|Trip through some torturous terrain for both man and machine. (Photo:Martin Mukangu/Standard)|
It was time to head back to Nairobi, after my journey to the cradle of mankind-Koobi Fora. The previous night, Rufus and Kyalo, our lead drivers from Game Trackers had warned us that we should brace for the toughest and most challenging journey back to Nairobi.
That night, in our vehicle, Robin, Janet, Hebrone, Biko and I had an ‘emergency meeting’ and plotted on how we would manage this 14-hour non-stop journey as a team. The plan was simple and rudimentary—steal the food and pack it for the journey!
The dawn chirping of tens of different species of birds energized us and we woke up and packed boiled potatoes, ugali, rice, packets of milk, nyama choma and even the alcohol from the kitchen in our van before the rest of the groups had woken up. This was to act as our back up, and make the journey bearable. It was a little bit mean, but come on, in this jungle, every man is for himself.
In any trip to the Northern part of Kenya, Kyalo told us that the rule of the thumb is to check your car every morning. The desert is harsh and in case of a vehicle breakdown, you could be in trouble. You will be lucky to spot any vehicle to help you out.
“We always examine all of the engine fluids, the oil, radiator water, and brake fluid every day. This is to avoid surprises in the jungle,” he informed us as he signalled the rest of the five land cruisers that we were ready for takeoff.
We set off at 7am in the morning and interestingly by 9am; the temperatures had risen to an unbelievable 27 degrees Celsius. We passed the wardens at Sibiloi National Park main gate as we raced through the rocky surface towards ‘Network.’ Well, it’s the only point within Sibiloi that has network coverage.
After a couple of hours driving in unforgiving conditions we arrived at North Horr, a small dusty settlement on the edge of the Chalbi Desert. This is where we had our lunch. North Horr interestingly has one hotel with a three-bed capacity! Interesting huh? No prizes for guessing what the hotel management would happen if they had two couples for a night.
After lunch, we started again crossing the Chalbi Desert. As you cross, you will see a great variety of tribes. We’d been driving for an hour heading down to the outskirts of the Chalbi Desert when suddenly, Kyalo stopped. The other cars were stuck in the sand! Unbelievable!
The surface of this desert is extremely flat, but quite deceiving as the top layer was one inch of soft dusty sand soil and this makes inexperienced drivers have a rough time, trying to manoeuvre through it.
With the desert winds howling, and with our adrenaline pumping, we disembarked and helped to push the stuck cars. The sand was hot and those who had open shoes, risked getting blisters.