The four times I have been to Chalbi Desert has been nothing short of bewildering. On my latest visit, I made it all the way to North horr and boy, isn’t the north breathtaking?
My first visit was in October 2018 and I documented the trip on this blog and titled it “Demystifying the Northern Kenya Myth: Samburu, Lake Paradise and Chalbi Desert”. If you did not see it, please click on the title and read it first. You will understand this article better. Marsabit County is a destination I would go any time without shilly-shallying. It offers a unique kind of holiday. I will not go into details because you have already got enough on the above article (or you skipped it? Stubborn you!).
Sarah helped me discover Marsabit County.
I met her through Munyaka (buckelist adventures) whom they had been friends for some time. At the time, I was tired of taking Safiri Nasi clients to the ordinary destinations within Kenya and was looking for something new and dissimilar. My objective was achieved. Sarah (or Queen of the North) is a beautiful and charming professional who knows Marsabit like the palm of her hand.
But, how did she discover Chalbi desert? Did she live there since her childhood? Her story is engrossing and I am more than happy to share it with you. She narrated how she accidentally found herself in the middle of Chalbi desert.
Below is her chronicle:
“Early 2017, I used to work in Nairobi as a health worker and nutritionist. My family had just moved to Marsabit after my dad took an early retirement from the military. In the village, it was not business as usual and no fun in the offing. There was no water and transport. The best mode of transport was getting a ride from a cargo lorry. That was the picture I had in the mind about Marsabit and I did not desire to live there.
In May 2017, I had a very bad Uber accident along Jogoo road, which fractured my left cheek bone. After treatment, I was taken to Marsabit to recuperate. I had not made any friend in the neighborhood and therefore couldn't talk to anyone. Life was getting boring by the day.
Come September 2017, I got information that there was an NGO looking for a Nutritionist in Marsabit. I was head over heels. I applied and by God’s grace I got the job. There was Malaria outbreak that killed people in North horr Sub County. Unfortunately, I couldn't talk well in mother tongue, but could hear and understand every word. However, that did not deter me from taking the job.
After a week or so, we were sent out for field work in North horr. For several reasons one of them being insecurity), all the organization’s vehicles were required to travel in a convoy. You remember Ramat (the crazy driver)? Am sure you do because you were so fond of him when you first came to Marsabit. Ramat told me instead of leaving with the rest of the people at 10am, we will depart at 3pm. He persuaded and assured me that it wasn’t far. I hadn’t gone past Marsabit’s slaughter house and therefore I assumed he was being truthful. We took the vaccines and checked out of the offices at 10am. I went home, slept and took my time packing because Ramat told me that Chalbi was soooo cold :).
We left Marsabit town at 4pm. In the vehicle we had a nurse called Lewin. Ramat accidentally left the radio call. At that time, only Orange network was available though Safaricom were setting up their receivers. While on our way he received a call and the caller said we were in trouble. Ramat said we would take a short. I had no say, but I asked him to drive fast. It had rained several kilometers from Marsabit town, but we were not aware-more bad news. Suddenly, Ramat stopped and said, “Sarah, we are in Chalbi desert”. We got out of the vehicle and asked him to take a picture of me. He took a few, but not good quality.
It was already 6pm. Ramat started talking about a "shortcut” and he wasn’t sure how to connect. I knew we were lost. He drew a plus sign on the ground and then said “we are right let’s go!
We got lost a good one. It was night already. Eliud, never get lost in a desert. It is the scariest this ever. Its peach black, very windy and everything looks similar. At 9pm, Ramat stopped the car and laughed at how lost we were. Since, we did not have a radio call; there was no option other than to spend the night there. None of us was able to catch some sleep. We were scared to death.
At 5 am there was light again. We drove off straight to nowhere. At around noon, we saw a guy and rushed to him to ask for directions. What we didn't remember is that the ground was wet. We got stuck and at that point the worst happened...
We left the car and ran to where the guy we saw was standing. We greeted him in our mother tongue, but he just stared. Lewin spoke in Rendille and Samburu, but the guy did not response to either. He thought we wanted water and since I was the only girl, he gave me some. He looked at me gulp the water and he fell in love. My charms got him talking! He spoke in Oromo. The two monkeys I was with started laughed and said, “sisi kwisha!” With Borana dialect you can understand Oromo slightly.
Surprisingly, he helped us with the vehicle and offered to drive with us.
We drove non-stop and at 5pm we saw a small village that resembled Forra. The Oromo guy asked us to eat and rest. After looking around, Ramat whispered “Guys, we are in dhubluk , Ethiopia I knew he was joking.
We were at the edge of chalbi desert-a very beautiful place with a magical sunrise.
Unfortunately, the convoy that left Marsabit at 10am encountered bandits attack on the way to Illeret. The Dasnach community was resisting Malaria treatment. The organization together with other health workers was in big trouble. Among the guys in the convoy was Munyaka's friend Ben Kimathi. I met him during the one –week training before the field work.
Back to us; the Oromo guy gave us directions to Illeret. He said it was close, but we should be careful of bandits. There was a chopper looking for us. At 4pm- when they were almost losing hope- they saw our car. We rejoined the team and the rest is history.
That is how I discovered Chalbi desert and loved it.
Ben shared my picture of Chalbi desert on Facebook. At that time, I wasn't active on social media. Munyaka saw it and that’s how the trip on October 2018 happened”…..
End of narration
Sarah has since then mastered Marsabit County. For the love of travel, she co-started a company called Chalbi desert Extreme. She uses the company to help people tembea Marsabit. She is the best ground handler when you land in Marsabit town. She now plans to transform lives through tourism by building maternal shelters. The maternal shelters will not only cater for delivery, but also mother and child nutrition needs. Sarah hopes to do this using the proceeds from every trip booked under her travel company.
If you did not have a plan post-Covid, now you do :)
Until next time, keep travelling…………………..
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