Kenya map:
Kalikol to Loarengak
Jan 31, 2005

Late last night, I was awoken by someone screaming.  It sounded like the person was being beaten, but there was nothing that I could do about it.  This morning, I find out the cop from last night was doing the beating.  I did a good job staying away from him.


Turkana Women

Turkana Woman

Turkana Man

Now, I'm waiting again.  This time I've got all the information that I need - at least, enough information.  I only have to find a truck heading to Loarengak.  Now Kalikol is not a place I'd chose to wait.  It's hot as hell, and there is nothing to do.  All day, only a dozen vehicles passed through town, down the only road. 

I sat in the restaurant of my hotel wasting away hour after hour.  To kill time, I found myself sneaking pictures with my long telephoto lens.  I felt guilty about taking the pictures without asking people's permission or paying them, but I lacked the energy to haggle with each of them.  A bit later, I asked to take a picture of a BBQ adjacent to my hotel where goat jaws and brains were being roasted.  The vendor asks me to pay 200 shillings for the photo.  Unbelievably absurd!  I've been around long enough to know some local prices, and you can buy the whole goat for 5 times that price.  After that, I went back to sneaking photos, this time without any guilt.

At 5pm, there's still no truck.  Traveling on bad roads at night is generally to be avoided because it can be very dangerous.  It's a fact that transportation in the 3rd world is much more likely to kill you than any terrorist or bandit.  But, out here the heat might be worse than the danger from traveling at night.  The heat will miserable for me, but the poorly maintained vehicles will explode; overheating and breaking down. 

For some time, I had been planning on buying a blanket.  It's a useful travel item - you can sleep under it when it's cold, and sleep on top of it when it's warm.  I'm told that night trucks to Loarenagak stop along the route when it's too dangerous to proceed.  Now seems like the time to buy a blanket.  I'm debating the benefits of traveling with a blanket, versus the weight of carrying one, when someone shows up who is selling goatskins.  The price is right at only 50 shillings ($.060), and a goatskin should make a perfect sleeping mat.  I buy one.  I imagine that I'm the only traveler anywhere carrying a $1000 camera, and a goatskin.

As the sun sets, I'm getting depressed.  Today was one of the most boring days of my life, and it looks like I'll have to do it all over again.  Then a truck stops - I'm saved.  I rush to make sure that I get on it.  People from the hotel rush along with me and haggle a good price.  The truck has been hired out by the UN to deliver food.  The driver is making extra cash by taking passengers. 

Just a few days ago, I felt conspicuous carrying around an expensive camera.  Now, I feel conspicuous, and a bit absurd, carrying around a goatskin.  But again, no one sees to notice - Carrying around a goatskin is a very strange thing from my perspective, but around here it's perfectly normal.

Traveling in this truck is amazing.  You expect the worst from local transport in Africa, but today is a big exception.  Night falls and the African stars are out in force.  The truck is full of hundred pound bags of maize and beans which have been donated by the US or UK.  It is like riding on a sea of beanbag chairs.  And with only a couple of passengers we have plenty of room to stretch out.  I'm lying back, watching the stars.  Imagine sitting in a beanbag chair, in a planetarium - It sure as hell beats flying.

But all good things must come to an end.  The gearbox dies and we grind to a halt.  The driver tries to patch up the engine, but has neither the parts nor tools he needs.  I'm perfectly content to sleep on the beanbag chairs.  I string up my mosquito net and relax.  Unfortunately, less than an hour after we stop, a stretched Landover appears and we get transferred into it. 

I'm hesitant to move over to the Landover as I'm so comfortable.  But, another passenger convinces me to make the move.  She tells me that it might take two days for the truck to be fixed.  Her name is Priscilla and she's a nurse in Loarengak.  The most important factor in my decision to go to the truck was that she spoke English - it's very important to have someone with you who can translate if there's any trouble.

The truck was completely indulgent - the Landover horribly uncomfortable.  The Landover seats 9 comfortably, but there are 15 people packed into it.  But that's not the problem; For Africa, it's actually less crowded than usual.  Unfortunately, 100lb bags of food filled all of the legroom so I had to scrunch up my legs.  And I had to duck down because there was so much luggage on top of the vehicle that the ceiling was caving in.  I definitely wasn't going to get any sleep scrunched up, ducking down, and pressed on either side by other passengers.  And, all of this was along on a very bumpy road. 

At 2am, we stopped in a small village.  I was told that Merile warriors from Ethiopia might be out raiding the countryside.  Whatever the reason, I was glad for an excuse to stop and get some sleep.  And to tell you the truth, I was pretty excited about trying out my new goatskin.  I spread out the goatskin in the sandy dirt under a tree.  I hung my mosquito net from a branch, and wrapped my sarong around myself as a blanket.  It was pretty comfortable and I headed off to sleep.

Perhaps I got to sleep, I don't remember, but at 3am the truck started honking.  What?  Why are they waking us up after an hour?  How could it possibly be too dangerous to travel at 2am, but safe by 3?  Unfortunately, I had no say in the matter.  We packed back into the Landover and continued down the road.

The ride remained miserable throughout.  The people thinned out, but the road got worse, and then it disappeared.  The ride becomes terrifying as the driver too becomes exhausted.  We nearly get stuck in mud several times.  The truck slid around in the mud, and pitched like it might roll over.  But, fortunately, without incident, we arrived finally in Loarengak at 5am.

Without Priscilla I would have been on my own in the middle of a dangerous town a couple of hours before sunrise.  Priscilla has an extra room, which she offers to me.  I crash in the bed and am instantly asleep.

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 ]

Leave a comment!  I'm much more inspired to write when I know people are reading. 

Kay - Apr 20, 2005

What an adventure!

I'm curious to put things into perspective - how far is the distance from Kalikol to Loarengak?


I have absolutely no idea.  If I had a good map I could calculate it, but I left my only map decent map of Kenya back in Kenya. 


Janet - Jan 06, 2007

About 2 hors away.

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