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Soukous

The Turkana Bus - Journeys to the Jade Sea

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Robert Barnstone

Hi Soukous,

 

I worked for Safari camp services as well,,, just before your arrival and built Kurungu camp and set up a camping spot on the oasis in langoli. I thought I would make it back some day but have never done so. I haven't heard from the Hedges in many years and often wonder what happened. When I left in march of 1980 things were a bit of a mess, the Gorokos had gotten a hold of guns from a Ugandan armory they raided and we found ourselves picking up the mess. The priest in Tomb was shot with school boys and his land rover was burnt. The father in south horr asked me to retrieve the bodies and the car which I did and my girlfriend of the time was a third year medical student in London and had surgical skills. We found ourselves removing bullets from wounded Samburu warriors, going to bed to the sound of gunshot in the valley and finally after a massacre of 11 people the Kenyan military police were sent in to chase them down. Of course it wasn't all bad we had a great time most days and built the airstrip just outside of the valley in the north. I was just a kid at the time, 20 but it has always stuck with me and someday I hope to make it back. I don't know if Paul the Turkana cabin boy was there or Muze the cook or I forget their names now but the camp askari and his wife with the pet goat that had bad legs.

 

Please feel free to contact me and if you have any good pictures of the camp I would love to show them to my kids.

 

Best,

 

Robert

 

Robert Barnstone
Associate Professor
23 Brown Street
Newtown
NSW 2042
Australia
Mobile: 61 (0) 4066 77276
Home: 61 0 2951 95463
Ted-X Macquarie University: Future Proof https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2C9h-LL0tl0

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Soukous

Hi Robert (@@Robert Barnstone)

 

great to hear from another SCS man.

sadly I don't have many pictures of the camps. At the time I didn't fully appreciate their significance and it was more about taking photos of trucks, tribes and landscapes.

 

I bump into Adam and his wife occasionally, they have been running safaris in Botswana for many years now and every time I visit Kenya I think I will bump into one of the old crew but it hasn't happened yet.

 

I do occasionally see faces I recognise though. A year ago I was watching a BBC report on flooding in the UK and I saw an ex passenger who is now ( well, he was a year ago) a Brigadier General in the army.

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graceland

@@Soukous

 

So glad this was bumped up; I missed most of it; and it is fascinating to see the old Overland Truck Safari Style

 

We certainly are rather spoiled these days; and I will NEVER (I hope) complain about a bump or two :o ) I don't think facing inward would have been my choice seating arrangement. But as Tony mentioned; an interesting group to be found!

 

I'd love to hear more of your adventures. My early years seem rather boring. :D

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Soukous

 

I'd love to hear more of your adventures. My early years seem rather boring. :D

 

Somehow I doubt that @@graceland

my Mum still asks when I'm going to get a proper job :D

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Peter Connan

Thanks for a wonderful read Martin!

 

My life also seems rather boring by comparison...

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Marks

I am also glad for the bump. What adventures! Count me amongst those eager to hear more...

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pontusw

Really interesting report! Thank you.

 

These days I think the only comparable trip is the one to the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival which takes place in May/June every year. There is a convoy via Maralal which includes a couple of overland trucks. I'm planning to drive up for the festival - 29-31 May - this year.

 

http://www.laketurkanaculturalfestival.com/

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Soukous

Really interesting report! Thank you.

 

These days I think the only comparable trip is the one to the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival which takes place in May/June every year. There is a convoy via Maralal which includes a couple of overland trucks. I'm planning to drive up for the festival - 29-31 May - this year.

 

http://www.laketurkanaculturalfestival.com/

 

is the convoy a necessity @@pontusw? or is it just to make sure people don't get lost on the way?

If you do attend I'd be really interested in hearing about the festival

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pault

Yes I missed this too somehow. Was great to read it.

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pontusw

@@Soukous I think a bit of both. Security is pretty bad I understand, but some people still drive to Turkana without convoy. Also, apparently last year lots of cars got fed up with the slow overland trucks and went far ahead. However, the year before there were shots fired at the convoy.

 

Personally I think it would be nice to know that there are other cars around if you break down. :)

 

I hear the tiger fishing in Lake Turkana is supposed to be fantastic - anyone done it?

