Chalbi Desert – Horizons, Salt pans …
As mentioned in my previous post, we didn’t get to stay long in the Marsabit park because we had to leave for our next destination, North Horr. The plan was to get there before dusk. We set off for the journey after having a quick lunch at the JeyJey center.
I consulted my map and the only thing I could see about North Horr was that it’s a dot in Chalbi Desert. Chalbi is located to the east of Lake Turkana. A long time ago the desert was in fact part of the lake and during periods of unusual precipitation, large areas still fill forming very broad and shallow areas of standing water.
Chalbi in the Gabbra language means `bare and salty’ and it is the hottest and most arid region in Kenya.
Our final destination for the day, North Horr is an oasis is 224 km from Marsabit town, if I had known this I would have prepared better for the journey.
To be honest the drive just felt endless … there was not much to see in the desert except for some very interesting rock formations. They were probably once big rocks that due to weathering have slowly disintegrated into smaller ones. The rock formations look like someone neatly stacked the smaller rocks to make up the rock formations. I don’t have any pictures of the rock formations, they were too far off for me to take a good picture and our driver didn’t want to make any unnecessary stops so that we could make it to North Horr in good time
Our first stop in the desert was practically in the middle of nowhere. We stopped to wait for one of the vehicles in the convoy to catch up.
Though the desert looks rather desolate there are people living there (mostly around oases) and if you get lucky you will spot some wildlife. I did manage to spot a couple of ostriches. We had been driving for ages when suddenly the horizon looked different.
We asked our driver to stop and once we got out of our vehicle we noticed that we were surrounded by salt (yes I tasted it, no ill effects experienced, just make sure you have some water handy)
I cannot begin to describe how tired I was after our second stop. We didn’t have a cooler box, so our drinking water was hot (real hot not lukewarm). Imagine being parched and sweating buckets and your only option is to drink hot water! I was not a happy camper.
Did I mention that there is practically no telephone network between Marsabit Town and North Horr? There are a couple of villages between Marsabit and North Horr like Kalacha and Maikona (there is network here and you can buy cold drinks). We did stop briefly at Maikona.
We mad another stop at Kalacha, to ask the locals if they had seen any other vehicles. Between the 24-25th August this year, was the Kalacha Cultural festival – a celebration of artistic creativity and culture among the communities that inhabit the Northern part of Kenya . You can experience a bit of the festival here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn4kNeOj2H8) Footage of the actual festival begins around the 3 min mark.
I was now beginning to think that we would never get to North Horr in time. Thank goodness for my travel companions I am not the kind of person who keeps asking ‘Are we there yet?’ Keep in mind that I had been up before 5 am and as much as I wanted to sleep, I kept being tossed about in my seat.
I wanted to strangle someone when it was suggested that we make one final stop to take pictures of the sunset. I barely had the strength to get out of the car but I did.
The short walk to take the pictures left me feeling refreshed. The desert gets cooler in the evenings and the beautiful sunset + cool breeze was exactly what I needed after all those hours of being stuck in the car.
The sunset was beautiful. The blue hues of the clear desert skies and the golden rays of the setting sun were an amazing combination. As I stood gazing at my surroundings I felt a sense of calm come over me.
It takes about 7-8 hours to drive to North Horr from MarsabitTown. If you are thinking of making this trip you NEED a driver who knows the area and speaks the local languages. In summary, it is best to make this trip with a tour operator. That said; make sure you carry a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses. Make sure you dress comfortably (preferably a fabric that absorbs sweat) as temperatures hover around the mid 30 degree Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) . Sensible footwear and insect repellent also come in handy.
Stay tuned for the next stop – our arrival at North Horr.