Jade Sea: The alluring beauty of Lake Turkana
2 months ago, 20 July 18:27
One element that perfects the rather attractively shaped map of Kenya is the broken dogleg-shaped water body near the right hand corner representing Lake Turkana.
Of course it is rather flippant to reduce the world’s largest permanent desert lake, covering 6,450 square kilometres, to a mere aesthetic in Kenya’s cartographic depiction.
The so-termed discovery of the lake in 1888, shimmering like a mirage in an otherwise seemingly inhospitable land, awed world geographers and continues to attract intrepid travellers to date.
The Hungarian explorer, Count Samuel Teleki de Szek, and his Austrian second-in-command, Ludwig Ritter von Höhnel, are historically said to have been the first Europeans to see the lake, which they christened Lake Rudolf in honour of the Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria.
In 1975, the government of Kenya renamed the lake after the Turkana people, one of the communities that has lived on its shores for centuries.
I have often imagined my education to be incomplete without a visit to Lake Turkana. But I have always been discouraged from visiting by the unfavourable stories that abound about Kenya’s ‘‘northern frontier,’’ which hosts the lake.
News of bloody cattle rustling and inter community conflicts; almost annual reports of drought accompanied by explicit images of dying women and children; and tales of a remote and near impossible place to visit due to impassable terrain — the result of poor transport infrastructure and general common lawlessness.
In effect, a journey to Lake Turkana has often struck me as one to be attempted only by the bold and daring. Which I am not.
As such, when friends who had recently visited the lake recommended it as a holiday getaway, I instinctively asked, “How do I get there and how many days will it take? Where will I stay?” I only stopped short of asking the rather ridiculous, but somewhat justified, “What will I eat?”
As it turns out, travelling to Lake Turkana has become easier, with a number of airlines flying from Nairobi to Lodwar, the headquarters of Turkana County, daily.
It took a mere six hours door-to-door from my house to the Eliye Springs Resort, 50 kilometres east of Lodwar, where I was booked to stay.
My senses are outwitted by the suddenness of my arrival. Driving into the resort, down a slight hill amidst scattered villages strewn among acacia trees, I am unprepared for the panoramic view of Lake Turkana; its greenish-blue waters, which have earned it the moniker “Jade Sea,” gleaming in the sun.
I am not expecting to see sandy beaches or even the beautiful doum palms lining the lake shore.
And because of the recent rains, the landscape is lush green, a far cry from the dry, scorched and dark common look.
Aware that the northern region is one of the hottest in Kenya, I rightly expect some discomfort. But my essence, perhaps weakened by urban hustle and bustle, is totally overwhelmed by the weather condition.
Within minutes of my arrival, I am drenched in sweat and I have to retreat to my accommodation. Thanks to the cool, traditional Turkana ...
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