Edited by pontusw

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Soukous

@@Soukous I think a bit of both. Security is pretty bad I understand, but some people still drive to Turkana without convoy. Also, apparently last year lots of cars got fed up with the slow overland trucks and went far ahead. However, the year before there were shots fired at the convoy.

 

Personally I think it would be nice to know that there are other cars around if you break down. :)

 

I hear the tiger fishing in Lake Turkana is supposed to be fantastic - anyone done it?

 

Yes

Tiger fishing is great for those that like sport fishing.

The other fish people go for is Nile Perch, mostly to see who can catch the largest. Some of the Nile Perch skulls you can find lying on the lake shore are massive.

I had a mate who used to fly up from Nairobi at weekends just to go fishing.

Tilapia is also widely caught.

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NewAfricanTerritories

This is such a great post - Emma Hedges, the daughter of Dick who first started the Turkana Bus - is reviving the journey with New African Territories following the same route. Nairobi - Maralal - Desert Rose - Lake Turkana - Desert Rose - Samburu - Nairobi! 7 days. Just with Land Cruisers these days ... and get to stop off at the magical Desert Rose built my Emma on the slopes of Mount Nyiro.

These photos are amazing and will bring back memories for so many people. Anyone interested in doing this journey with us we have set departure dates already in place, culminating in May (at the moment) with the Turkana Cultural Festival!

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Soukous

I believe Desert Rose is Emma's Camp/Lodge and is at South Horr, replacing Kurungu camp from the original itinerary.

Adding it in on the drive back from Turkana to Samburu is new, we used to go directly from Turkana to Samburu.

Edited by Soukous

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Soukous

I'm really disappointed that i won't be able to make the inaugral trip but I hope it goes well and would love to join a departure later on.

Are you game Matt?

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Game Warden

@@NewAfricanTerritories Welcome to Safaritalk. That's exciting news. Can you please post full itinerary and costings in the Operator's forum.

 

Many thanks, Matt.

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pault

@@Soukous... This is the posh version - and a great idea by Desert Rose. Hope it stays around long enough for me to persuade my wife.

 

Yes, please post the itinerary. and all details you can @NewAfricanTerritories

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Game Warden

We need to get hold of a Bedford army truck in good nick and paint it in dayglo colours :)

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NewAfricanTerritories

Thanks for all the excitement and support everyone! We are really excited. @@Soukous you are so welcome any time! @@pault you too! We aim to keep it going for as long as people are interested :-)

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Lala

 

@@Soukous

 

Wow, this is great stuff. I feel like I am reading one of those old books lying around by the fireplace at one of the old homesteads in Kenya. Looking forward to more.

 

I took a trip in a lorry (with about a dozen other friends) in 1989 to Turkana. Saw only one vehicle in 3 days. Looking back on it, it was a dangerous trip (banditry was around, unbeknownst to us).

 

Thanks @@Safaridude, as I have been writing this and looking through old photos the urge is growing stronger and stronger to do this trip again. I think i would pay a lot more attention this time. When you are doing a trip every week there is always the temptation to put something off until the next time, until suddenly thereis no next time and the opportunity has slipped.

 

Soukous - Thank you for your memories - they are fun, interesting and I can't wait to do the Turkana Bus Revival with New African Terrirories! I am returning to Kenya for the second time in May (first time in 2013) and I am taking the revival 7-day Turkana Bus Tour and I AM SO EXCITED!!!! It's snowing a little blizzard where I live -- I booked my flights yesterday and I can't focus on deadlines at all!!!! I just keep looking up everything to do with the Turkana Tour - the entire itinerary is fascinating! - it would be great fun to talk to you as I will be writing stories about the safari to the Jade Sea and back. I love your adventures. I will bookmark this thread and read more later, but right now I have a lot of work to do and I just keep dreaming of Kenya and my first time to see the northern frontier. What a super site this is!!!

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Game Warden

@@Lala

I am returning to Kenya for the second time in May (first time in 2013)


Better start writing a trip report to help pass the time till your next trip :) Welcome to ST. Matt

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Lala

@@Soukous, @@pault, @@NewAfricanTerritories - OH what bliss it would be for Soukous to join the May 10 to 16 Turkana Bus Revival Tour!!! That would be beyond cool!!! Oh, do sign on, please!!! What fun!!! I am so excited!!! It's going to be absolutely great!!!!!!

