About This Blog

Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Saturday, 28 May 2011

May 28th: Bayeux

On May 28th 1972 I was in Bayeux in France.

I remember thinking as we drove off the ferry in Cherbourg that there probably were not that many others who were planning such a long journey - to be going to India.  It seemed a very big moment, an ordinary ferry, the 12.30 from Southampton.

This was not really the first night of the journey.  We started off by driving north to Durness in the far north of Scotland where we had friends.  We wanted to test the Land-Rover and the camping gear before leaving the UK.  We actually spent the first night pitching the tent free somewhere near Keilder Forest, on a branch of the North Tyne.  But crossing the channel was the big moment.

We spent that night on the Camping Municipal outside Bayeux.  It was just a convenient (and cheap) place to stay the night.  We had covered about 86 miles that day from a campsite above Southampton, plus the Channel crossing.  We wandered a bit more the next day, shopping in Putanges for lunch which we took at a green and sunny spot off a tiny road by the River Orne.  That night we camped in a free site by a canal outside Chartres.  We didn't see the Tapestry in Bayeux but we did visit the cathedral in Chartres.  The pattern was set for cheap living, simple camping, self-cooked meals, minor roads.

It would be another three months before we reached Asia.

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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

May 24th: Fes

On May 24th 1977 I was in Fes, the ancient city of Morocco.

I stayed in a little hotel just inside the Medina at a point before the road started to descend more steeply.  There was a stork's nest on the roof and there was always the noise of clattering beaks when the birds returned from feeding.  From the window I could catch a glimpse of the road: women going shopping, old men from the country on business, ponies, donkeys taking goods in or out or building materials or coca-coca bottles, the men who drove the animals, "Balek, Balek" they called.  I even saw a cow being taken down.  The sounds were of Moroccan pop music and busy voices.  It was a modern world, part of the attraction being that it was without cars.

The first evening I recorded some initial impressions:  
The Tannery:  My picture
I headed down into the Medina and got beautifully wandering there, avoiding tourist shops, very smart here, and the touts and pickup kids.  I went way out to the other side then back to the centre, glancing in mosques, much prayer, holiness and chanting going on, saw a few artisans, particularly the metal workers, one lot of dyers.  Stood on a little bridge over the foul river away from the hassle, watched a freak couple getting some metal-beating done, then managed to return without making a mistake.  Some very fine shops, you can see some traditional crafts being made to modern Moroccan tastes as opposed to tourist tastes, mirrors and brocades for women's clothes stand out in my mind, also the large cauldrons they make.  And it's a real city, so much available here.  I remember one shop full of pickles,  nothing else, the shops much more specialist.  It's also huge.  I had a quick look in the Kasbah, different style Arab shops.  On the journey here, one nice country market in new buildings.  Lots of donkeys in an arena, ponies being shod and having their nails chiselled; people coming and going on donkeys, riding with both legs on the left.  Ovens outside the houses, women working bending over.
The Medina was a difficult place for an outsider.  There was nowhere for instance where you could sit and watch what was going on, not for any length of time or in an interesting place.  I remained a spectator, walking through, trying to avoid undesirables or causing offence.  Others too seemed to be doing the same.  Just to walk down the hill attracted a small army of hustlers; to avoid them I had to protect myself and so protected myself from everything else.  Yet the Medina, Old Fes, was the primary attraction, the huge area growing organically from the middle ages, without cars, but rich and modern in many ways, the commercial heart of the country.

Later as I got to know the city a little better I tried to record with a bit more immediacy:
I am in almost the only cafe I know of in the centre, having expensive orange juice in dull surroundings.  But resting enough to see more souks before climbing the hill back up.

