Travelling Overland From Kenya To Sudan

102a. Girls from the Turkana tribe - Kenya

This post is an extract from my travel diary, which was written 9 years ago! The musings of a somewhat naive 20 year old backpacker, with big dreams of someday being a travel writer. This post is about my hitchhiking adventure travelling overland from Kenya to Sudan (now South Sudan). Enjoy. :-)

Imagine a small cowboy town in northern Kenya, ten hours away from any form of civilization. The atmosphere of this outback town was ecstatic; Turkana tribesmen adorned in animal skins, and hundreds of coloured beads, herding their goats through the narrow dusty streets, the naked man sitting on the street corner. Children playing with old tires and with little toy cars made of used milk cartons while the old ‘gogos’ sit around cooking maize and gossiping with their friends. This entire scene is happening to the beat of booming Congolese tunes played on repeat by the local bad boys. This is Lodwar.


Kerrie, Beth and I had been living here for nearly two months, surviving on goat and small rations of water. Everyday here was an adventure; we never knew what would be waiting for us around the next corner, when we would get our next shower or when and what would be our next meal.

Our crazy weekend away all started at a local disco on the Friday night. We hitched a lift into town on the back of a locals pick-up truck, shaky start to a shaky weekend. We arrived to the scene of 200 local boys breaking it down to Sean Paul and jamming to Bob Marley under the light of a full moon. Our arrival, three strange white girls, caused quite a stir.

Hours later after twisting and shaking to every song under the sun, chewing ‘miraa’ and tasting jungle juice we got talking to some guys dressed in camouflage. It turned out they were troops from the African army on their way to Sudan on a peace-keeping mission. We befriended them quicker then lightning with the intention of bumming a lift to Sudan. After much begging they obliged and told us to meet them at the local prison at 5am- very random!


Our friend Teddy collected us at our little hut inside the missionary compound. To our dismay, he was still drunk so he let Kerrie take control of the taxi!! She flew the car down the bumpy desert road, right across the airstrip, narrowly avoiding a tree and zooming up the hill to the old jail. We’re lucky to still be alive! The guard on duty who had very little English must have thought we were 3 insane ‘mzungos’ when we ran inside and explained why we were there: “Hello we met the soldiers at the disco and they told us if we met them here at 5am they would bring us to Sudan”.

Our soldiers, however, were nowhere to be found. Our lack of sleep caught up on us and while waiting on a wooden bench inside the prison walls we conked only to awake an hour later to the sound of all the prisoners shouting at us and clanging their bars and all the local guards lining up with AK 47s in hand. Time to get out of here…


We walked the three kilometres back into town as the sun was rising only to be met by a huge convoy of UN and Red Cross trucks. Suddenly a huge, white, gold tooth clad Moldovan trucker shouted over to us ‘Oi, White Ladies, truck! Now! Sudan! Go!’ so in we hopped without any hesitation and off we went in what was to become our huge Moldovan mobile disco – starting the most random morning of adventure in our personal histories. Our toothless, bald driver proceeded to complain about every thing he believed wrong about Africa, while he chugged back beer chucking the bottles out the window, while driving!! “In Africa, houses SO SMALL, In Russia, houses BIG, very big!”, he repeatedly told us.

Five hours and two breakdowns later (including one outside Kakuma refugee camp) and a headache from the booming Russian dance tunes, we arrived in Lokichoggio where we felt we had dived into the movie set of ‘The Constant Gardener’. After a long trek to the boarder posts in 40°C heat and further flirting with Immigration officials our luck ran out. It turns out it isn’t that easy to just go have lunch in a country thousands of people are fleeing daily. We spent the night drinking in Loki with all the aid workers and truck drivers who gave us Irish a run for our money.


We had to hitch a lift home to Lodwar early Sunday as we had been invited for dinner with Father John and the Local Nuns. It made for a very conservative evening, in vast contrast with the weekend we had just experienced. We never did make it across the boarder but the journey trying to get there; the road to Sudan was one of the most exciting adventures I have EVER had and which I will never forget.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

The only thing that can bring things back to life, and restore energy levels in this community, is clean water.

As long as there is water, these young kids can continue to grow, continue to learn, continue to live.


Sand, Smiles and Sore Feet

Sorry I have been missing in action from my blog for a few months now, but I have been VERY busy and still am. I am working full-time for an amazing organization called ‘The Hope Foundation” and have also been working hard to get my Masters thesis finished. I also managed to fit in a weekend away in London and just under a month in Northern Kenya, doing field research.

Here are some photos I took while staying in the town of Lodwar, in Central Turkana, where temperatures reach up to 39’c on a daily basis, the climate is harsh and the landscape is desert like. Water is scarce, sanitation facilities are non existent and Life is all  about survival. When I have more time I will share with you my stories are heart ache, horror, compassion and hope, but for now here are some photos of the amazingly beautiful children I befriended on my journey.