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Lala

@@Game Warden

 

Thank you, Matt - this site is too much fun! Very very difficult to concentrate on work when I can be playing among kindred spirits!

 

Re Trip Report - just spent about 45 minutes reading some TRs - well, I will be happy to do a historical TR on my 2013 visit. It was awesome. I got that red dust in my shoes and in my heart. Anyhow, I'm on deadline and the weather here is not cooperating with the fact that I have to vacate my storage unit by Saturday afternoon... sigh I may have to borrow someone's truck, my little car is great, but has no cargo space. Anyhow, I'm up to my ears in work - oh - is it possible to upload PDFs of stories?

 

Thanks for the "karibu" - I am very glad to be here.

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stuartbutler

Great report on the old days of north Kenyan travel. My earliest experiences of the north were twenty years ago riding on the back of the old Bedford goods trucks that still rattle along these routes. The north of Kenya is still probably my favourite part of Africa.

 

This is wonderful news that the Turkana Bus is starting up again. It's a great route you'll be following that's full of cultural and scenic variety, and for those who've never been Desert Rose is a beautiful, and completely unique, place to stay.

 

Interestingly, on my last visit (June 2014) to the countryside around Desert Rose/Turkana for the very first time I saw (several) herds of Grevys zebra. I'd always thought the grasslands between Baragoi and the southern end of Lake Turkana looked good for wildlife but had never really seen much on those plains. Locals this year told me that with the expansion of conservancies in the north that they are now seeing more and more animals.

 

One thing's for sure. Anyone lucky enough to go on this tour is going to have a very different experience from that of the average Kenyan safari!

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Caracal

This is great @Souskous. What adventures and stories you must have had from each and every trip you made. Enough material for a fascinating book I should think – if you felt so inclined.

 

Wilfred Thesiger would have been living in Maralal in those days – I wonder if you ever saw him.

 

The furthest north I’ve travelled in Kenya was to Shaba and Buffalo Springs in 1996, but I’ve read numerous books about the fascinating NFD - its wild and rugged landscapes, wildlife, and its nomadic and other intriguing tribes living their traditional lifestyles.

 

Your mention of Rendille made me recall the following from Peter Mathiessen’s North West Frontier:-

 

The Rendille are desert nomads, and mostly they herd camels instead of cattle:

when a man dies, the Rendille say, his brother mourns him with one eye and counts his camels with the other.

 

You’re giving nothing away Souskous – there are no camels in the background of your photos to give a possible clue as to Rendille rather than Samburu!

 

I still have John Hillaby’s book which I read years ago.

 

Have to say my opinion of him altered somewhat after reading one of my favourite African books “An Impossible Dream”.

 

In that book Stan Bleazard writes about Hillaby in Chapter 18 entitled “Bloody Journalist”.

 

Stan was the warden at Marsabit who hired ten camels for Hillaby’s walk and was engaged to escort him on part of the journey. Stan was not impressed with Hillaby for a number of reasons, one of which was that Hillaby

 

“travelled with shirt but no trousers or underpants and this was to be his mode of dress from then on. How he chose to dress was of course entirely his affair, and because he insisted on walking far ahead of the slow camels, he was sometimes out of our view in any case. Yet, choosing to be clad on top but naked below was so eccentric that I could not help but ask why. This brought a rude response and thereafter my companion’s attitude was distinctly offensive. I wondered what would happen if we met a Gelubba raiding party (they took male genitalia as trophies) and I wished a camel fly would bite him where he hurt most.”

 

Sorry if I’ve driven too far off road @Souskous, but back on road if you happen to have more photos and stories of those Turkana bus runs it would be fantastic to see and hear them.

 

Loved this report. Many thanks.

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Soukous

 

 

Wilfred Thesiger would have been living in Maralal in those days – I wonder if you ever saw him.

 

 

 

I did @@Caracal

Not when I was driving the Turkana Bus but a couple of years later - around December 1985 - when I went back with a girlfriend and tried to impress her by showing her all the places I'd been.

We'd stopped at the tea house in Maralal and he was sitting in a dark corner.

I was going to say 'Hello' but at that very moment I heard someone call my name and I turned to see the askari (watchman) who had worked with me when I managed a small camp on the shores of Lake Turkana.

I think my girlfriend was more impressed that someone local remembered me than the fact that Wilfred Thesiger was in the same tea house.

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