Fes Medina;  My picture
The Medina was swarming with tourists this morning, more than I've seen before , but it wasn't as busy as I've seen it before.  I spent a while sitting in the tannery, and got stung for a dirham, then wandered through the residential districts across the river, still not attractive from the outside, but different, quiet, unfrequented, and out into the car area with donkeys strolling past the cars in the parking lot, people selling mint, it felt Morocco.  Men sitting against a wall, selling eggs and ducklings.  An area or souk for second-hand radios and so on, and some dealers pocketing money.  In the central area, there had been an assignment of second-hand clothes arrived - the passion for Western clothes and goods is overriding - and that was in the area of jewellers and fancy clothes.  I saw a new lot of shoes arriving, and leather wallets and that was a time for major excitement.  Some of the better bits of the medina are those long roads under bamboo shading  where they sell mainly food, meat, milk, everyday things.  And the fine souks in the centre, brocade, shoes, cloth, blankets, gold and silver, candles, brightly coloured thread, pottery.  Some strange spices, people hunched up in the street over a piece of cloth with strange smelling things on it. 

Covered Souk in Fes Medina:  My picture
Not much that is very exotic.  It's the country people who wear the strange clothes and they're not around in Fes very much.  Yesterday I saw in the supper restaurant a young girl of 13 or 14, kohled eyes and colourful mirror-work clothes, reds and yellows, an older woman also brightly dressed in red cloth with blue and white patterns, a short-haired man in a roughish djellabah, and a strong man who was doing the ordering, he didn't eat but controlled it all, white turban and dark djellabah.  Dancers or some such trade or performers? 
Square in Fes Medina:  My picture

Saturday, 21 May 2011

May 21st: Chaouen in Morocco

On May 21st 1977 I was in Chaouen in the Rif mountains of Morocco.

Chaouen was a small country town, an easy place to stay in, with a handful of hotels to satisfy the trickle of tourists passing through.  I used it to get used to Morocco at a good pace after the hustlers of Tetouan.  I began to know my way around the bazaars, to be recognised by some people.   There was a square as a kind of town centre, some restaurants and some fairly traditional cafes in upstairs rooms, where Moroccan men could sit around, sipping mint tea and puffing their soupçis of kif.  This evening I sat in the square and recorded:
Chaouen:  My picture
The last little piece of warmth of the day, the sun only lights up the walls of the Kasbah and the minarets of the mosque opposite me.  I can see inside the front door, you go up a flight of stairs or a ramp, then there is a blue and white screen with a chandelier above to keep out the infidels, it's quite an attractive building though the architecture is simple, with an octagonal brick minaret tower, loud-speakers and a Moroccan star hanging at the top.  It is evening stroll time, few country people around now, one lady with a child on her back, in white robes and tight veil, vertical striped skirt beneath.  Old men in fine djellabahs, sitting and drinking mint tea, one man with white turban and pointed beard beneath round face has a hand gesture for everything he says.  Teenage girls in female djellabahs, one appears to be a pregnant bride, with fine brocade, tight veil and heavy kohl.
Earlier in the day I'd been out of town.  As it was a country town there were trails out into the hills.  I wrote in my notebook:
Have taken the trail out beyond the spring, gone over the first pass so that I'm now sitting above the first village large enough for a mosque.  I'm in the open sun as there's little shade until you're in the village.  The air is full of the buzzing of insects, the cicadas, and some crested larks singing.  A few voices from the green of the village.  The village is spread about a green depression, trees and fields, tin roofs over mud walls, some of them painted white.  A Spanish looking building nearer me with red-tiled roof and the stone turreted minaret of the mosque.  A child with some sheep passed.  Way down below the river valley with the road to Ouezzane and layers of rolling Rif way to the south-east.  Behind me the harsher forbidding mountains, grey stone capped with dark green pines, above the wheat fields cut into the stony scrub.
I liked these walks out:  following those hard stony trails, a great feeling of age and continuity in the relationship of town and country.  Country people trudging in on the trails, forcing ponies or donkeys along the steep paths, ploughing their stony fields with oxen or by hand.  Collecting the mint, cutting the wood on the mountain-tops, watching their sheep and goats.  Little oases of green, villages among fig-trees and irrigated fields, olive groves.  I liked the wildlife, the spring flowers, the lizards, the flycatchers in the orchards.  I liked the wall of mountains on one side, with buildings by caves and a huge flock of ravens flying around the ridge.

