Last night I fell asleep to the sound of the warriors singing. Deep baritone chants and high-pitched whoops echoed off the walls of the surrounding mountains. Soon I could hear the young girls lilting songs, encouraging the warriors. I wish I could have stayed awake and listened more but every bone in my body ached from the hard driving.
In the morning Joseph gave me a tour of his luxury camp called Seriak, Rendille for river. The camp will have 5 thatched roof cottages with private showers and toilets. A deep swimming pool is situated on the banks of one of the three rivers that surround the camp; the views of the surrounding mountains are spectacular. Eventually there will also be a bridge over one of the rivers to another camp area with a dining hall. As the Member of Parliament for Laisamis District he expects to host many fellow members of Parliament as well as safari clients.
Maina needs time to service both vehicles. Gumps does not start; the connections to the battery have come loose from all the jarring and shaking. Semej, who slept in the vehicle to be near me, has washed all of the caked dust and mud off of Gumps. Kura and the rest of the group stayed at a nearby camp and by the time Semeji and I arrive they have all washed up and had a breakfast of njera (a crepe) and tea. Since we are now in the part of the district where there is no cell network, Kura and I coordinate check in times on the satellite phones: 12, 2 and 4 pm. Kura will cross the Kaisut Desert, picking up Mentors in Nemaray, Korr and Kargi. Now that we have collected the Mentor from Ngurunit, I will pick up Mentors from Ilaut and South Horr. We will meet that night, Inshallah, in the oasis town of Loiyangalani.
It was another hot day of driving but today, besides the sand and the vehicle swallowing gullies in the road, we also have the challenge of rocks. I concede Maina, our mechanic, to Kura, as he continues to have problems with the Defender. Omar and Semeji are with me and by the time we reach Loiy, we will have eleven people in my vehicle plus a baby. At each break, Omar jumps out of the back of the vehicle, climbs under and tightens anything that has come loose. Semeji is up front and he helps me scan the road for the gullies. “Akini!” Slow in Samburu. More than once I miss the gullies and everyone yells as their heads hit the roof of the vehicle. Semeji turns to me, grinning, “Hakuna brakes?” You have no brakes?
It is hard to describe the moonlike landscape of the approach to Lake Turkana. Round volcanic rocks scatter the ground making it impossible to walk for anyone but the Turkana who inhabit this remote land. Hardy acacia trees sprout from the land and with the arrival of the rains, they are green. Stretches of the road that are on a slope have been paved with concrete so that the rocks don’t wash away the cleared path for vehicles. Each stretch of concrete ends with a bone-crunching drop to the track. By now I have blisters on my hands from the driving. Miraculously, fat raindrops splash on the windshield and as we reach the shore of the lake, Semeji encourages me to drive quickly through the puddles, splashing us all with muddy, cool water.
The lake shimmers with heat. As we get closer, the blue haze turns to the deep green color of the water, thus the other name for this desert lake, the Jade Sea. We arrive as the sun is setting and with great relief, turn into the gates of Palm Shade Camp. Benedict greets us and I make up a list of roommates and distribute keys to each thatched banda. Loiy is unbelievably hot but the breeze is blowing. Another good omen for BOMA and our Mentors.