Beyond Maralal, the distinct Loroghi Hills, and the dry river beds making routes for the nomadic camel trains, lies Lake Turkana. The magnificent Lake, with shimmery blue-green waters, serves as the backdrop for the three-day colorful event. Translated to mean ‘place of many trees’, Lake Turkana and its environs is a treasure trove of culture and eclectic scenery. An experience by its shores, telling an authentic Kenyan story of the northern frontier.
Sibiloi National Park is right at the shore, home to the 3-million-year-old Kobi Foora paleontological site. Dr. Richard Leakey and his team discovered this Cradle of Mankind in 1972. The historical site was host to the Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Homo Sapiens and Australopithecus.
The Amazing Route
Camera at hand in your all-terrain vehicles, the desert beckons. It is about 12 hours by road from Nairobi to Turkana via Isiolo and Laisamis. Heartwarming sunsets take the day way past the Equator, as you pitch camp at Archers Post. Passing the Samburu people headed toward Laisamis, there you find Mount Ololokwe – the Samburu flat-topped mountain. Milgis Lugga River, a seasonal one, meanders between the Mathews Ranges and Ndoto Mountains giving way to the breathtaking sand dunes via Sarima. North of Ndoto Mountains and east of Ol Donyo Mara, the stunning view of the Jade Sea awaits.
The rolling desert dotted with desert roses makes for tantalizing pictorial views, not to forget the petrified forest, Kobi Foora. Thompson Falls will be a great spot to pose for photos and camel ride in Samburu. Massive wind farms under the Turkana Wind Power Project will be engaging too.
The Grand Carnival
Since 2008, the carnival is held annually during the full moon. The awe-inspiring experience serves a mix of indigenous tribal engagements, dramatic and picturesque landscapes, mesmerizing waters plus a hangout with the warriors, east of Lake Turkana. Ever dreamt of a tribal experience? Here is one just tailored right for you, at Loyangalani. And guess what? There is no need for tickets, you just show up.
At this melting point of cultures, 14 local communities that form the Marsabit populace amalgamate. The El Molo, Gabra, Borana, Konso, Sakuye, Samburu, Turkana, Rendille, Burji, Garee, Waata, Somali and Dassanatch communities. It is a chance established to enhance cross-cultural interactions, thus instigating harmony, cohesion, cooperation, integration, and trading. It also plays to inform the world of the challenges minority tribes face including drought, environmental degradation, cattle rustling, poor infrastructure and minimal development.
Other communities are also invited to perform, with the Muungano Group taking a position. It is made of the Ameru, Agikuyu, Akamba and the Luo.
Warriors in their long red ochre colored braids, with intricate beadwork and feathers adorning their heads stand out from the crowd. Then the women, many with the Mohawk hairstyle, endless amounts of beadwork adorning their necks all the way to the shoulders, are dressed in lesos or brown beaded skirts. This was the origin of the Mohawk, right? They are a beauty to behold. The brilliant cultural attire is a great take away for a traveler’s collection.
It is a chance to study classic artifacts, impressive ornaments and the way of a life, of a community just opening up to civilization. Study the uniqueness of the traditional huts of the different communities, all built at the heart of the festival grounds. An array of local traditional instruments is also showcased with a chance to engage in the dance performances and cultural showcasing. This is an amazing opportunity to beam a light on this resilient almost forgotten populace.
Hike Mount Poi or take a walk and dip in the natural pools nearby or slides, enjoy local delicacies starting with the dried fish from the lake or shop away for gifts, artifacts or keepsakes. Sit by the bonfire and listen to tales of yore under the stars as you laugh your heart out. Engage with the communities in their villages and get to see how they live. Visit Lake Paradise, or the Nobutum – locally called to mean the elephants stomach – an Island in Lake Turkana. There is an enticing happening at every turn one takes, giving one a reason to shutter away
Enjoy the camel beauty pageant and while at it learn its benefits to the people. Not only it is the desert ship, but also a source of milk and meat in the wilderness. Visit the rock art sites, Telek Island by boat, or just go camping to the north. The traditional stool is a must carry in addition to the beadwork. A cultural artifact used as a headrest when sleeping.
The El Molo are the smallest tribe in Kenya and mainly fishermen. They use rafts made of doum palm logs as boats.
To the Sakuye, the camel is sacred, valued so much, that it can only be slaughtered or sold for a very important reason.
The most spectacular performers of the elephant dance are the Watta people.
Cushitic farmers found in Marsabit and the southern highlands of Ethiopia are the Burji. They spin cotton into yarns and have the most exhilarating songs and dances for various ceremonies like circumcision.
Vibrant to watch are the Konso with their men and women engaging in entertaining dances.
Nomadic pastoralists found in the middle of the Chalbi Desert are the Gabbra. Did you know that it is the only true desert in East Africa?
Adorning intricately woven beadwork on their heads and shoulders it is amazing to watch the Rendille perform.
The Desert Museum
A treasure hub of cultural artifacts and tools used by local communities is the museum. Images of Marsabit county and its rich cultural heritage adorn the walls. Established in 2008, it is located on the eastern shores of Lake Turkana, right on a hilltop, with the Lake as its backdrop.
The Great North Heritage Run
Also called the ‘Lake Turkana Eliye Springs Marathon’ it is held concurrently with the festival. It is a half marathon, open to both professionals and amateurs alike plus the locals.
‘’Running in the wind for peace and harmony in diversity” is it vision. Chief plan to promote peace and stability in the region.
This is the epitome of awesomeness. Till you catch a glimpse of this little heaven, you are yet to traverse my motherland.