, some very rocky and steep sections. Take it slowly.

We bush camped on an old abandoned farm about 100m off the road. There is loads of wood around (including old fence posts which are very convenient firewood!) so you can make a good fire. There aren't many people around, so it's safe (although try get far enough away from the road that you can't be seen from the road - no point in advertising your location)

In Baragoi there are another two fuel stations and a booze store - stock up if you can!!

Once you're north of Baragoi you start leaving civilisation behind you, things start to take on a lunar landscape appearance and you arrive at Lake Turkana. Head to Loyangalani, and stay at the Palm Shade campsite. It's one of the few with a bit of shade, and is a great little place. Be careful of scorpions around Lake Turkana. (apparently also be aware of crocs and vipers, although we didn't see any).

Leaving Lake Turkana's shores you head into the Chalbi Desert, a stony desert. The pace picks up. Awesome places to bush camp under Acacia trees in the desert.

You have to go through Sibiloi National Park, which is something like $20 (can't remember exactly) per person. Tell them you're only staying for 1 night, even if you end up staying longer - there is no exit gate. There is a map available but it's horribly out of date - roads on the map no longer exist in the park.

Head to Illiret, on the north side of the park. Find the police station and register your exit from Kenya with the police. They don't have a stamp or anything, but if you ask they will write a letter for you stating they have recorded your exit from Kenya, which you then give to the Ethiopian officials in Omorate when you stamp in.

There is a mission in Illiret with a nice Franciscan monk who will let you camp in their grounds. They are low on fresh water (they rely on rain water), but you may be able to get some from him if you need it.

North of Illiret it's really sandy and the track meanders all over the show, depending on when it last rained. There are a lot of river bed crossings, but it's not too bad. At some point you will cross an invisible line and arrive in Ethiopia! Yay!

You will get to a check point with a little hut. Register with the police if they're there, if not don't worry. You will eventually meet a dirt road going east/west. Turn left and drive to Omorate. There you will find immigration and customs where you will have to check in and get passport and carnet stamped. To get birr (local currency) go further into town and find the hotel. Ask around and you will be able to change dollars on the black market.

Now turn around and head out of Omorate the way you came in and get to Turmi which has a really nice little campsite called Kaesa Mango River Camp. You might be able to buy fuel from barrels if you ask around.

If you can, go to Jinka to see the Mursi people (lip disks). It's all a bit commercialised (you have to pay for a photo, but only like 1 or 2 birr per person) and gets a bit chaotic coz they all want the cash but it's an awesome experience. In Jinka we stayed at the Rock Campsite which is really good. There is a fuel station in Jinka - this is probably your first guaranteed chance of getting fuel since Nanyuki, so a good 600+ kms.

Hope this helps
Cheers
Steve

OverAfrica - overland, over Africa
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  #5  
Old 26 Jul 2011
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Lake Turkana Route July 2011

Lake Turkana Route July 2011.

We chose this route because of the French people who were shot on the Isiolo – Moyale route (see “Bandit Attack on the Road to Isiolo”) and it was the best decision of the trip so far. This route is awesome and won’t be around much longer as the proposed wind farm south of the lake and associated roads will make it accessible to all!

We met another 4x4 and 2 motor cyclists at Jungle Junction who were planning to travel in convoy up the Lake Turkana route. We also met another group who had travelled from Ethiopia on the same route, they had been stopped 3 times by ‘bandits’ who only asked for water—they dealt with this by being confident and friendly and had no problems.
There are no customs or immigration on the Kenyan side of the border, so we had our carnet stamped out of Kenya in Times Towers building 4th floor, and passports stamped out at Nyaya House next to Intercontinental Hotel both in the centre of Nairobi. This was very simple, they are obviously used to doing it.

Our route; Nairobi west to Gilgil, north to Nyahuhuru (camped at Thompson Falls Lodge- spacious and peaceful), to Maralal (we camped at Maralal safari Lodge, no facilities, understand that Yare camel camp has reopened). Maralal is the last reliable fuel until Jinka, 830kms away. On through Barsaloi and Baragoi to South Horr (we were told that this is the best route as the lorries don’t use it). It was certainly very beautiful.. The first part through the mountains was rocky, narrow and steep in places, this turned into easy sand tracks in the valley bottom. At South Horr we camped 8 kms north at Kurungu camp- we would recommend this lovely community project. On from here through lava fields on stony tracks, the lava rock did cut the tyres but damage was not excessive. We camped at Loyangalani –at the very pleasant Palm Shade camp (last sweet water here). LakeTurkana is beautiful. Next stop Sibiloi National Park (the NP guest house at Alia Bay, slept 6 and was cheaper than camping!) . We visited the Petrified forest and Koobi Fora (which we found fascinating) then on to Illiret where we reported to the police post who recorded our passport numbers. The police there told us that there were bandits in the area, but that they were mainly cattle rustlers and that they were aware of only 1 incident involving a tourist and that was 7 years ago. They advised against wild camping. We hit the Turmi- omorate road and found a quiet spot to wild camp. Went to Omorate next morning for our passports to be stamped then returned the 18 kms to the Turmi road.

