Wednesday, August 5

LODWAR Bitter Sweet Town

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There’s nothing quite as
pleasant as discovering for
yourself, that negative reports
do not necessarily reflect the
truth… as EDWIN ONDWEKI found

That’s what I found out when I had occasion to visit Lodwar – which has long been associated with hunger
and other depressing conditions affecting the vast but resourcedeprived semi-arid area. But the town is also renowned because of the Leakey family research, which still draws interest from across the world – particularly the secrets of Lake Turkana as the Cradle of Mankind.

Today, many researchers flock to the area. All in all, Turkana is beautiful terrain with rolling plains, valleys and hills, and Lake Turkana is an outstanding site to visit. An aerial view of Lodwar reveals a magnificent, unforgettable metropolis and a level of greenery that would ordinarily not be appreciated from the ground. It is no wonder, then, that the colonialist administrators of the Northern Frontier Districts of the Kenyan colony settled at this particular spot to establish an administrative centre.

The name Lodwar means “a bitter thing” – originating from the fruit of the Edung tree, which was consumed by
the locals after a cooking process that involved boiling and discarding water several times before it was consumed. Nonetheless, visitors still found the fruit bitter – thus the reference “lodwar”, the place of the bitter fruit. Lodwar town is located at the intersection of the great Kalawase laga (seasonal river) and the Turkwel river. It is sheltered to the north and


“Turkana is beautiful
terrain with rolling
plains, valleys and
hills, and Lake
Turkana is an
outstanding site to

west by a series of beautifully formed rock hills, and to the south by the Kenamkemer settlement across the
Turkwel and the plains beyond. The Turkana people have a rich culture and are welcoming, although cultural tourism hasn’t been promoted well in this area. According to Rono, a taxi operator in Lodwar, the Museums of Kenya need to develop an elaborate museum in town to complement and add more meaning to the jail-house of the late President Kenyatta, which stands alone. He notes that Turkana boasts invaluable artefacts that can be preserved and exhibited at the museum for a fee.

However, as I recently discovered, Lodwar is full of other attractions. Surprisingly, when you visit a leisure or entertainment spot you discover that it is no different from any other in our major towns. Here I share a few of the spots to look out for:

Honey Pot: In Lodwar, one of the most popular centres for lunch is the Honey Pot, which is managed by
Jackline Khaemba. She says that their popularity is due to the way they have effectively responded to customer
needs for quick and efficient service by providing ready meals.

They also offer plenty of sitting space in their courtyard area behind the bar, where the trees provide shade
that cools the area in a much nicer way than ordinary roofing. According to Jackline’s, her lunchtime clientele – other than the residents and workers in town – is made up of visitors that come to Lodwar for short term visits,

Lodwar Lodge has both hotel and lodging facilities. It has a huge diningcum- conference hall and a huge
space that is partially covered and is utilised as a bar. They have large TV screens that attract many customers.

Turkwel lodge is probably the oldest establishment in Lodwar. It has bar, restaurant and lodging facilities and is located opposite Lodwar Lodge. It has self-contained round huts and a series of single-room accommodation with shared facilities for those on economy budgets.

7UP nightclub is the only fully fledged nightclub in Lodwar and operates throughout the week. It is located
right at the centre of town. Green Leaf Motel generally offers a live band, which recently took a break. It has restaurant and lodging facilities, though it is most renowned for its music and bar facility.

The bar ambience is probably one of the best in town, where the beautiful gardens and mature trees form a nice canopy. Here you can enjoy privacy as well as the band, and all-night entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays.

“When you visit a leisure or entertainment spot
you discover that it is no different from any other in our major

Young Star Resort is a fairly new entertainment spot that was opened in October 2009. It achieves the blend
of modern discotheque with auxiliary facilities very well, and would hold its own in any modern town. Unlike
other facilities in Lodwar, Young Star is designed in a manner that concentrates noise to the dance floor,
leaving the neighbourhood generally quiet and at the same time allowing for natural ventilation in the discotheque area. The dance floor is sunk about 1.5 metres into the ground, earning it the adoptive name of “Young Star Basement”.

St Teresa Catholic Guesthouse is owned by the Catholic Diocese of Lodwar, and offers conference facilities for
groups that sometimes travel from as far away as Nairobi. It has 30 lodging rooms in total, some self-contained
and others with shared sanitary facilities. Located about 2km out of town on the banks of the Turkwel River, the facility is almost completely camouflaged by a canopy of greenery from the many Neem trees grown in the compound. The church’s efforts at greening the place has created a sub-climate that makes the premises
much cooler than the general neighbourhood. The footpaths and walkways within the compound are impeccably clean and canopied by the extended branches of the Neem trees.

There is a farm in the rear where agriculture is practiced and goats are kept for meat. Whenever there is no conference, lodging accommodation is available to the general public. They don’t run a bar, so whoever wants a tipple has to content themselves with the nearest bar, about 1km away.


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