|From our camp in Laisamis, we had the opportunity to travel further north to Marsabit for a few days. The original group heading north was our driver, Hussein; Zac the local Area Manager for Lewa Conservancy; the Chief of Laisamis - and of course the two of us.
We were soon begged for lifts by the locals, and three people managed to jump in the back of the jeep (even though Zac had only agreed to take one person). Then after some pretty harsh travel on dirty, bumpy roads, we came across a broken down car - it was Zac's old boss. So they all jumped in too - a total of 11 people squeezed into a jeep. Luckily we weren't too far away from Marsabit.
Marsabit is described as a bit of a tribal frontier town, and its local inhabitants are a mixture of various local tribes, along with Ethiopian and Somali immigrants. The town has a strong Muslim influence due to immigration; however the local nomadic tribe - the Rendille have remained defiantly non-Muslim so there is an amazing range in dress codes within the town - ranging from the full-body to brief tribal dress. The Rendille people dress in skins and sport elaborate braided hairstyles, with beaded accessories - often with kilos of beads around their necks. We are learning that wearing a lot of beads is very important.
Our choice of accommodation in Marsabit was a little limited. We tried to stay at the JeyJey Centre in town, which at the inflated Westerner price of 400 Shillings per night ($8 AUD) sounded good value. Unfortunately the military were in town and they only had one room left - which was pretty poor quality. After a few days of tents and no showers, we decided against the JeyJey Centre and headed out to the Marsabit Lodge, described as 'the only luxury lodge anywhere around here'.
The Lodge was located within Marsabit National Park & Reserve, so whilst we had to pay hefty daily fees to enter the park, we thought a little bit of luxury would be worth it - plus we might get to see some wildlife up close.
Luxury is apparently a loose term. The lodge was tired, empty and for the most part, without electricity. However, that didn't stop the manager trying to up our daily rate from 4000 Shillings ($80 AUD) to 10,000 Shillings ($200 AUD) once he found out we were Westerners. We took a few photos of the place - not exactly what you call value for money, but it was nice to stay in a National Park for a few nights.
THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
For the next few days we hung around Marsabit Lodge trying to spot a few animals. The buffalo were friendly and circled the lake for us each day. The baboons raced from behind our cabin across the grass, providing some great photo opportunities and there was the occasional impala running past. However, the elephants proved elusive.
We were promised elephants drinking at the lake at sunset, so we waited and waited - but still no elephants. We eventually saw one later that night, but it was dark and he quickly walked away (well, as quickly as an elephant can) but it was exciting to get so close to him.
Elephants must like to party once everyone else is asleep. Within minutes of turning off the lights, we heard noises outside our cabin - like very heavy footsteps. We were brave and hid under the covers - as you don't want to be pissing the elephants off, especially when you're the only guests at the lodge and your room is far, far, far away from the staff quarters.