Exploring the western shore of Lake Turkana

12/09/2014

Our trip to Nairobi was delayed by a sudden rainstorm, a rare event for this part of the world. We lost some time waiting it out – our four-seater Cessna plane wasn’t safe to fly in this weather – but the silver lining was that we met TBI director Lawrence Martin and a few colleagues of his who came to our camp by a 10-seater caravan plane, which brought food and other supplies to the camp.

Over dinner, we showed our scans to the archaeologists, and it was a pleasure to see their reactions. One of them was like, “Wow, so I won’t have to travel between camps and countries anymore! I can just make a scan and upload it to my computer. That saves so much time! It’s amazing, you can see every crack!”

After dinner we took the 10-seater plane to the other, western shore of Lake Turkana and landed at Turkwel, where TBI has another facility.

Crossing Lake Turkana.

Once the plane crossed the lake, we noticed a striking difference between the floras of the two shores: there were more trees and fewer thorny bushes in this part of the desert. Local houses looked way better from the air than those in Illeret, which are mostly made of discarded materials. Here they were woven from branches and twigs and surrounded by neat fences.

A house in Turkwel.

When we were landing, Francisco saw a mirage in the desert – he was sure he could see a big lake in the distance. (It took a little while to convince him he was wrong…)

After we landed, we took two cars that were waiting for us. The people I saw in the village while gazing through the window during the ride looked much better off than the locals in Illeret.

Lawrence explained that there is more vegetation to graze cattle here, and that the proximity of a river and the lake makes water more easily available to locals. They’ve even established some trade ties with Nairobi selling charcoal.

The Turkwel camp is bigger and better-equipped than that in Illeret, and the view from the dining room of the river is absolutely fantastic, but this area has far fewer fossils. Nevertheless, TBI plans to invite students and archaeologists from across the world to this camp.

TBI’s camp in Turkwel.

The meticulous work of cleaning fossil bones from rock can sometimes take many months.

Early next morning, we flew out to Nairobi, and again had to change our plans because of the weather – due to the heavy rain we had to land at Nairobi’s international airport, not at the privately owned one we had planned to use. Several hours later, I set off for Moscow from there, while Francisco flew back to Lima…

I’ll miss you, mosquito net.

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