Market in Chaouen:  My picture

Chaouen - 2008, Picture by Belimbing, CC
Chaouen in 2007:  Picture by Gaby, CC

Friday, 13 May 2011

May 13th: Nairobi

On May 13th 1980 I was in Nairobi.

My last day in Nairobi, my last day on this journey.  I'd stayed previously in the Iqbal, the travellers' stand-by, but I wanted more privacy this time.  I chose the New Kenya Lodge, almost as cheap but with better rooms.  I could hear cars moving through the wet streets outside, there was music playing on many sides, and a lot of mera chewing going on in the lobby.  This was my fourth stint in Nairobi and I was finding it useful rather than inspiring.  I had things to do of course.  I checked out the education ministry to be sure I could arrive and apply for a teaching job; not before the end of the summer they said.  I could eat in decent restaurants, whether posher or not.  I went to the museum.  I went to an American film (Kramer v Kramer which was current) to help me prepare for my return to Europe.  I went to the National  Museum and enjoyed that.  I read the newspapers.  I had coffee in the Thorn Tree.  For my last day I was unusually nervous before my flight remembering the anxieties of passing through Addis on the way down.

As always my favourite bit of Nairobi was around River Road, which felt like an African area but with some amount of prosperity; it had Indian food shops and traders as well, but it didn't feel colonial or like a slum.  The music was good.  

Record Shop in River Road:  My picture taken in 1984

Nairobi Market with Matatu:  My picture taken in 1984

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

May 11th: On The Rio Ichilo in Lowland Bolivia

On May 11th 1976 I was on the Rio Ichilo in Eastern Bolivia.  I had wanted to spend some time on a river boat.  As I had not been to the Amazon in Brazil, I took the opportunity in Bolivia, much further up the river system, on what is ultimately a tributary of the Madeira.  With my friend Olivier I took a bus from Sucre to Cochabamba, and then on to Puerto Villaroel.  We started sleeping on one boat but the engine broke down when we tried to set off, so we switched to the Neptuno.  We still had to wait a few days before leaving while the captain lingered hoping for more water in the river.

