Football at the Marsabit Lodge

A lodge employee and our armed askari playing checkers with beer caps. Photo by David Lansing.

Lake Paradise is actually an extinct volcanic crater known as a gof (the named given to them by the local Borana people) and it’s not the only gof on Mount Marsabit. In looking at my map of the area I count at least a dozen others. One, called Gof Sokorta Diko, is about a 45-minute drive away on the windy road that goes through the forest. The thing that’s interesting about this gof is that there’s a lodge there. Or so we think.

When I was first researching this story and trying to figure out where we were going to stay, I came across this lodge which was variously described as either “refurbished” or “grungy.” Some sites even suggested that the lodge was now closed. So on Saturday we decided to go on an outing to the lodge to see what was there.

The short answer is, not much. In fact, when we first pulled up to the lodge, which is just a simple rectangular structure with a corrugated tin roof, we thought it was closed. But the front door wasn’t locked so we walked in and started yelling “Hello!” which must have scared to death the two caretakers who were sitting on the veranda outside playing a game of checkers on a home-made board using beer bottle caps for pieces.

There was a little bar in the lobby of the lodge and a seating area around a low table covered with a yellow check tablecloth atop which were four or five magazines that were at least three or four years old. Most of the other furniture in the lobby was covered with green sheets. We asked the caretaker if he had beer and he said he had Tusker lager or Tusker premium lager (which accounted for the two different types of beer caps being used in the checkers game).

We ordered a couple bottles of each and went and sat on the veranda that overlooks a meadow that, like Paradise, used to be a lake. We knew that because there were old B&W photos in the bar of the lake with water going almost all the way up to the lodge. Still, it was a pleasant setting. When the caretaker brought our beers, they were warm. We asked him if he had any cold ones and he said he didn’t. “No electricity.” He told us that the lodge had a generator and when they had guests, they turned the generator on, but right now they had no guests.

“Have you had guests recently?” I asked him.

“Oh, yes sir.”

“This week?”

“No, sir.”

“Last week?”

“No, sir.” He said he couldn’t remember exactly when they last had guests but he was pretty sure it was sometime this year. Or maybe last year.

Hardy trying his best to annoy me. Photo by Chris Fletcher.

There was a small TV on a table in the bar and Hardy asked him if it worked. The caretaker said they could get one or two channels—when the generator was on. Since it was Saturday, Hardy joked that perhaps we should pay to have the generator fired up and see if we could catch a football game. He was only joking, I think, but it irritated me and I told him that we had not come all the way to Lake Paradise so that we could watch a Saturday afternoon football game at the Marsabit Lodge.

This was a mistake on my part. Whenever I get indignant, Hardy gets amused. So he started to make a big deal out of it. He talked to Fletcher and Pedro and asked them if they were willing to chip in on the cost of the fuel for the generator so they could get the TV fired up. I said we needed to get going. Hardy said that was fine. They’d stay and watch a game and walk back to camp. Of course there was no way they were going to walk back to camp. It had taken us almost an hour to drive here through the forest and it was already late in the afternoon and there was no way Calvin would ever let them walk back to Lake Paradise at twilight which is when all the big game starts moving towards the water. I knew that and Hardy knew I knew it, but I was annoyed none-the-less, which gave him great satisfaction.

Eventually we paid our bar bill and got back into the Land Cruiser and headed back through the forest to Lake Paradise, but even then Hardy wouldn’t let it go. He was having too much fun. Maybe when we get back to camp, Hardy said, we could drop Lansing off and then go back to the lodge and watch a game. What do you think Calvin?

At this point, even Calvin could see how annoyed I was so he played along and said, Sure, great idea.

“Goddamnit,” I said angrily, “nobody is going to watch football at Lake Paradise. Nobody.”

And that was the end of it. Except for the barely suppressed chortling in the back seat from Hardy and Fletcher and Pedro.