It has been a long desire of mine to one day visit the frontier town of Lodwar and see for myself where it allegedly all began – the cradle of mankind. Coming by flight is not, of course, how I had figured my journey would be but here I was either way.
I had imagined how my spectacular 632 KM epic road trip from Nairobi, traversing some of Kenya’s most captivating scenery, would be like. I had seen myself interacting at close range with the diverse landforms that dot the Great Rift Valley as I went through the tourist towns of Naivasha and Nakuru all the way to the now famous oil-rich border town of Lokichar.
But then I would have missed the beautiful canopies of the Aberdares and the Ol Ari Nyiro Conservancy. I would not have seen the breathtaking aerial views of the mighty Lake Turkana and Turkwel River. I am
Landing at the Lodwar airport reminded me of the little luxuries of the big town I take for granted. There was, for instance, no baggage carousel to usher in passenger luggage into the exit area. Everything was deposited for our collecting pleasure outside the arrivals section, not too far from the
Lodwar these days is a big town. It has come a long way from the days a trader, Shah Mohamed, arrived here in 1933 accompanied by donkeys. Shah initially had settled on the banks of River Turkwel before later moving his base to the location where present-day Lodwar sits. In Lodwar, he built a permanent trading centre complete with a petrol station. I wish I had gotten
During colonial days, Lodwar served as a transit point for British officials moving Kenyan political prisoners to the North. That has also changed. What has not is the place it occupies in world archaeology. The town and its environs are still a hotbed of deep history and ongoing archaeological work keeps constantly making interesting discoveries.
You can, for instance, still visit the detention house where Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, alongside other freedom fighters, was imprisoned for 2 years in 1959. Outside the town, Mlima Lodwar, the highest hill here, awaits your hiking challenge.
A tour of Lodwar can never be complete without a visit to the basket market. Make sure you pick a few souvenirs! The market is famous for its intricately woven baskets, brooms and sleeping mats and the legendary tyre sandals. As you move around the villages, you will notice the same weaving technique is also used in the building materials for the manyattas.
While Turkana County is world famous for its intriguing archaeological finds, none fascinates me more than Namoratung
Comprising 19 pillars surrounded by a ring of over 20,000 stones, Namoratung
When I arrived here, Turkana County was facing what the BBC was describing as the worst drought in living memory with more than 1 million people in need of food aid. Yet the Turkwel still snaked its way through the Loturerei desert and the Turkana people were still as resilient as ever. Beaten but unbowed, they still wore a big smile on their faces, went about their usual daily activities while singing songs of hope and a better future too.
In the small village of Ngimuria, about an hour’s drive from Lodwar, I came face to face with the harsh realities of the looming drought. For the first time the dreaded Mathenge plant, a hardy evergreen woody weed introduced as a windbreaker and source of shade in this unbearably hot countryside, was now drying up. It has never been known to do that!
Every manner of aid was arriving here by the hour to render whatever help they could master. Lodwar had become a hive of humanitarian activity – something that should not have to happen in the 21st century but it was anyway.
As I lay in my room that night, images of these proud people, now humbled by nature, lingered in my mind. Yet that never for a second took away the magnificent splendour of this still uncharted explorers’ paradise.
Plan a visit to this breathtaking place one of these fine days. The road is much better and facilities like the Solmar Gracious Hotel (KES 3,000), the Ceamo Prestige Resort (KES 6,000) and The Cradle (KES 15,000) are coming up to offer some fine accommodation options.