#OnetouchLive – The Big North, Day One
For many years, The Big North has been a forgotten territory. Lack of infrastructure meant only resilient pastoralists and opportunistic bandits called this home. But around ten years ago, President Kibaki’s government decided to prioritise tarmacking of the A2 from Isiolo to Moyale. Now complete, this stretch of asphalt has opened up The Big North to those seeking to soak in the beauty of semi arid lands that hug the skies where jagged mountains quench themselves by sipping rain clouds. Welcome to Kenya’s last frontier.
We broke free from the craze that Nairobi can be before sunrise on 24th April 2017.
Silvester the faithful was our preferred mode of transport.
Favourable winds chased the clouds and Mt Kenya strut her majestic peaks before us.
We stopped at the Java House Nanyuki for breakfast. When it came time to settle the bill, we realised the Safaricom network was down. All our money was on Mpesa and the Java PDQ was on the Safaricom network as well. The coins we had couldn’t even pay for one coffee. We somehow managed to raise enough to settle the bill and continued with our journey, no money in hand.
At Timau, we found the wheat had been harvested and cows allowed to graze on what was left.
We had a brief stopover in Isiolo to meet Rufo from NRT Trading. We’d communicated on phone the previous week and she had pointers for places we should visit and offers for us to visit community conservancies in The Big North.
A few kilometres north of Isiolo, we met Jim Nyamu who was walking 617kms, from Nairobi to Marsabit, to raise awareness for elephant conservation.
In such a long journey, great company is important, so Jim wasn’t doing this alone. You can find out more about Jim here.
A stone’s throw from Archer’s Post (apparently named after a Mr Archer from them days) is Mt Ololokwe, also known as Ol Donyo Sabache. Made famous by Safaricom calendars and TV commercials, this mountain has a huge invisible stop and shoot billboard all around it. So what were we to do?
As we finished shooting it, we noticed children playing in a pool of rain water about 200 metres from the road. We approached them thinking how we’d ask to take their photos. When they saw our cameras, they started calling out ‘Picha! Nipige picha!’ asking to have their photos taken.
This was my favourite photo of the day. It captures the carefree attitude children have, unhinged from all of life’s concerns when having fun. Mt Ololokwe in the background ices it perfectly.
We still had over 200kms to go to Marsabit, our destination for the day. Because of the numerous photography stops we’d made, darkness was threatening to catch up with us before Marsabit, despite leaving Nairobi early. But there was so much beauty surrounding us we couldn’t resist making other stops.
Rain storm north of Laisamis.
Just look at that road… Plus there’s hardly any car for minutes!
The road was mostly flat once we left Isiolo, with the horizon clearly visible most of the way. After Laisamis, we started climbing gradually, a sign were getting closer to Marsabit which sits on a mountain. As we lost light, we still made another stop, about 10 kms before Marsabit to shoot the sunset.
Don’t deny your tyres the pleasure of kissing this road.
We finally got to Marsabit National Park a few minutes after 7pm. We were pleasantly surprised to find out camping at Abdul Camp that has electricity and hot showers was just Kshs200/- per person, and that Safaricom was back up, allowing us to pay via Mpesa!
At the campfire, we shared stories of what stood out for us on our first day of this epic adventure, and looked forward to what first light would reveal to us the following day.
More in the next post.