2005.04 - 3 Lakes Expedition: Lakes Nakuru, Victoria, Bogoria/Baringo.
We decided to try and visit the following 3 lakes over the Easter break: Nakuru, Victoria and Bogoria, and we were planning to travel in two vehicles (a 94 4Runner – 2 adults, 1 child and a 94 LandCruiser – 2 adults, 2 children) but at the last minute our friends kids were invited to join their grandparents in SA and so we decided that we could all travel in just one vehicle: our friends’ air conditioned LandCruiser.
Apart from the air-conditioning (which I don’t really like but my wife does) there were several advantages to using my friends’ Cruiser. Firstly, it is less aerodynamic than the 4Runner, and being shaped like a tall house brick gives it the advantage of more head- and leg-room. Secondly it runs on tubed tyres on solid rims which are less likely to experience “abrasion” punctures. There are benefits to using tubed tyres on split rims for un-supported expeditions, but on a journey such as this, where a tyre repair shop is never far away, I did not feel it would be of any benefit. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, was the fact that my friends have never really made a “long” vehicle-based trip and this would give them, and their vehicle, a “shakedown” that would give them a better appreciation of both their own, and their vehicle’s, abilities.
Once we had decided to go our friends had some work done to their vehicle: they added a roofrack, a Farm jack (very similar to the “Hi-Lift” ™ jack and for clarity I shall keep referring to this type of jack as a hi-lift) and special jacking points for it. It was bolted onto the front bumper which is a good plan as the hi-lift is a difficult item to store if not bolted to the exterior of the vehicle. One of the retaining bolts has been drilled to accept a padlock: a particularly good idea that prevents your investment being stolen. Of course, the jack will now pick up a lot of dirt in this position and so the mechanism needs to be protected somehow either by being encased in a cloth bag or, like mine, stored inside a piece of old rubber inner tube.
We planned to leave on the afternoon of “Good Friday” but left slightly later than originally planned. We followed the Uhuru Highway out onto Waiyaki Way (A104), past Longonot to Naivasha but instead of taking the turn-off to Naivasha town we continued straight along the A104 passing Gilgil and Lake Elmenteita before arriving in Nakuru, which in the Maasai language means dust bowl – very apt.
Compared to the UK’s scenes of horrific traffic chaos that usually accompany a Bank Holiday weekend, the traffic was comparatively light. Just a few of the usual brightly coloured but overpacked matatus plied their trade up and down the road. What I must say though is that the standard of Matatu driving does not improve out of town and infact worsens! What complicates matters though is that all the big trucks and buses also join in with these dangerous games.
A “People Carrier” Kenyan style!
The road, once you’re out of Nairobi, is quite good as far as Naivasha but after that it starts to deteriorate.
Where the hard shoulder should be – an 8” drop!
Potholes in Naivasha to Nakuru road.
We swiftly drove on to our hotel: The Midlands Hotel, where we had a meal at the lively, open air, “Nyama Choma” bar on the ground floor. The rooms were clean and tidy, although without a double bed and the breakfast was a buffet of the “English Full-on Cholesterol Heart Attack Fry-up” variety and they were obviously on a tight budget as they did try to hide the bacon and sausages!
On checking out the next morning, we found that we had a “slow” puncture. This gave my friend a chance to try-out his new jack and we changed the wheel in record time. Having hand tightened the wheel nuts; we lowered the car and would have hardened the nuts off if we had not been distracted! As an experienced driver I should have known better and double checked, but I didn’t, luckily it wasn’t until we had left the National Park that anything happened…more of that tale later on.
Pink Flamingos on Lake Nakuru
After fuelling up, we drove into Lake Nakuru National Park and entered through the Main Gate (The Park HQ is also a Smartcard Point of Sale). Driving straight down to the shore of the Soda Lake we were pleased to find a large flock of Flamingos and a solitary white Rhino grazing the shoreline. Taking a leisurely drive around the lake we eventually climbed up to the “Baboon Cliffs” which gives a fantastic view of the Lake and its wildlife although the toilets leave much to be desired.
View across Lake Nakuru from Baboon Cliffs
Continuing to drive around the Lake, we decided to stop at the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge for a buffet lunch. Lunch was very nice and we were musically entertained by a group of singers who gave us a selection of tunes from Kenya’s indigenous tribes. Pleasantly stuffed, we climbed back in our ‘Cruiser and headed for Nakuru in order to continue our Journey towards Kisumu and Lake Victoria.
Not long after we entered the town, my wife saw a wheel gently glide past her window and overtake us, and it wasn’t long before the car crashed down on its near side rear hub and came to a screeching halt! After trying, unsuccessfully, to find the missing wheel nuts, we jacked the car up, cleaned up the stud threads with a jnr. hacksaw blade and hammered open the jammed wheel casing to allow the hub to turn freely. Borrowing a nut from each remaining wheel, and using two from the rear mounted spare, we replaced the wheel and this time the driver checked that each wheel and each nut was tightened properly – a lesson that we can all learn from: no matter who changes your tyre – always check that the nuts are tightened properly yourself!
Travelling onto Kericho, we turned North West and joined the B1 which drops from the highlands to the Kano Plains and Lake Victoria. We were hoping for a quiet evening at the Sunset Hotel but this hope turned out to be in vain. A live band knocked out extremely loud Afro-pop until 3 am! Not only was the noise incredible but so were the number of mosquitoes and sand-flies clamouring to feast on our tired and dusty bodies. So tired were we though that we only just managed to shower before we dropped into our beds and fell immediately asleep. Malaria is not a laughing matter and so we all started a course of Malarone before we left Nairobi. This is not a cheap drug but it is very effective, especially in areas where the malaria has become chloroquine resistant.
View from the Sunset Hotel, Kisumu
The next morning we took a drive out to Hippo Point and then climbed into a shallow and leaky canoe for a leisurely “spin” around the bottom of the lake. We did manage to see a few Hippo but no croc! Collecting our bags we took off for Lake Baringo (avoiding Lake Bogoria which we’ll visit next time). Leaving Kisumu and heading towards Lake Bogoria before turning south we passed the Equator and, of course, we had to have our pictures taken with the Equator sign board.
Posing at the Equator
We passed the gate and entered the Lake Baringo Reserve. The lake is a body of freshwater at the Northern end of the Rift Valley and set amongst dramatic volcanic scenery. The main road runs beside the lake and if you pull off the road you can walk up to some of the hot water geysers, some bubbling, some spouting, but all super hot. [Picture] This is not a classically beautiful area, but it is particularly interesting because it hasn’t been developed, this area would ideally suit a very natural, eco-sensitive, safari lodge and spa.
Hot Springs at Bogoria
Travelling on we returned to Nakuru and drove up to the lip of the Menengai Crater. Here are great views of the 12km wide caldera, [Picture] and at the top of Menengai Drive is a sign post pointing to many far off destinations and giving their distances in kms. [Picture] It’s a rough old track going up to the top of the crater and I wouldn’t like to make the 5km ascent, or decent, in a 2wd sedan in the rain.
Sign post on the top of the Menengai Crater
Our return visit to Nakuru was gleefully undramatic, no wheels fell off and nothing untoward happened. We got back on the road and apart from the madness of navigating Nairobi’s roads in the pitch dark, our return home was uneventful.
Enzo & Thoko, MMIX
Self-Drive Safaris in East and Southern Africa
|UK:||+44 (0) 776 860 6729|
|UK:||+44 (0) 1273 731 166|
|ZW:||+263 (0) 9 241 131|