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Friday, February 1st, 2002

Kalacha, Chalbi Desert, Kenya

Karina hitch-hiking in the desert

From Marsabit we drove to Kalacha, a small village on the edge of the Chalbi Desert. Our journey through the dessert was impressive. Such a surreal environment. Driving towards Kalacha we were in a vast sandy desert with nothing in sight in any direction…I can definitely see how mirages are seen when out there and thirsty! Suddenly we saw a random guy just walking in the opposite direction we were going, we thought it was really strange that he was wandering in the middle of nowhere and in such high temperatures, we thought for sure he was going to die! We then saw 2 more a ways down with a donkey. We started to look around for some sort of civilization but saw nothing… just flat desert sand. Further along the drive we finally came across a small town. How they are surviving there and why they are living there in the first place is a mystery! We were all very amazed by the way people are thriving in such a harsh environment. Further away we came upon a slightly bigger town, Kalacha, our home for two days. The Gabrra people live here and basically live here all their lives. Our camp was in a natural oasis in the desert so at least there was a little bit of shade to escape from the heat.

 

After a scorching and exhausting 12 hour ride on a “road” (if you can call it that) in trucks that were not carrying enough water, through the Mars-like Chalbi desert, we arrived. It was dark. There were scorpions as big as our hands. And it was STILL hot! In the midst of the mass confusion that is our group, we all managed to pitch our tents and get water. Some people discovered a swimming pool, while other bought cokes from our waterman extaordinaire, Benson. After dinner most of us settled down to sleep. Some of us, however, stood in line to have a long awaited flashlight lit shower, or better yet, jump back in the pool. The first time I jumped in must have been the best feeling ever!!! It was so refreshing!!!

 

Some of us managed to get up at night, when it was a few degrees cooler to attempt school work. The natural history class went stargazing. Once the generators (and therefore lights) are out, the sky in Kenya is absolutely fantastic!

 

The next morning, we woke up covered in a fine layer of red dust. The five trees in this oasis do not hold down the ground that well. Since it was too hot to stay in the tents past 7am, we all got up for breakfast, classes and pool time. During the day I checked my travel thermometer that was sitting in the shade in our tent. Keep in mind that we didn't have the fly on our tent. The thermometer read 50 degrees Celsius! That's as high as it goes so there’s a good chance it was really hotter than that!!! It was nuts!!!

 

The locals here are mainly Muslim so we had to ensure we dressed appropriately when leaving camp, i.e. skirts and shirts covering our shoulders. One morning two girls decided to jog in their sports bras just outside the camp and a man from the village who was passing by saw them and literally tripped over his own feet and fell on his face!!! I thought that was really funny! Just picturing a guy who's never seen anyone dress like that stumble upon 2 girls and being so shocked/surprised that he actually fell! Hehehe :) awwwww

 

Going into town I met a couple kids. One had just been accepted into Secondary school starting in the next couple days but he didn’t have enough money to go so was hoping to get some money out of me and the others I was with. I felt so bad for him, but didn't have the $400 it would cost him to go to school for a year. All the kids you meet in Africa are really into school and education and are interested in everything, it’s great! The only problem is that they can't afford it. I had kids during the first week in Nanyuki look at and read some of my notes from class… I let the boys I was talking to try my sunglasses on, they were fascinated! They had them on and were looking around so impressed that it made the sun less bright! Made me want to hand them over, but still need them for the rest of the trip. I also had a spray bottle filled with water to cool off and asked them if they wanted me to spray them. They were a little hesitant at first but when I showed them it was safe they eagerly wanted some and were amazed at the cooling effect as they rubbed the water over their arms. Very cool to see all their reactions!!

 

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