Dear Diary- Marriage Proposal(s) !!

Dear Diary,

I’ve been too lazy to write the last few days. I get caught up in the moment as it is all so laid back in this part of the world. Sitting on our little porch, gazing up at the starry sky, listening to an old Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers Cassette(Cd’s have not found their way to this part of Kenya yet, it would seem) and watching the world go by. The temperature at night-time is heavenly and makes it so easy to pass the hours away gazing out on the dark desert, watching kids play in the sand, listening to goats farting(!!)…not a worry in the world.

The World Cup has started…it’s madness how Soccer truly is like an international language. The whole school sat in the hall to watch the match, even the traditionally dressed Turkana women were in on the action peeking in the windows of Lodwars bars, watching the TVs perched high on dusty stands, with crazy aerials sticking out from all sides of everywhere!

Oh the post office ran out of internet. “No you don’t understand, they RAN OUT of internet“, Beth said with a laugh. I mean REALLY? How do you ‘run out’ of internet?! We are going to dinner with 2 of the Fathers tonight in a hotel run by the Woman’s Centre….we had to order our food LAST night so it will be ready for tonight! Pretty funny…extreme advance ordering! I guess they only buy what’s needed on a daily basis.

The Nuns were telling us really scary stories about all the crazy things that go on here. They told us about the time they were shot at driving from Kitale to Lodwar, but had a lucky escape. It seems everyone carries guns here so idly, AK47s, huge rifles and Kalashnikov’s just hanging casually over someones shoulder is a pretty regular sight in Lodwar. Stories of hold ups in the bank, robberies and shootings seem to be so common to the Sisters that they simply laugh them off, saying, ‘That’s life’. They said they have given up telling people at home about the happenings here, the randomness and the harsh realities as people just don’t believe them.

I know just what they mean. As we were strolling home last night,taking a short cut across the sandy runway, looking up at the milky way, that lights up the path home, you have to take a minute to stop and pinch yourself. Is this real? The distant echo of a tribal full moon party rituals in the local village, sounds of screeching women, laughing and joyous songs right into the early hours of the morning. The same village we visited earlier today where we got swamped by over 200 kids. Totally surrounded and the only thing we could think to do to entertain 200 kids at once…THE HOKEY POKEY!! Imagine the sight; a poverty-stricken Turkana village in the dusty Northern Desert, traditionally dressed women adorned in beads and tartan wraps, watching cautiously as 3 strange ‘Mzungos’ (foreigner white people) knee-deep in sand and sweating from the hot African sun, we gathered their 200 plus offspring into a giant circle and proceeded to ‘do the hokey pokey’! An unforgettable moment.

OH! Beth got another marriage proposal at school today….I wonder how many we will each have after 6 weeks here?! One of her younger male students wouldn’t mind an older, western wife it would appear. I think we are all totally in love with Lodwar.


Dear Diary – New Friends

Dear Diary,

We met Brother Paul today from the USA. He invited us up to Kakuma some day to visit the UN refugee camp, with over 86,000 refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and The Sudan. These kinds of things are suddenly becoming a reality. You hear about them and see them on the News back home but never imagine you will actually step foot in them in real life. 

Paul and Bosco (2 local boys) chatted to us for over an hour in the compound. They are so full of stories about flying places with the bishop, and doing this for the bishop and that for the bishop. Not entirely sure how much of it is true, but they are entertaining none the less!

 We headed up to St Kevins, the school where we will be teaching later in the morning. They have a lot of facilities such as a science lab and computers – way more than in the school in South Africa which is strange. Classes have around 50 kids so half the size of my classes in South Africa. We will each only have 6 classes which isn’t very much..not sure what we will do for the rest of the day!

We met the headmaster, Father Louis, a rather abrupt, fiery guy. He was wearing just shorts and a t-shirt…not your typical school headmaster! Later we hopped into the backie and drove to Johns house, quite far out-of-town in a local village. He has a really lovely set up. We got home at 1 o Clock so had the whole day to relax.

We met a lovely Malaysian Nun in the guest house at dinner. She is living in a compound near the refugee camp in Kakuma. They have been broken into 4 times!! Men with guns and knives came and stole all the donations from the USA for local children and even all their clothes!! Who would rob from a Nun?! Madness.

I still cannot actually believe where I am living! Went into town a few times yesterday. There is such a great atmosphere. Everywhere, people selling and cooking, Turkana herding goats through the town, naked men sitting on the rubbish dump, children playing with old tyres or balls made from plastic bags. Everyone looking at us and shouting ‘Hello, How are you FINE, How are you FINE’ as if it is all one word!! All the elderly ladies sit around weaving traditional baskets while all the men, young and old, sit on upside down beer crates chewing tobacco and listening to booming congolese tunes. I feel like I’m living in a parallel Universe.