The Neptuno pulled a barge which took larger, less perishable cargo and some temporary passengers.  On the deck was the captain's cabin and wheelhouse and a galley, below was the hold where the main passengers slept.  I slept on a mattress on top of sacks of cement with a mosquito net draped from the ceiling.  Doña Lina  and Fernando (El Gordito) were the traders who were the main paying passengers; they carried beer, salt, cement and lots of other commodities, and kept up a friendly rivalry between themselves.  Doña Lina was headed for the town of Santa Ana and played her records at any time of the day or night; she only had three or four and after a couple of days we were all singing along ironically.  Fernando was heading for Trinidad I believe.  These towns and others downriver had no roads to the rest of the country in those days and traders made good profits for what was often two or three week journeys.  The other two passengers were white Bolivian drifters in their twenties.  Upstairs were the captain, the pilot and his wife and daughter, three marineros (sailors), one darker with a limp, two younger, and the cook and her son.  We also carried a canoe for quick trips to shore, for fishing and for bathing or swimming.  At night we would pull up to the bank and usually take refuge from the mosquitoes.  The river was quite narrow at this point and in this dry season the marineros were forever taking soundings before the pilot was happy for us to continue.
On this day I recorded in my journal:    
Plenty of things happening to keep the interest up.  Woke early as marineros were bailing out, but lay in until well after we'd set off.  Stopped around breakfast to survey a tricky stretch ahead.  The 2 borrachos (an alcoholic couple) and their daughter and dog left in the canoe meanwhile.  Stopped at chaco (farm), trying to get bananas, but none there.  Friendly owner, also has house in Trinidad.  Sat a while under thatch, took papaya and peppers.  Turtle spotting on the right hand side, mostly grey or black.  Purple kingfisher.  Immediately after lunch tied up at another chaco but owner away, beautiful flowers, a lovely paradise, they say he has maize and cows as well, everything except women.  Gorged ourselves on papaya.  Some beautiful jungle on right hand side, pink trees some with little red flowers, parrots, big parrots and macaws.  More turtles.  Hot and sunny.  A tejon (kind of coati) in the water, caught him, caged him, he got away, caught again.  Some hawks and vultures around.  Falcon being mobbed at chaco.  Storks and herons and spoonbills.  Little yellow monkeys in the trees.  Stayed the night by a chaco with a big beach and rivulet in front of it.  Flamingo in the dying sunlight.  Fishing again, again no success.
The days continued slowly downriver.  We stopped in at a wood plant to take a load of timber on, and stayed the night when the owner and the captain went on a hunting trip.  The supplies got low and we were more dependent on catching fish.  Piranhas were the most common if not the best;  I quickly got used to swimming or taking a bath with them around.  Cigarettes ran out which made for irritability.  Tea and coffee rarely were offered.  I spent long hours reading or playing dice on top, or watching for wildlife of which there was plenty on the banks or in the trees.  As we joined other tributaries the Rio Ichilo became the Rio Mamore and was a lot wider though not always deeper.  One evening we came to a real village, Cristal Mayo.  We met Gladys, the schoolteacher, and looked for cigarettes; she produced some home-grown tobacco and they were rolled in newspaper for the smokers.  Then we went to a further house where there was a party, rather indigestible chicha, friendly people, sitting and dancing to records.  The next night was our last on the boat and I sat on the bank in the dying light, muggy, fighting off mosquitoes: there was lightning behind the clouds, fireflies were out by the banks, and ducks were scampering on the water.

In the morning we reached Puerto Barreros, with a few houses around the capitaneria.  We took a pickup which was going towards Trinidad; we had to cross a river on a canoe and then found another pickup through open cattle country into Trinidad itself.  We found good food in the market and a flight which was an hour later.  We walked around the plaza and arcaded run-down streets, which were paved with bricks, all full of girls riding Honda 50s, and then we walked on to the airport.  The aircraft was small and they served Coca-Cola and crackers and sweets for the snack.  Below were winding rivers and lakes and swamps, then the foothills, I could see snow peaks and villages and hills of the Yungas beyond. Then we were over snowy cordillera, and I could see across the altiplano.  I caught a glimpse of a distant Lake Titicaca and then as we were coming down to the airport in El Alto, below me was the city pouring over the hill and down into the Valley of the Moon.

Rio Mamore, 2007:  Picture by Gerardo Ontiveros,  CC

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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

May 10th: Damascus

On May 10th 1973, or thereabouts, I was in Damascus.

After crossing the desert we stayed a couple of nights on the campsite outside Damascus.  We enjoyed the sights and wandering around the old city.  I especially liked the Ummayad Mosque, probably the oldest I've seen and in one of the oldest places I've been.  After all the travelling of that year I liked the idea that there were still more wonderful places to visit.  Damascus seemed a very relaxed place and welcoming towards tourists.  The outer suburbs were full of blocks of flats on the edge of the hills and here I felt the colonial remains of the French Mandate most strongly.

On the morning we were planning to leave for Beirut, we were all packed up and ready when we discovered that the border was closed.  Lebanon had remained fairly peaceful and Beirut had the reputation as the playground of the Middle East.  That was changing:  Israel had conducted a raid on PLO targets in April, and I believe this border closure was because the Lebanese army was fighting guerillas and Syria was supporting the guerillas.  We were just too late and Lebanon still has not recovered.

