It has been a long desire of mine to one day visit the frontier town of Lodwar and see for myself where it allegedly all began – the cradle of mankind. Coming by flight is not, of course, how I had figured my spectacular journey would be.
I had imagined my epic journey would be in the shape of a road trip, a mega 632 KM road trip from Nairobi through some of Kenya’s captivating scenery. I had even seen myself interacting at close range with the diverse landforms that dot the Great Rift Valley as I went through the tourist towns of Naivasha and Nakuru all the way to the now famous oil-rich border town of Lokichar.
But then I would have missed the beautiful canopies of the Aberdares and the Ol Ari Nyiro Conservancy. I would also not have seen the breathtaking aerial views of the mighty Lake Turkana and the Turkwel River. I am
Landing at the Lodwar airport reminded me of the little luxuries the big town affords many of us. There was, for instance, no baggage carousel to usher passenger luggage into the exit area. Everything was deposited for our collecting pleasure outside the arrivals section, not too far from the runway, we had just landed on!
Lodwar these days has changed. For starters, it is a big town now. It has come a long way from the days Shah Mohamed, a trader, arrived here in 1933 with his family of donkeys in tow. Shah initially had settled on the banks of River Turkwel before later moving his base to the location where present-day Lodwar sits. In Lodwar, he built a permanent trading centre complete with a petrol station. I wish I had gotten
During colonial days, Lodwar served as a transit point for British officials moving Kenyan political prisoners to the North. That has also changed. What has not is the place it occupies in world archaeology. The town and its environs are still a hotbed of deep history hidden in its bosom that ongoing archaeological work here keeps unearthing in jaw-dropping fashion.
You can, for instance, still visit the detention house where Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, alongside other freedom fighters, was imprisoned for 2 years in 1959. Outside the town, Mlima Lodwar, the highest hill here, awaits your hiking challenge.
A tour of Lodwar can never be complete without a visit to the basket market. The market is famous for its intricately woven baskets, brooms and sleeping mats and the legendary tyre sandals. Make sure you pick a few souvenirs! As you move around the villages, you will notice hallmarks of the same weaving technique in the building materials used in the manyattas.
While Turkana County is world-famous for its intriguing archaeological finds, none fascinates me more than Namoratung’a on the western side of Lake Turkana, about 50 M off the Lodwar-Kalokol road.
Comprising 19 pillars surrounded by a ring of over 20,000 stones, Namoratung
When I arrived here, Turkana County was facing what the BBC described as the worst drought in living memory with more than 1 million people in need of food aid. Yet the Turkwel still snaked its way through the Loturerei desert and the Turkana people were still as resilient as ever. Beaten but unbowed, they still wore a big smile on their faces and went about their usual daily activities while singing songs of hope and a better future.
In the small village of Ngimuria, about an hour’s drive from Lodwar, I came face to face with the harsh realities of the looming drought. For the first time the dreaded Mathenge plant, a hardy evergreen woody weed introduced as a windbreaker and source of shade in this unbearably hot countryside, was now drying up. It has never been known to do that!
Every manner of aid was arriving here by the hour to render whatever help could be mastered. Lodwar had become a hive of humanitarian activity – something that should not have happened in the 21st century but it was anyway.
As I lay in my room that night, images of these proud people, now humbled by nature, lingered in my mind. Yet that never for a second took away the magnificent splendour of this still uncharted explorers’ paradise.
Plan a visit to this breathtaking place on one of these fine days. The road is much better and facilities like the Solmar Gracious Hotel (KES 3,000), the Ceamo Prestige Resort (KES 6,000) and The Cradle (KES 15,000) are coming up to offer some fine accommodation options.