Saturday, 9.11.2013

The first event of the day was a breakfast around eight in the morning, to which all came at different times, depending on what time who got up, as the idea is to leave immediately after breakfast, so the bags need to be packed. Agnese’s original plan had failed, that is, suddenly there were no snorkeling goers anymore. For this she was obviously not happy. Breakfast is served gradually, starting with tea, then the sausage with egg. After breakfast, we’re collecting our belongings together and are planning to go to the beach, but there is no car. We’re waiting, waiting, the driver is getting contacted, it turns out there are problems. Well fine, we leave the belongings with the hotel administrator, the precious things – computers, cameras – are stored separately, and go for a walk around the city.

The first goal is a bureau de change because almost all of our shillings are over. On the way we see something like gates designed as crossed elephant tusks in Moi Avenue. Such gates are for each traffic lane. Next we find a money exchange point and just in time, because a short yet pretty strong rain arrives. We decide to look around the old town, and as soon as the car will be ready, to go to the beach. While walking around the old town, Fort Jesus, which is located on Mombasa port, cannot be overlooked of course. To be honest, the fort would require a reconstruction, because right now it is in a pretty bad state. The architecture of Old Town is different from the rest of Mombasa, you can just have a kind of a feel of antiquity.

Of course, like in a popular tourist place all kinds of souvenir shops are in abundance. We also get a guide, he is a local, who, in exchange for that we will have lunch in his family’s restaurant, undertake to show us round the old town. We see a port where one can spot some ships and fishing boats, we go to the fish market, which was empty in the afternoon, however. Here one must come in the morning. Well and then the lunch in “Rozina House Restaurant”, which was kind of our most expensive meal on this trip. Lunch was also very good.

Given that the car at that time was still not ready, we decided to take a matatu and go to Nyali Beach. Beach in Kenyan style, there is nothing superfluous. On the other hand, it is possible to ride a camel. At first, however, I did not get it, why all the locals cling along the very waterfront and are minimally going deeper into the ocean, but the answer could soon be felt by foot. Whether they had any sea urchins or anything else – as the warm waters are known to be rich in terms of coastal fauna species – but beyond a certain limit one could not wade into the ocean without risking impaling feet. While a part of the group was bathing, to the other part that is sitting in the shade under the palm trees a few locals arrive and offer coconuts. The offer is accepted and soon they bring a sack of coconuts, which also get opened on the spot. Coconut water tastes like the local Latvian birch juice, in my opinion, just as tasteless.

Then the time is over and we have to leave, the driver has collected our belongings from the hotel and we drive away from Mombasa. Along the way, we pop into the local Akamba wood-carving workshop, where a diversity of animal figurines and bowls get made from wood. Masters work in low wooden huts, each doing his job as on an assembly line, just there is none such. But the same principle, one carves a shape, another one paints or does something else. Of course as in all manufacturing processes there are also some faulty ones, which they try to sell to us on the spot. There is also a gift shop where one can buy all kinds of products without bargaining. So there we all shop. Then out of Mombasa and on to Voi, where the next overnight stay is intended.

We arrive in Voi late in the evening, as usual. The hotel, where we stay, is a three-storey building with a hole in the middle; the hole is surrounded by narrow hallways and rooms with completely incomprehensible numbering. There are two beds in the rooms, a shower and a toilet. Given that we arrived late, everyone is tired, so pretty quickly, without any special cooking or looking for dinner, we go to bed. The day is over.

Part 1: Turkana republic

Sunday, 3.11.2013
Sunday, it’s been a week since we left Latvia for our trip to watch solar eclipse in Kenya. Today the set wake-up time was 7 AM since we were in no hurry to get to the next destination that was Kolokol near lake Turkana or Lake Rudolf as it was called before. Obviously we departed only after two hours as that’s our normal pace in mornings. Usually when we have a strict plan we can be ready in about 1.5 hours, but today we haven’t got such so we take our time.

Staying here at Lodwar is really nice because we have normal beds and I don’t have any more to wake up several times per night to get back blood circulation in the hand on which I was sleeping. Sleeping in tents has some advantages like being close to nature and being cheap but also sleeping is a bit uncomfortable. Well may be I just should sleep more in tents and this feeling comes from my lack of experience.

So at first we went to Eliye Springs which were located near the Lake Turkana. Eclipse started only at 4 PM so we had some free time to spend. Eliye springs was an excellent place for that. Agnese told us that Eliye springs was once a famous resort but it wasn’t so popular anymore. Roads north from Lodwar were much better than roads till now. Of course there were lot of holes but still we were driving much faster, oh, and there were no speed bumps. Eliye springs is located approximately 60 km from the main road.

To drive to the very resort was rather complicated since there were dunes starting in the proximity of the lake, so the car started to stuck and everyone had to leave the car to get it lighter. The temperature n shadow based on Ilgoni’s thermometer was around + 38 C, not sure how precise was his device, but the day was definitely extremely hot. Also the sun was strong and bright. This was actually the first day when I decided to use the sunscreen as already in the morning one could feel that the day will be hot. And, taking into account that it was planned to walk outside the car, I realized that if I don’t put the sunscreen on, there is a big possibility to get sun-burned. Usually I don’t use anything like that.

There were quite many people in the resort, music was playing, one could immediately see that many tourists have come, of course, to see the eclipse. For me the most surprising thing was an outdoors swimming pool as I didn’t expect to see anything like that in a perishing resort and at first I didn’t find it sensible at all. Later I understood as the water in the lake was very warm, too warm to cool down. When I went into the lake it felt like we could spend there the whole day, but of course, it gets boring after a while, so we went out one by one after a while. The time which was intended to be spent in this resort was only one hour, but I think it was excellently spent as the swim in the lake refreshed us from the horrible heath.

When considering the water of Lake Turkana, it is a bit brownish, but clean after all. If one drives his fingers through the water it seems that the water is a bit soapy. We discussed already when going to the lake that it is most likely caused by the carbonates in the water. When discussing it with Anders, we decided that it’s a sweet-water lake because we couldn’t feel any salt in mouth if swallowing some water and also the water of the lake is used for drinking.

Near the resort, as everywhere in Kenya, there were armed guards with machine guns. But it is a common thing here, so nobody is paying attention to it anymore. Of course, there were local articles as souvenirs under offer – all kinds of wicker baskets and other things that are very liked by older people.

After visiting the resort we went back to the main road to go to the eclipse place. It took an hour from the resort to the main road. The next object to visit in our plan was Namoratunga stones which supposedly have had an astronomical significance. But for me much interesting was the diversity of the sceneries and nature which could be observed while driving rather than a couple of humble stone blocks. The stones were located on the right side of the road, around 20m from the road. It was easy to spot them – they are rather big and cylindrical, dark stones, but yes, in my opinion nothing interesting, not really worth to stop for.

However, the scenery was extremely interesting. For Kenya characteristic mountains in the background, acacias around, all kinds of small thorny bushes, dried river beds. On the roadside one can see camels, donkeys, goats grazing and different small birds. Camels is another surprise of this trip for me as I was sure that all the camels are domesticated, but here one could see rather many of these animals, not looked after by anyone. Of course, I might be mistaken since also for goats it is not often easy to spot the goatherd, however most likely they belong to someone, but it seemed to me that these are animals living in wild. It did not seem that the camels were too interesting for locals. I am not sure about the donkeys whether the ones observed could be classified as wild animals or not as I didn’t see any people.

…to be continued…