The Great Run, an event run by car enthusiasts who visit a children’s home somewhere in the country, but always by using the longest route there. Why do you ask? Why not? is our standard reply.
The Great Run 18 was not going to be any different. This was going to be one of the longest Great Runs done predominantly on tarmac so open to as many saloon cars as possible. The route this time around was to be Nairobi- Nakuru – Marigat – Kabarnet – Iten – Eldoret-Kitale- Kapenguria to Lodwar and back. An odd 700kms one way round trip of close to 1500kms all in a locally assembled Proton Saga, the newly introduced saloon car by Simba Corporation. 1500kms to Northern Kenya and to the shores of one of Kenya’s largest freshwater lakes, what’s not to love.
Additionally, the Great Run is a charity event where we decide to take the longest route across Kenya to a children’s home – because that’s the fun thing to do – We get to spend time with the children, chat and play with them. The team assesses the home’s needs prior to our visit and tries to raise the necessary support through the ‘Jaza Lorry’ Campaign and follow up with the home to see how they are doing over the years. So far 17 different homes have been recipients of donations and gifts from the Great Run community which does 2 different runs every year.
Our journey started from the Waterfront mall where we had our briefing before driving out of Nairobi via the Southern bypass then up to Mutarakwa to avoid the highway that is currently being expanded. We then used the highway from Limuru to Flyover which we took to Njabini, Engineer, Ol Kalou and Nakuru through the Lanet route.
First stopover Westside Mall in Nakuru for refreshments and to stretch as we took up the next stretch. We used the Kabarak, Mogotio, Marigat road that was just a straight line of asphalt meaning we could really let the Proton Saga show us what it’s made of.
The Proton did surprise us with its burst of power and stability on the road, keeping up with larger engine rivals on the great run. Just before Marigat we turned to climb up the hills towards Kabarnet and on these steep climbs the 1300cc engine was holding its own, with adequate power to power us up the winding road to the very top.
The view from Kabarnet across the Kerio Valley and to the other side of the Rift Valley, where Iten nestles on the edge is a view to behold. The beauty is indescribable, but we had to make a move to descend into the valley through one of the winding roads that you find in Kenya that gives you a very good view but tests your response times and the brakes on your car. Up ahead was one of the ascents of a lifetime, possibly 30kms of continuous climbing up the escarpment to Iten.
The ascent to Iten is largely done in single file with the car continuously downshifting for more power but keeping the power output well within the range to tackle anything we threw at it. As we crested the escarpment with the sun almost setting, we had a last look at Kerio Valley as we headed into Eldoret Town. We stopped in Eldoret to refuel both car and body and set on for the last 50kms to Kitale, our first stop on this leg of the Great Run 18.
Woke up in the Kitale with another possibly 250kms to go to Lodwar with a stop in Kapenguria at the Sunflower Children’s Home. We drove out of Kitale after breakfast and our convoy of around 40 cars plus a Fuso FI truck made our way to Kapenguria. The 50kms was a breeze and we did bring traffic to a standstill in Kapenguria as they were in awe of 40 odd cars all with number stickers rolling into town.
The Sunflower Children’s home were also amazed as they were expecting at most a car or 5 cars not 40. The welcome was amazing as we explained what we do and they introduced the home, presented some songs and dances and we had a good fellowship together.
We danced and sang together then proceeded to offload the truck that had carried all our donations to the children’s home. After a round of photos, it was time to take the next leg of our journey, from Kapenguria to Lodwar, a place very few of us had been before.
17kms of downhill stretches meant we needed to use a combination of our brakes and engine braking to get the most out of the car but also preserve our brake pads. The scenery here was majestic with the hills giving way to the endless plains and lange’s which are like inverted bumps.
The Proton Saloon was at home in this environment making up speed in the straight sections but also negotiating the lange’s with the grace and poise of a car in its environment. Lange’s are what we would call inverted bumps where the road gets built into the seasonal rivers that dot the journey all the way to Lodwar.
The team from Turkana County was very excited to welcome us at Kainuk, the town centre marking the entry into Turkana County. At Kainuk the shopping centre it was another 167kms to go, 37kms which were untarmacked as roadworks are currently ongoing.
We were flagged off and we drove into county number 23 and officially the farthest the proton Saga had been. The tarmac roads on this side are well-graded and we were impressed by the infrastructure connecting us to the northern part of the country.
The weather is hot and dry, and keeping hydrated with water was a must. It also gave us a chance to test the Proton’s Aircon system making sure it kept us cool. Our fuel consumption was averaging around 15km/h and the car was handling the different driving conditions pretty well.
The diversion meant we had to test our suspension quite a bit, but the ride was solid and quite comfortable. Also, the Proton comes with a very spacious boot that fitted all our suitcases and bags plus any other produce we bought on the road like the watermelons from Kapenguria.
Sunday morning in Lodwar and after breakfast we met up to make the trip up to Eliye Springs which was 63kms north of Lodwar. This would be done mostly off-road, and we set off to the lake side, Eliyee Springs on the shores of Lake Turkana. After a fuel stop and tire pressure check we were on our way to the lake.
The first 20km were okay but as we got closer and closer to the lake, we began driving on more sandy ground that needed more power especially for the saloon cars to maintain traction and reduce the incidences of getting beached.
The Proton Saga performed very well, and we got to Eliye Springs in around an hour, our first sighting of the turquoise blue clear waters of Lake Turkana. 753 kms after we started, we were lakeside in a 5-seater 1300cc powered Proton Saga saloon can that was assembled in Mombasa near the Indian ocean.
The rest of the afternoon was spent swimming in the fresh waters of Lake Turkana and basking in the amazing lake views it offered. As evening approached, we drove back to Lodwar and watched the sunset as we reminisced on a wonderfully spent day by the lake.
We left Lodwar at 5 am to embark on the journey back to Nairobi, 700 odd kms away. I guess we can safely say the Proton Saga had completed its first coast to coast trip across Kenya and what a way to get it done. Many thanks to Great Run 18 and Simba Corp for this trip and for giving us the Proton Saga to go up north.
So, all in all, having reviewed the Proton Saga before this was a good opportunity to see how it would work on a long-distance driving trip and it performed very well.
Current price in the market – around 10,000 USD which would be around 1million to 1.1 million shillings. To get more information on the Proton Saga you can check out the website.
Paul Karingithi is a Marketing Communications Guru living in Nairobi. He is a husband, father, golfer, traveller and occasionally writes about cars. Need to talk more on motoring, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.