July 2016 I set out with my partner and friend to discover Isiolo and surroundings. We’d garnered a bit of camping gear and courage (Thanks Kenyan Camper) and set out. This was clearly a learning experience, I’ll get back to that soon ;-). Check some of the shots we got from Isiolo here.
After getting some last minute shopping in Nairobi the night before, we set off next morning by 7am with a few stopovers along the way. (Sagana home sweet home, Nanyuki you always look great, Timau you take our breath away every time we see you). It’s always a bit strange how people stare & wonder what you’re up to when you stop the car to take a few pictures. Timau was one such place. The large scale farming is an eye feast for any nature loving person. I love the golden season, when the sun has beat down on the earth, and it’s almost harvest time. A sight to behold. Pictures don’t tell the story like the real deal.
Isiolo is close to Timau, and with a few calls to a few friends who formerly worked at Isiolo (thanks Carol) we had to figure out where we’d be setting camp. (We literally had no idea!). Online searches bore no fruit as attendants for most campsites wouldn’t pick their calls. A few on-ground searches gave us dubious options so we figured the first thing would be to have a late lunch at Northern Galaxy in Isiolo town.
The sun was setting faster than expected so we had to figure out where we would sleep. It was about 4pm. We were informed we could camp within the park, and this is where you know assumption and miscommunication bear a fruit called frustration. Having been to Isiolo once, Sarova Shaba Lodge in particular, I assumed that would be the official park access gate. With camping in mind before sundown, we drove out of town to the Shaba gate, about 40min away.
(4WDs would be good. It’s quite rocky once you go off road. You’ll also encounter baboons.) Another thing to note is signage is not clear, if you aren’t keen you’ll drive to Moyale looking for signboards. Google maps is your friend. Sometimes.
We had reached the gate right before park closing hours, but guess what! We were at the wrong gate! We had passed the park gate we were supposed to go to! They say travelling brings out the best or worst in you. This was starting to be a real test. #gameofthrones.
After some directions on the old pasted map in the ranger’s office, we realized we had gone off by about 10km.
The gate we were looking for was Chokaa Gate Buffalo Springs National Park.
Back on the main road, on the drive back towards Isiolo the search began again. (Did I mention there isn’t any signage?) We drove towards what we were sure was the right gate, (off road again), only to get to what was now Ngaremara Gate.
And now we were told that if we entered the reserve through this end we’d get lost. So guess what? We had to make our way back to the main highway, AGAIN! The darkness had already set in and the feeling of exasperation was building up. I think you’ve picked the moral of this story; leave early, camp early, explore later. (It was always the plan anyway ? ) Eventually we made it to Chokaa Gate.
The rangers on site were quite helpful despite arriving later than we had hoped to. While we had to wait for our assigned rangers to come back from Isiolo town, the feeling of getting to the park was sheer relief. The drive to the public campsite is about 20km from Chokaa Gate. On arrival our worst fears were confirmed. Picture yourself in pitch darkness, surrounded by long, spiky dry grass. No human settlement in sight. Just you and the wilderness and the leopard’s cry from afar. How were we meant to set up camp not knowing what was around us? Then we hear the lion’s roar…