Maurice Oniang'o sheds light on Africa’s sunniest ...
Receiving 3 600 hours of sunshine per year, Kenya’s Lodwar is one of the sunniest places on earth. It’s also one of the most unexplored in the region, so I made it my quest to get to know this seemingly modest town, situated in an area rich in history.
Located north-west of Nairobi, Lodwar is the capital of Turkana County. Some of the most significant archaeological findings of pre- and early man were made there, and many claim that this is the place where the human species originated.
My bus journey to Lodwar from Nairobi’s capital was a tiring, though uneventful one, save for an overly excited elderly man who occasionally danced in the aisle. However, Kenya is a land of abundance both in nature and culture, so what better way to experience them than traversing through 700 kilometres of countryside?
We made a rest stop in Kainuk, a border town between the Pokot and Turkana communities. The first thing I noticed about Kainuk was the heavy police presence. I found out later that this was due to the decade-long conflict between the two communities.
After our break, we continued our tortoise-like pace toward Lodwar. Eventually, our bus creeped into the town near midnight. Like my fellow passengers, I was exhausted from the journey. After finding a guest house, I gratefully fell into bed.
Hearing of the magnificent sunrise in the region, I woke early the next day to experience it. Lodwar has a hot desert climate and I could already feel the heat rising at dawn. Soon after the sunrise, I met my guide and driver, Joseph, to plan the day.
Our first visit was to the detention houses in which Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was imprisoned during the colonial period. Later, I visited Lodwar’s basket market. Here, elegantly woven products are sold alongside other cultural artefacts. The market was abuzz with activity, and colourfully adorned women sang as they weaved. I made a quick round and then set off to Kalokol, a few kilometres from Lodwar, where I was scheduled to interview some schoolchildren.
On the way, we stopped at Namoratunga, an archaeo-astronomical site situated on the west side of Lake Turkana. Made up of basalt pillars that are aligned with star systems, the site is believed to have been built thousands of years ago by early communities for ceremonial purposes.
Arriving in Kalokol, I headed straight to the shores of Lake Turkana, the only permanent desert lake in the world, to carry out my interviews. The security situation in the area was unpredictable, so I swiftly completed my work and left for Lodwar.
That night, I stayed in a different guest house, Nawoitorong. Owned by local women, it offers a variety of meals from international food, such as pizzas, to local cuisine, such as roasted goat. I settled for nyir nyir, a local delicacy of deep-fried meat. I felt that the tasty, traditional meal was the best way to end an enlightening two-day visit.