An oasis in the Turkana desert
Posted Thursday, May 17 2012 at 18:28
Wolfgang Deschler, the ageing owner of Oasis Lodge in Loyiangalani in Turkana doesn’t suffer fools.
In fact – according to the locals – he is known for his disinterest in niceties. And so it doesn’t come as a surprise when I ask him what he would like the government to do for Northern Kenya to make it more attractive and he quips, “I don’t need much from the government, we have managed pretty well so far.”
“Nothing at all?” I push already liking his unapologetic mannerism. “Maybe they should fix the roads leading here?”
“That’s the one thing they shouldn’t do,” he insists stubbing off his cigarette in the ashtray, “or else we will have those Nairobi types driving down here in their Mercedes Benzes and completely changing the meaning of this region.”
In short, he wants Northern Kenya to remain an adventure destination. He wants it to remain ragged and challenging.
Coming to this place shouldn’t be like driving to the Mombasa; it should be a journey where one does some soul search before embarking on.
Wolfgang took over the 20-roomed Oasis Lodge in 1980 and says he has managed to keep it largely unchanged.
“This lodge reflects the personality of this region, it’s comfortable if you don’t have too much expectation,” he says as we sit at his patio with a brilliant view of Lake Turkana. And the lake has changed a great deal, he mentions.
“Thirty years ago, I would go fishing and I would be scared of my boat sinking because of the amount of fish I caught, but not any more due to overfishing. It’s a good thing the government has stopped commercial fishing here.” Wolfgang reflects.
The lake, with its 48 species of fish, is Kenya’s largest after Lake Victoria.
Another good thing Wolfgang is glad for is the fact that oil wasn’t discovered anywhere near where Oasis lodge is – the only decent accommodation in Loyiangalani.
“Oil brings with it madness, look at Sudan and Nigeria and Iraq. I’m glad they discovered it on the western side of Lake Turkana.” Loiyangalani, which sits on the southeastern coast of the lake, means a “place of many trees” in the native Samburu language.
The nomads and other travellers that followed these trade routes saw the trees as a sign of water, an oasis of sorts.
Ten minutes from the lodge – and on the shores of the lake - is the “Desert Museum” one of the many vital landmarks of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) in the region.
The lakeshore was the site of extremely vital discoveries of hominid fossils by Kenyan paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey beginning in 1967.