Using this route turned what would have been a 3 day chore via Isiolo – Marsabit - Moyale over very bad roads into a 5 day adventure through some of the most beautiful scenery in one of the more interesting and remote parts of Africa. We followed Tracks 4 Africa all the way without deviation. We would recommend a reasonable 4x4 although we only used low ratio and 4 wheel drive occasionally (and even that was probably not essential). It was however hard work for the bikers even though we carried some of their additional fuel and water. Of the 12 tyres only one had a puncture and that was from a thorn. We were stopped by 1 herdsman (with a rifle) who asked for and was given water. We all carried extra water bottles and a small amount of cash in a separate wallet, just in case. A great experience.

Another bonus to this route is that it leads you into the South Omo valley, which in itself is well worth the diversion. If you can carry extra fuel Turmi is a good base to explore its peoples from.

Our big regret is that we didn’t spend more time on this whole route. If anyone wants further info, just ask or our blog is;
secondtimearoundafrica.blogspot.com

Terry and Jean. July 2011
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  #6  
Old 26 Jan 2012
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tough stretch...
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Lake Turkana route from Kenya to Ethiopia-p6063671.jpg  

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  #7  
Old 26 Jan 2012
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Very helpful info as usual, thank you all.

We heading South in May/June this year. I find the comments that this route seems to be the “safer” option than the Moyale/Marsabit stretch. Coming south where would you split to go to the Omo Valley and onwards via Lake Turkana? Any tips on how/where a good spot might be to find people to form a convoy or is it the luck of the draw on the way down?
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  #8  
Old 26 Jan 2012
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Not sure I would classify as a safer route. Maybe safer from bandits as the threat seems to be very low for Turkhana compared to whatever the level of threat is on Moyale/Marsabit at the time which you show up. But you have to take into account the remoteness factor for Turkhana, which if anything goes wrong in certain sections, can lead to a long wait before anyone shows up to help. It's a different type of risk, but all in all unless there has been recent bandit activity, I would say that Moyale is safer.

Heading south, there is pretty much one main highway so you can cut over and pass through Arba Minch (where the pavement ends) on the way to the Omo or ride south until Yebelo and head west. I would guess that most people go through Arba Minch.

Meeting people to convoy is probably a bit of luck and planning. You can post here, try your luck in Addis at one of the places where overlanders hang out, or hang out around the Omo for a bit and you might bump into someone heading south. There is plenty to do around the Omo and you should definitely visit there anyways, so it is a low risk option to head there to hang out, and if you luck into someone else then you can head straight south and if not you can ride back and down Moyale/Marsabit.
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  #9  
Old 27 Jan 2012
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Used to Live there!

Steve,

I don't often hear people mention South Horr. I lived Kurungu some 12 yrs ago, which is in the South Horr valley. You didn't happen to stop by a mission base on your way to Loyangalani did you? It's right along the road after the creek once you leave Kurungu.

It's a great drive to anyone considering it. It was a solid 2 day drive from Nairobi from what I recalled. The roads got rougher the further north one would travel.

David
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  #10  
Old 28 Jan 2012
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(I'm stealing internet right now, so only a quick post).

I did the east of Lake Turkana a few months ago during a very heavy rainy season. I would describe it as like a nice long drive in Morocco. Unless it has rained, the tracks up from Maralel and around the park are a doodle mostly, with only the odd slightly tricky part. My landy was almost always in 2nd or 3rd gear, so it is slow, but easy and lovely. Do it.

The locals are very friendly and I would say this is much safer than Moyale given what has happened on that road in the last 6 months (read the Kenyan press to find out, not bbc etc).

You can get help (mechanical) in Maralel, Loyanglani(Spulling!?) and Illeret (german monk at mission).

Gotta go, more with rainy pictures later....
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  #11  
Old 29 Jan 2012
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We did Lake Turkana in April 2011 here is a full report with pictures.

http://pikipiki.co.za/follow-us/lake...art-1-27032011
http://pikipiki.co.za/follow-us/lake-turkana-part-2
http://pikipiki.co.za/follow-us/turkana-part3
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  #12  
Old 29 Jan 2012
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Thanks Michnus. Loved your trip report. I have send you an email, please reply if possible.

Cheers
Vleis
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  #13  
Old 29 Jan 2012
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Turkana route

Did this route in 2006. Awesome!!!
For some video images see below link, mainly second half is along the lake and southern Ethiopia, Mursi and stuff.

Crossing Africa full version part 8 - YouTube

Cheers,
Noel
Toyota Off The Map
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