Eldoret to Lodwar
Jan 23, 2005
I woke up early and after a quick breakfast rushed off to find a shared taxi to Kitale. After arriving in Kitale, I rushed over to the bus station. I find the right bus, grab a good seat and then wait. I shouldn't have rushed. The bus sits idle for hours as it very slowly fills up. When the bus is finally full it leaves.
The top of the Marich pass looks like the California Sierras with a dense green forest. The weather is cool and refreshing, but quickly we drop into the valley and the temperature jumps up to a sweaty 95 degrees. The scenery becomes scrubland. It's hot, dry and monotonous, but there are the occasional surprises. We pass by one baboon looking very hot and tired. I'm wondering what he's doing out there, he might be wondering the same about us.
Highway A1 leads from Eldoret to Lodwar and on to Lokichoggio. The title "Highway A1" sounds damn impressive. It sounds like it should be a good road. But after Marich pass, the road falls to pieces. The bus driver chooses to follow sandy dirt tire tracks that parallel the pavement because they're much smoother than the few remaining chunks of concrete that was once the road.
We passed through miles and miles of scrubland and then suddenly we reached a river. The river divides the lands of the Pokot people from that of the Turkana. The road curves through the cool shade of a lush green jungle. The bus passes over a bridge, and then we emerge back out into the scrubland and blinding sun.
The next point of interest was "Termiteville". There's nothing out here but small brown bushes and huge skyscrapers built by the termites. I wasted away hours trying to find the tallest of them - some of them must have been more than 15 feet high. From Termiteville we moved on to "Dik-dik Land". About the size of a rabbit, dik-diks are the smallest of the antelopes and for whatever reason they loved this highway. Every 100 feet a small crowd of them would scamper away from the oncoming bus, zigzagging away into the safety of the bushes.
Night fell, but it was a full moon and the day never got dark. Long bus rides play tricks with your mind. I must have been hallucinating a bit. But, that night, out there in the desert it felt disturbingly like northern Scandinavia where it never gets dark in the summer.
Before we reached Lodwar the scrubland turned to nothingness. There was an occasional bush or tree, but in between there was a hell of a lot of nothing as far as the eye could see. The moon lit up the landscape, but it was too dark to tell if the nothingness was made up of sand or dirt.
The last few miles of the trip seemed to stretch on for hours - they probably did. But finally we arrived in Lodwar. Fellow bus passengers told me that there were many pickpockets out at night and that it was too dangerous to walk to a hotel. Exhausted I was in no mood to argue. I asked a taxi driver for the Majestic hotel (the hotel recommended by Irish Tim who I met in Nairobi and who lives in Lodwar). No one had ever heard of it. Instead the taxi took me to the Suburb hotel which was recommended by another passenger. I got in the taxi, keeping my backpack safely with me as I do at all times. The car drove 200 feet down the main road and let me off. Oh well, but at least the ride only cost me pennies.
The receptionist from my new hotel escorts me out for a late night dinner. We walk back to where the bus dropped me off. The night is a bit too dark to make out details, but the town smells like the Burningman playa. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?
The trip from Nairobi to Addis Ababa was interesting enough that I wrote it up as a daily log. If you'd like to read it from the beginning click here: [ Leaving Nairobi ]
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