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For most Kenyans, mention of LODWAR conjures up remote and outlandish images of the badlands, an aberrant place where anything could befall you. And the Turkana District capital is, to put it mildly, a wild town – unformed and incongruous in this searing wilderness. During the 1980s it became Kenya's desert boom town, the lake's fishing, the possibility of oil discoveries and the new road from Kitale all encouraging inward migration. While Turkana people have always predominated, Luo and Luhya also arrived in search of opportunities. With the exhaustion of farming country in the south, Lodwar and the area around it became increasingly attractive to pioneers and cowboys of all sorts. But this expansion has now fizzled out and Lodwar has returned to being a sleepy frontier town. Newspapers arrive with the first matatu each afternoon, hours after the rest of the country have received theirs, and men sit reading them, discussing the daily stories, trying to reduce the isolation felt here.
Apart from just hanging around and taking in the scene, there's not a lot to do in Lodwar. If you have the time and some spare energy, you can hike up one of the hills behind the town (the guides from Nawoitorong Guesthouse are best). Lodwar's canopy of acacias makes it surprisingly invisible below, but the view stretches for miles. For handicrafts, you'll find good woven baskets on sale at the Nawoitorong Guesthouse. If you plan any walking, you might want to pick up a pair of 5000-mile shoes (flip-flops made from old truck tyres), which are comfortable and virtually unbreakable, and can be found in the streets behind New Salama Hotel.