Desert… extremes !

As deserts go, at least in Kenya, Chalbi, is probably the extemest!! Its ‘as flat as a pan cake’ as far as the eye can see, ( aprox 90000 sq kms) and ‘hugged’ by huge old lave flows from the volcanoes that surround it.. One minute its this peaceful place, where butterflies calmly drink sweet nectar from the flower, the next its the hottest I’ve ever been in my life… Gracious flamingos sift through the surface water algae in the gentle running soda stream, further away a camel strolls across the white sands because of how flat it is, it looks as tall as big tree, sun sets are just to die for usually with a wind swept acacia tree as collateral, sunrises are perhaps a description of the day to come, whirl winds if you happen to be in its path rip all the little nests out of the trees, mirages to ruin your day if you are thirsty, which one usually is… Ferocious black clouds drop rain, and floods rush down and take every thing in front of them!.. next the desert is a huge shallow soda lake…

Which is what it is as we speak!!!

My last news insinuated stress was all over because the rains were late… Usually the 6th of May the Milgis is in full flood but just this little brown dribble ( for the Mighty Milgis) had come down! But better times have come and heres the story!

Saying good bye to the Milgis Lugga to head over into new lands.. Many people say the extremes of this beautiful place are intense!..

BUT what the desert had in stall was properly extreme!!

We are on a mission.. We are heading off to help save the wildlife in the triangle between, the Ndotos, Mt Kulal and Marsabit… .We have again news from our scouts that all is NOT well, and we MUST DO SOMETHING MORE!.. I wrote a blog about the giraffe and we are making our move THANKS to so many people backing the idea!

The clear air and the fact we could see so far was giving some better signs for rain.. Mt Kulal in the background

Heading to the desert.. the 5 mountain ranges, in Northern Kenya are amazing steep Islands in a ‘sand sea’.. the desert.. There is/was ( who knows after the rain!) a new road over the north end of the Ndotos..
The road is so steep, low 4, 1st gear, we preferred to walk..

Our plan is to follow up on info of people killing wildlife from the back of motor bikes… As if its not hard enough to live in these extreme areas with no water, but to be run down my bikes until you cant run any more by somebody using fuel to push him along is NOT FAIR and illegal..

We left the road and headed due east across these incredible grasslands.. The wildlife was so frightened that we could not even pick up a picture of all the oryx, grevey’s, grants gazzelle, and gerenuks..
There were signs of motor bike tracks around.. Not good.. Looking back to the mountains things are looking positive for rain..

One of the hundreds of birds of prey that we came across .. Eagles, vultures, hawks, falcons, ALL healthy and very calm..

A rare sooty falcon to greet us

signs of rain are all round!! exciting… This little whirl wind is just a starter!!

there are whirl winds all round
The 3 beautys

Just opposite our camp stands this gazelle peacefully viewing his domain

May 8th Global bird day, where all keen bird watchers head out to watch birds, and record every species they see…. its a bit of a competition between the countries… I gather Kenya did very well, I think coming around 10th or so in the world.. Considering there are not so many people out counting its a pretty good record.. So for this we set off to the Korole springs in the Chalbi bright and early..

A typical Chalbi sunrise .. Doum palms along the edge of the lave flow..

What a pleasure our first bird on the list was a flamingo.. That was just about as extreme as one can get!!.. But because the rains in the rift valley have been so ‘big’ in the last few years their soda lakes are ‘flooded’ which has caused real concern for the flamingos survival.. Along flight to the soda spring at Korole was a good idea for these 100 or so flamingos..

a morning peaceful scene, the mirages are incredible..
Chalbi mirage
flamingos don’t usually breed any where else other than lake Natron, but they do practise making nests..
beautiful cape teals also!
the very rare and beautiful scissor tailed kite.. What a bird..

on arrival at our camp site all is cool.. We erect all the tents and lifes good.. All organised ..Off we go for a short walk, only to come back.. one tent down!!

suddenly a proper Chalbi wind hits out camp
the tent flattend

Then a real whirl wind emerged out of the desert coming fast for our camp!! We thought the last one was interesting!!

A Huge whirl wind

Here we are up in the Chalbi Desert .. Out of nowhere came this whirl wind .. We thought it was coming towards our camp.. It just missed us!!

It just veered off behind the camp!.. It would have been quite amusing if it had hit us!


and real clouds at that!
AND HOW!!! threatening and almost frightening!
A mini flood to start with..

Soon it was a raging torrent!

The lugga came down in flood and we were cut off!
The Chalbi… The extremes.. from the lava flows of Marsabit to the flat desert.. Mt Kulal in the background, and of course I still have not solved the reason for these thousands of rock piles !!??
across towards North Horr
after the rain sunset… sereene
Upe and Poi enjoying the lovely cool water.. after the hottest day of our lives..

Where we were camped was dangerous if the rain continued, .. We already had a bit of a sleepless night wondering!.. We set off to find higher ground! Well it was exciting!!

Got through this one with no problems..

Then we came across the bus from Marsabit and several other vehicles stopped in the highest ground they could find! as just round the corner was this.. We were the first to try it.. all was good..

we had crossed it two days before and not a drop!

Thats good we are through!!

A red necked falcon

As we were beginning to think all was good, on the rain front we had planned to go and sleep near a dam that was built years ago and thought it would be interesting to see if there was Grevey’s zebras in the area…. BUT BUT BUT !.. We came across these guys had been stuck for 24 hours and were tired!.. And a furious storm was not far!!

this land cruiser was stuck to their axle and they had nothing to get them selves out, no spades, no sand ladders, no rope… NO FOUR WHEEL DRIVE!! The road had become a lugga in the storm the day before and they were seriously worried about what was coming!

The classic thing was the owner of the goods was on his knees praying that the storm behind them wouldn’t come this way and there was a young Rentille warrior, with his camels not far off, who had come to check out what was going on.. He was so excited about the rain, he was kissing the air and willing the rain to come with his arms..


An hour later … We tried every thing we could to get his vehicle out but it wasn’t budging.. NOT AN INCHE.. and then the rain came!! Unfortunately we had to abandon them as we were thinking we may end up in the same predicament..

Within minutes the road was completely flooded but we got through!
the rain pouring down.. the road completely flooded!! hate to think of deserting the landcruiser! We gather they eventually got out after the rain subsided!

Rest of the story follows, but before I depart.. heres a couple happy with the rain!!!

Two ‘people’ that are happy with the rain!! These lovely Rosy patched bush shrikes singing away!!..

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