As we pulled out of Baragoi, at a time way to early to be good for my health, we were greeted by a unique site. It took a moment for my still tired eyes to adjust to the creature racing away in front of us, but after a few seconds my eyes focused to see the hyena. This answered my question on whether there were any wild animals left in this area after being stripped years ago during colonial rule.
Northern Kenya is a unique and wild land, full of intriguing history. We spent almost a week in Baragoi traveling around preaching in villages and creating the site plan for the new church and community center. A major goal is for the land donated by the community to be a place where all tribes can come together. If people can learn that all people are created in the image of God and Jesus Christ died for every person, then maybe we will see an end to the tribal clashes that have plagued this area for centuries.
On the history side, we were preaching in a small, remote village in the middle of the bush. Trying to find out about the area, we ended up getting a history lesson from the wazee (elders). Just up the hill from the where we were standing was the remains of a British colonial settlement. During the revolt that lead to Kenya’s independence, a number of Kenyan prisoners were held in an underground chamber in one of the buildings. According to one of the oldest men in the village, who would have been a boy at that time, one of the prisoners was the man who would later become the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.
Leaving the rabbit trails behind, let us continue on our journey to Lake Turkana. People kept telling us “barabara ni nzuri” (the road is good). I have learned that good is a relative term. The more appropriate word would have been “afadhali” (better). Compared to what it was you would think it is a super-highway, but it was still one of the worst roads I have ever driven. The road engineers like to put down stones which helps when it rains, but rattles the car to pieces the 99% of the time when it is dry. I just noticed today that the mounts for the plastic accents in the grill are about ready to snap from all the vibration (Update: They did snap).
One of the biggest surprises on the drive was South Horr. We are driving through the desert, and at the base of Mount Nyiro (Sounds like Nero), sits a town that looks like a tropical rainforest. Rainwater on the mountain catches in underground aquifers and slowly trickles down the mountain. The people built a massive storage tank at the outlet of the aquifer and have a seemingly endless supply of water. They grow bananas, mangos, papaya, kale, and much more. It really was a little paradise. We stopped in and took breakfast at Faith Baptist Church with Pastor Lesudo and his family.
Before leaving South Horr, we ran into some boys from the church, and loaded them on the roof of the car to carry them to the next town where they are doing evangelism. Back in the desert, we continued pushing north to Lake Turkana. As we bounced along, we were greeted by a flying rabbit. It smashed into the road in front of us as the eagle that dropped it swooped back around to collect his lunch.
The road was descending, the temperature was soaring, and the air was drying out. I started wondering about the stories I have heard. They say as you approach the lake, it looks like you are on the moon as the ground is covered completely by black volcanic rock. The wind blows constantly and the waves on the lake race away from the shore. The temperature can break 120 degrees.
As I was pondering the possibility of such a place, a brigade of naked children began running toward the car waving for us to stop. We were still over 15km from the lake which is the only source of water during the dry season. They were coming with an empty 5L container of water which had been dry for 2 days now. Knowing the situation ahead of time, we came prepared with water to give. At one of the stops, Pastor Longisa had me taking his picture to show that the camera indeed did not steal their blood and burn out their eyes as they had been taught.
At one of the water stops, we picked up a lady who needed a ride to her village and squeezed 4 in the back seat (a common and natural occurrence). We pushed on and I began to notice black rocks bordering the road. Then, as we crested a hill, before our eyes was a carpet of black rocks as far as the eye could see. It looked like an angel driving a God-sized dump truck had grown tired of distributing his stones throughout the earth and decided to drop his whole load in one area.
I slowed the car because the rattling from the rocks was unbearable. As I did, our dust trail began soaring past the car carried by the wind. Even at 50km/h, the car couldn’t stay in front of the dust, and the wind remained constant.
The emerald waters of Lake Turkana finally came into view. We had reached the southern end of the lake and could see El Molo Island. It was hard to imagine that the smallest tribe in Kenya used to inhabit the barren pile of rocks before being moved to the mainland to join civilization. Almost more hard to imagine was that just 20ft from shore, white capped waves were forming and flowing toward the middle of the lake instead of land.
We arrived at the village of the lady we were carrying, and decided to use the opportunity to touch the waters of the lake. I have always enjoyed the challenge of walking across rocks, but having 30+ mph sustained winds at your back added a new element of risk and excitement. One of the pastors was almost blown over into the lake. After checking for crocodiles, it was nice to dip our feet in the cool waters. Actually, the water was quite warm, but anything felt cool compared to the temperature of the air.
After collecting a gift of 2 dried tilapia as a thank you for the ride (Tilapia that would join us in the car for the next 4 days because Maasai and Turkana like cows and goats and not fish. Please send an air freshener with the next team.), we finished the last 13km to Loyangolani. Built around an oasis, the forest of palm trees were a rapid change from the arid, rocky land we had just traveled through.
We found a lodge, enjoyed a bite to eat (my dinner of maize and beans cost a quarter), and settled in for the day. I was thankful for the cold shower. After spending only half a day in the area, I had already consumed 4L of water and I was still thirsty. Still, it was exciting to finally reach Lake Turkana, and many exciting days of ministry awaited!