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Warmth beyond the geysers of Lake Bogoria

As one drives past the equator from Nakuru to Baringo, a sign on the roadside declares, “You are now entering the Northern Hemisphere.”

The weather is torrid and humid. For a person who is used to the Nairobi weather — or perhaps it has something to do with acclimatisation — Baringo is a furnace.

Lots of hardy shrubs colonise the place. We pass by a sisal farm, a sea of sisal stumps, stretching past the horizon. The plant seems to struggle less in the hot weather.

Woodland acacia, too, has defined its space, dotting either side of the road throughout our journey.

“This weather needs individuals trained in survival techniques,” comments Irene, the only woman in a company of six travellers.

We are all gradually getting overwhelmed. The roof of the van is no match for the blazing sun.

Though arid, the area boasts two lakes, not far from each other. It is, however, confounding when we find out that one has fresh water while the other is saline.

“The majority of lakes in the Rift Valley are salty. They have inlets but no outlets. There are two exceptions though — Lake Baringo is one of them,” a native of the area informs us.

As we begin our descent towards Marigat Town, Lake Baringo, the freshwater lake, reflects sunlight at a tangent. It feels like we are entering the base of a trough. Geologically, it makes sense since we are moving towards water masses.

River Perkerra, from which the famous Perkerra Irrigation Scheme derives its name, is a geographical marvel. It lies astride the main highway.

Though its water was diverted decades ago for use in farming, the river refuses to die. Water still trickles through the land. At some point, it flows between two high walls — and the view is picturesque.

Green lawns

The small town called Marigat is the capital of Baringo County. It is the hub of everything modern in the area. There is only one tarmacked street — and it also serves as the highway. Murram roadways bud from it.

There are a couple of motels visible from the road. Smooth flowing traffic and the ease of person-to-person interactions offer a sense of calm.

Except for a truck ferrying a battalion of Administration police officers, there is no sign of the conflict that has made this county hit headlines for all the wrong reasons in the recent past.

We are, however, warned that not far from where we are, bandits operate with reckless abandon.

In the evening, before dusk, we head to Lake Bogoria Spa Resort.

“Welcome to Lake Bogoria Spa Resort,” a sign at the entrance reads, “the only spa resort in Kenya with a naturally heated spa pool.”

It is a haven by local standards. A stream of warm water emerges from a tunnel just beneath ground level.

We can see a few ostriches walking gracefully on the green lawns.

Lunch or supper at the resort is something to look forward to.

Goat meat is the most revered delicacy. Its tenderness, evidence of natural rearing, makes the meal worthwhile.

The next day, on the shores of the actual Lake Bogoria, we are spellbound by the geysers. They spew steady streams of naturally heated water, some as high as 20 feet.

A colleague marvels at the phenomenon, wondering “how and where” the water is heated.

Sensing an answer may be far-fetched, I spend my time soaking in the magical moment. In 16 minutes, my boiled egg is ready, cooked using the natural heat in one of the geysers. Yummy!

Locals say the lake has stretched beyond its usual boundaries.

All I can see though are hilly contours that hide the lake in the distance, away from view.

Various species of birds dance above the waters. Flamingos, the most conspicuous of them all, fly in tandem, forming patterns and shapes.

Back at the resort, the darkness has not hampered the buzz of activity. Racks of nyama choma are prepared for lovers of social eating. The bars are open late into the night.

The main restaurant has an à la carte menu. A range of delicacies are available to suit different palates.

Cans of honey

Meanwhile, the cottages offer a warm space for a full stomach — or a tired soul in search of rest.

On the third day, our team leaves for Nairobi.

Did I mention that Baringo has some of the tallest termite mounds in the world? It is hard to believe that they are made by insects.

It is time to zoom off, but not before we buy cans of honey.

Honey is the sweetest natural product and Baringo is synonymous with it.

In the Northern Hemisphere, it turns out, warmth goes beyond the geysers.

Tracking the Big Five
Sunday Magazine
By Ferdinand Mwongela
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