Instead we drove to the Krak des Chevaliers, the Crusaders castle to the north of Lebanon.  We still had to drive through a couple of miles of Lebanese territory but there was no border control on this road, just an endless line of traders selling goods along the roadside.  From the Krak we went on to the coast and then to the splendid city of Aleppo and so on to Turkey and back to Europe, though I wasn't back in the UK until the autumn.

There are good Patrimonium Mundi panoramas of Damascus here, including the Ummayad Mosque.  There are also some of the Krak des Chevaliers, starting here.

Gate in Damascus, 2008:  Picture by Steve Conger,  CC

The Ummayad Mosque, 2007:  Picture by Riyaad Minty,  CC

View Damascus in a larger map

Monday, 9 May 2011

May 9th: Lokichar in Northern Kenya

On May 9th 1980 I was in Lokichar in north-western Kenya.  I had been to Lake Turkana and was trying to get back to Nairobi.

The day before I'd managed to get from Kalakol on Lake Turkana to Lodwar by early afternoon and with no prospect of a ride south that day, checked back into the squalor of the Mombasa Hotel and had lunch.  Then I walked past the Turkwell River and went out for a walk into the scrub desert around the town, realising that this might be my last chance to be on my own in the wild of Africa.  It was very hot and there wasn't much to see, but wild plants were flowering in the wetter areas after the recent rain. 

I wrote up the next two days of travel when I reached Nairobi.
Near The Norwegian Road Camp:  My picture
The day began early, sitting waiting under the tree with the Turkana outside the Mombasa Hotel, and there wasn't a lot of activity.  I was afraid that I might get a truck which only would go into the mountains after dark.  The first truck to enter Lodwar coming from the north was going to Lohori but could take me to Lokichar, and I jumped at the idea, thinking that a Land-Rover lift was more likely out of Lokichar.  The driver was a bit of a smart Alec in check trousers, the truck a new Bedford 4WD, donated by the Free Kenya of Hunger Campaign or some such.  The truck spent an hour and a half going round various spots in Lodwar doing errands, speaking to people, and I was frustrated and full of resentment.  The ride was crowded and uncomfortable with a light awkward load in the middle.  About two kilometres before Lokichar the bolt on the steering arm sheered and we veered sharply off the road and were lucky not to topple over, I can still feel the bruise on my left thigh.  I jumped off and could see the truck at a crazy angle.  We sat around in the hot midday sun a bit, then began to walk to Lokichar which was closer than I had feared.  I made straight for the truck shop enjoying the feeling of walking in the desert, and of being alive.  I had a beer, beans and chapatti in the Lozenges restaurant which had been closed on my way up north.  Then along came John and Jill in a Land-Rover and they took me to Nairobi.  In convoy with two Spaniards once we had caught up with them, they headed for the Norwegian Road Camp (near the beginning of the mountains) where we spent the night, in cold Norwegian surroundings, cooking a meal and having quite a good time.  The next day we continued on to Kapenguria, rather than risk the Baringo side road, probably wisely, and I meekly accepted a free ride to Nairobi,  The road hrough the Marich pass was wet and treacherous but the climb up the mountains was just as exhilarating as I'd remembered and drier than I'd feared.
Jill had been teaching in Southern Sudan and John Ryle had been researching a book in Rumbek.  I was gaining a determination to see if I could get to Southern Sudan as a teacher for September. 

View Kitale in a larger map

Saturday, 7 May 2011

May 7th: Kalakol in Northern Kenya

On May 7th 1980 I was in Kalakol on the shores of Lake Turkana.

Kalokol wasn't much of a place.  I think it had come into existence as a result of the fish processing plant built as a development project.  It was scruffy, it was littered with aid compounds and it had no natural centre.  It did have a hotel, however, it had access to Lake Turkana itself, even if the lake was not exactly attractive, and it did have camped around it Turkana families who had come to find work.

