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The expedition into magical Turkana

By Thorn Mulli | Published Mon, January 16th 2017 at 15:23, Updated January 16th 2017 at 15:35 GMT +3
 A boat at the edge of Central Island in the middle of Lake Turkana. (Photo: Wilberforce Okwiri/Standard)

I didn't consider Turkana a great holiday destination until I set foot into the expansive region. With only two days and two nights to spare, I set out to explore the most I could of the semi-arid county. I had been earlier appraised by the guides at the Cradle Luxury Tented Camp where I had set base that there were 52 magical tourist sites in Turkana worth visiting.

I really wanted to visit Nariokotome, the world famous site where the Turkana Boy's remains were unearthed. The journey to Nariokotome is a no frills full-day expedition that calls for proper preparation. Well kitted with food and plenty of water, we set off. We made a pit stop at the Namoratunga pillar site where odd-looking rocks resemble a human's upright stance.

Our guide was eager to explain how the site, dated 5000 years old, came to be. One theory is that the stones were aligned with important stars in the Eastern Cushitic astronomy and were used to determine the dates of ritual ceremonies.

Another theory is that a tribe dancing on the site was turned to stone after taunts from the Turkana people. The guide, probably noting the sceptical looks on our faces, offered a more plausible explanation. That the notable concentration of haematite and copper ore around the site could be because the area was once a weapon-smelting workshop.

We get back on the road and soon we get to Kalokol, a fishing bay, where we quickly replenish our supplies. Kalokol runs on private generators even though the county government has put up solar-powered street lights. The sun is blazing hot and we hit the road again to get to Nariokotome. We can spot Lake Turkana's shoreline from the road and that is quite a sight to behold.

At midday, we arrive at the hallowed spot where Kamoya Kimeu, a researcher on Dr. Richard Leakey's team discovered the world famous Turkana Boy fossil in 1984. Original keys to the fenced site remain in the custody of the Turkana family on whose land the remains were unearthed. Established in 2014, the monumental pillar and a brass replica of the Turkana Boy is the perfect 'selfie' opportunity. The Turkana Boy's remains are safely preserved in a safe at Nairobi National Museum.

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At this point, our water reserves have been exhausted and since there were no shops around the monument, we are faced with the prospect of a parched return journey. Thankfully, we are directed to a mission station nicknamed Little Spain. The Catholic mission centre, we are told, has been a great ray of hope in the region. The centre is credited for numerous development projects in the community. From the church building, we catch a beautiful view of the lake. Soon, it is time to leave the little haven, and with our water pitchers filled, we returned to the Cradle Luxury Camp for much needed rest and sleep.

The next day, bright and early, we head back to Kalokol. We have several options on how to spend our day there. If a beach lover, then Long'ech Beach with its beautiful white sands is a great choice. If you prefer hiking, it is best to head out to the Central Island. We choose the latter. The picturesque island is located about nine kilometres away from the shoreline. We then hire a boat and make our way to the little island.

A Kenya Wildlife Service warden accompanies us because the Island is a national park. We soon discover three lakes on the island. One is rich in tilapia, the second is famed is for its flamingos and the third hosts the world's largest crocodile nursery. We explore the island on foot, taking one hour to climb to the highest point. From there we got to enjoy the unrivalled views of Lake Turkana. If you love camping, set base at the Chooro Campsite which offers the perfect setting to watch the great sunrises and sunsets. You can also sleep under the stars.

The day almost done, we decided to walk to Eliye Springs, 50 kilometres east of Lodwar. Eliye Springs much like Long'ech Beach, boasts of palm fringed sandy beaches.

Soon it was dark and it was time to get back to our camp. I plan to go back sometime later in the year to finish exploring the truly magical Turkana.