Trailing the Daasanach – Extreme North to Ethiopia.

Trailing the Daasanach, an ethnic group of Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan in the South Omo Zone, North of Lake Turkana. The community has retained its traditions

The town of Marsabit is a major urban civilization in Marsabit county, a vast desert of northern Kenya. Marsabit town is situated on an isolated extinct volcano. Mount Marsabit, which rises almost a kilometre above the plateau. The hills have a cool dense tropical forest in contrast to the adjacent deserts of Kaisut, Korr and Chalbi. It is a cool, green and forested realm, often swathed in mist. This has supported full-scale agriculture and wildlife in the park. The leafy terrain supports the Marsabit national park and the larger Marsabit national reserve.

Marsabit town is cosmopolitan but mainly inhabited by the Cushitic-speaking Borana, Burji, Gabbra and Rendille. There are also some Nilotic Turkana and Bantu Ameru residents. Additionally, there are a few Somali traders. It might have been named after a Burji farmer called Marsa who was brought to Marsabit (from Ethiopia) by colonialists to teach the locals how to grow crops.

When his name was called out by his masters, Marsa” was used to answer “Abet” (Yes in Amharic) and this led to the creation of the name Marsa-Abeit which later became Marsabit. Another possible narrative of a white explorer Donaldson Smith who wandered the plains of lowland Marsabit in the 1890s and, pointing to the mountainous region, said: “It looks like the surface of Mars a bit”. 

Marsabit National Park comprises a forested mountain and three impressive crater lakes that provide a habitat for a huge population of animals such as buffalo, elephants, giraffe, Grevy zebra, leopard, hyena and lion. Lake Paradise and Bongole Crater located in the heart of the forest are both local attractions for tourists. The park also hosts numerous species of birds. The road has been recently tarmacked and connects all the way to the Kenya-Ethiopia border at Moyale. It is approximately 280 Km from Isiolo and takes about 4 hours.

Kalacha A small settlement by the oasis located at the edge of the Chalbi desert. It is dotted by doum palms and acacia trees. The main inhabitants are the Gabbra tribe. These are pastoralist keeping camels as a sign of wealth and status. Accommodations in the area include Catholic women group lodge, Takuma resort, Mazingira lodge and the Kalacha camp owned by the community. Gabbra has beautiful traditions, their unique adornments and dances are eye-catching.

Loyangalani – It is the home of the El Molo and Turkana tribes by the eastern shores of L. Turkana.  It has freshwater springs supporting green vegetation. It got its name from the Samburu dialect meaning “a place of many trees” The major attractions include fishing, desert museum and cultural display. The Marsabit cultural festival is held here annually bringing all resident tribes together. Accommodation facilities include Oasis Lodge, Talimari Village Inn, Palmshade Camp, El Molo camp, Mosaretu Women’s Groupe Lodge, and Sailo Bandas.

Daasanech Is an ethnic group belonging to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asian family. They are spread between Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. Daasanech is basically a pastoralist but has adapted to and switch to agriculture and fishing for support. They do farming in the Omo Delta. In fact, their name means “people of Delta”. Also called the Galeb, Geleb or Marille this tribe stays immediately north of Lake Turkana found in Kenya bordering tribe is the Turkana people. The tribesmen use the cattle for their meat plus milk as well as skin for clothing and beddings. The bride price is paid in form of cows. When one loses animals due to drought or rustling, their status is lowered.

Given that they live in an unfriendly environment these Daasanech people are actually the poorest tribe within the Omo Valley. Since the Daasanech people originate from various ethnic groups, women and men alike should consent to be circumcised.  Presently there are 8 clans that comprise the Daasanech tribe, each and every featuring its own name among which are: Ri’ele, Elele, Randal, Inkabelo, Oro, Inkoria, Naritch plus the Koro.  Every clan is described by its location.

At a ceremony, the men dance with huge sticks while the women hold wooden batons.  A Daasanech man will bless the fertility of his daughter as well as her future marriage through celebrating the “Dimi”. Throughout the Dimi ceremony, ten to thirty {10-30} cattle are slaughtered. The men plus women put on fur capes as they feast and also dance.  The Dimi ceremony is mostly organized in the dry months.

Nairobi – Sebashe camp {342km}

Leave Nairobi city centre {Hilton Bata} at 6:30 am. We drive to the North along Thika road past Sagana, Karatina, Nanyuki, Isiolo, Archers post to Sebashe. Climb the adjacent Ololokwe hill for an amazing sunset. Dinner is served by the campfire.

Sebashe camp – Marsabit {200km}

We drive further the hot dry plains through Merile, Laisamis, Loglogo to Marsabit. The cool weather welcomes to the oasis of Marsabit. The green natural vegetation and farmlands make a sharp contradiction to the neighbouring expansive arid area. We drive to the national park, Abdul gate campsite. Evening game drive will  Dinner is served by the campfire.

Game drive in the Marsabit National park

We visit the Bakuri springs, Bongole crater, Buffalo crater-lake and the Lake Paradise. When the sun is hot, we visit the Catholic shrine. We also visit the singing wells. Dine and overnight in camp.

Marsabit – Kalacha (135Km)

Leave Marsabit heading West, traverse Korori desert, a plain of hard compacted sand, black volcanic rocks with minimum vegetation and no shade in sight. The area is hot but the scenic landscape soothes.

Kalacha – Loyangalani (150Km)

After breakfast, we drive and encounter the true desert of Kenya – the Chalbi desert. It got its name from the Gabbra meaning “barren salty pans” The vast plains extend as far as your eyes can reach. At North Horr, drive southwards to the shores lake – of Jade sea as commonly known due to the greenish colour of the mineral at the seabed. The doum palms welcome you to Loyangalani.

Loyangalani (full day)

Today you interact with the El Molo, the smallest tribe in Kenya. They eke their livelihood from the lake by fishing and crocodile hunting. You also have a chance to visit the nearby desert museum. Swimming in the hot springs is amazing.

Loyangalani – Ileret (280Km)

Today will be the longest day of driving. We start soon after daybreak with an aim of reaching Ileret village about 280km. The track passes through Sibiloi national park hence park fees are payable.

If by any chance we do not get to Ileret, we have an overnight at Sibiloi Bushcamp 228km.

Ileret – Omorate border post. (20km)

After a brief interaction with the Daasanech, we drive to Ethiopia. From the small Ethiopian police checkpoint, the road signage changes from English to Amharic and keeping right while driving. Soon we get to the Omorate border post for immigration formalities.

NB: Kindly note that there is no Kenyan immigration office when you cross to Ethiopia and you need to have a prior stamped exit. This can be done in Nairobi. You should also ensure you have sorted out the Ethiopian visa well in advance. A small police checkpoint ushers you in but the main formalities will be done at Omorate.

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