Turkana Huts:  My picture
I found there an Italian traveller and we explored together.  In the morning Rose took us for a tour of the town which became quite interesting, learning a bit about various organisations at work - Fisherman's co-operative, Ministry of Fisheries, building project for cooperation, primary school, technology training, mission and hospital and of course the life of the Turkana.   Then we met a Scotsman who managed or owned a tourist lodge along the shore.  He took us there on his powerboat and sold us extremely cold beer and very decent fish and chips.  Then we were able to have a swim in the lake which was not really possible at Kalakol.  There were good views over the lake, crocodiles, hippos and all the lake birds.  In the afternoon we walked back along the shore amongst the fishermen, through the Turkana encampments admiring the greenness of the water and the flamingoes.  In the evening we walked back out with a town Turkana in the starlight to watch some Turkana dancing which was interesting if not spectacular.  Most of the dancing was up and down and looked easy, but try as we might we could not get it right.  Walking home in the moonlight at 2 in the morning the world looked well.  

Patrimonium Mundi has panoramas of Lake Turkana here, though not of places I visited.

Kalakol:  My picture

Turkana Children:  My picture

View Kitale in a larger map

Friday, 6 May 2011

May 6th: Baghdad

On May 6th 1972, or thereabouts,  I was in Baghdad.

After Teheran we had gone southwest to Iraq; first by a pretty back road to Saveh and on to Hamadan and Kermanshah.  In Baghdad there was a campsite outside the city.  The campsite was green and you could see the thick reeds of the river away to one side.  The city was ochre and felt quite modern if also ramshackle.  The best part was the National Museum, a large airy building from the twenties which showed all the antiquities of Mesopotamia in glass cases with clear labelling in several languages. 

The road on to Damascus was paved and in good condition but it went across the desert.  There was a place to camp by a small hotel on the edge of the desert on the Iraqi side and then there was nothing for about three hundred miles.  We had to carry fuel in our jerry cans because the distance was too great between filling-stations.  The desert was often sandy and mainly flat.  You could see great clouds of dust coming in towards you in spirals and sometimes we had to slow right down or stop and let them pass until we could see the road again.  At one point I saw a small flight of black-winged stilts which had settled by the tarmac in the middle of the sand - perhaps they thought the road was a river.  Eventually we began to see some bushes and then there were some trees and small settlements;  before long we were at the Syrian border post and then in the outskirts of Damascus.

Baghdad 1973:  Picture by Roger McLassus,  CC
National Museum, 2005:  Picture by US Dept of State, Public Demain

View Damascus in a larger map

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

May 4th: Lodwar in Northern Kenya

On May 4th 1980 I was in Lodwar in Northern Kenya.  For my final excursion on this 3 month journey in East Africa, I was making my way to Lake Turkana.  Lodwar was the hub for northwest Kenya, though still a small town.
A few days before I had had breakfast on coffee and croissants at the Thorn Tree in Nairobi; then I changed money and lugged my bag to the Uhuru Highway.  Hitching presented no problems, with the proviso that if the ride that came needed to be paid for you paid for it: that was the African way.  The first ride was from an English teacher of agricultural economics at the University and took me just out of town.  The next ride was longer and took longer to come, from a grey-haired German with scarred hands driving a Land-Rover not too well, going with a Sikh to rescue a broken-down truck in Gilgil.  The final ride to Nakuru was from an English couple with their daughter in a little Daihatsu 4WD.  In Nakuru, one hundred miles from Nairobi,  I was unsure what to do next; there was rain around and I thought about staying.  I had coffee and looked for hotels in the market area, but they were scruffy bars or expensive so I wandered to the west, met an American teacher my age hitching on the way out and he offered to put me up in Elburgon, which turned out OK, nicely spontaneous.  We got a bus through attractive country, very fertile compared to the drier parts of the Rift Valley I'd seen before.  We ate viazi (a potato dish) in a little cafe, and walked to his house through a wooden shanty-town where he said he'd seen a body one day.  He gave me the address of the Education Ministry in Nairobi where he'd got his job and this gave me a second possibility for teaching in Africa.

Next morning I set off quite easily from Elburgon without stopping for food.  Rides were slow at first.  A British settler took me a little way to a place called Tari just past his farm in his ancient Land-Rover.  The countryside was pleasant and heavily forested, hilly.  I began walking and eventually got a matatu to Molo where I waited around in the matatu park for a ride on to "The Junction" outside town.  At the junction I began hitching again after a breakfast on two eggs and a Sprite.  First a Dutchman, working seven years as a technical school advisor, took me to the Kericho turning and then a Land-Cruiser on to Kitale.  I was sitting in the back and so saw the Mau escarpment from the back through intermittent rain, OK but uncomfortable, as the driver went very fast.  At Eldoret we went out into some sort of suburban farm, and later after a market town we went fast on back roads which was pretty but still uncomfortable.  Eventually at Kitale I got some food, mboga (vegetables) with meat and bread and started looking for a hotel.  I was still wandering unimpressed when a young Sikh, doing his A Levels, took me to the Sikh temple which was fine.  I rested and set out rather late for a walk outside of town.  Coming back, I looked for maharagwe (bean stew) with no success and settled for mandazi (the universal African doughnut) and a very early night, being asleep by 8.30.

Pokotland:  My picture
In the morning I found a truck going to Lokichar and it worked out fine.  The early journey was exhilarating and the people in the truck good, like the old Turkana man who got on at Kapenguria.  After that there was the great descent into the Rift Valley through pines and tropical trees, really beautiful, and past Pokot villages.  Lunch at Ortum was only chapattis and then we carried on along the Turkwell River where I was told people panned for gold.  Eventually we came out of the hills into the scrub desert with fewer and fewer trees, the people now Turkana rather than Pokot.  In the scrub were gerenuk gazelle and flights of Namaqua doves.  The long wait in Lokichar was OK, friendly and interesting Turkana walking through.   Finally there was another truck under the stars to Lodwar with a load of steel bars and a drinking crew. 

At the cross-roads was the Hotel Mombasa, a pure bit of modern Africa, a few rooms behind the bar, cramped, hot, smelly, buggy, noisy and the bar girls had dubious morals.  I spent much of the next day outside trying to get a lift to the lake.  In a quiet period I wrote in my notebook:
It's hardly a tidy sort of town, and not the wild west I've heard described.  But it does have a character of its own.  Sandy roads strewn with pebbles and bottle-tops, the edges marked out with larger stones. The houses and shops are spread out, concrete blocks and tin.  One street has a sort of boulevard laid out with new trees in the middle and  larger ones further down.

Lodwar:  My picture
But it's the people that make it - The Turkana, sitting round in little groups, eternally waiting, often in little circles, walking round and looking into shops, talking.  The men with their stool and stick and sheet draped over one shoulder.  The women with heaps of beaded collars, maybe a key chain suspended, sometimes a sheet or blanket draped across the chest, sometimes a piece of cloth, bangles especially on the upper arm.  But there's no set pattern and many wear partial western dress.  Some still look strange to me, women with the head shaved except for a strip which is braided, men with a circular haircut, some young ones, maybe moran, braid it too.  Some men with lower lip plugs, small circular ones in metal or wood.  Some women wear lots of earrings or a large shell-type thing in the necklace.  They show only a little interest in me, mainly when I have the camera out.  Other people around are often Somalis, few Africans from the south, occasional mzungu.  Women with skirts made of skin, lip plugs, sticks, cross pendants.  It's free-form decoration.  People look different from the Maasai, darker, poorer, not so proud.  The Turkana, whether male or female, are champion spitters.  Some old men have become beggars, asking "paise", or trying to sell circular bangle knives or other artefacts.

Outside Lodwar:  My picture

Near Kapenguria:  My picture

View Kitale in a larger map