July 18, 1999
Today we decided that a trip to Magadi was in order; every so often it is nice to get out of camp and take an afternoon trip. Magadi is a town roughly 45 km to the south and west of our site. It is located on the shores of Lake Magadi, a "soda lake," or lake that is highly alkaline (the opposite of acidic). People have long taken advantage of this natural resource, and there is a factory in Magadi that produces soda ash (Na2CO3). Soda, as it is generally called, is used as an ingredient in many things, such as the manufacture of glass, soap and other cleansers, and also is used by chemical industries including pharmaceuticals. Other products of the factory include sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and ordinary table salt.
Much of the lake's extent is dry during the hot season; these periods of intense evaporation contribute to the alkalinity of the lake. In fact, during the the early 1980's Magadi was ranked the hottest permanently inhabited place on Earth (based on mean annual temperature). These days, there are several other localities that are hotter, but this doesn't change the fact that Magadi is still a very hot place.
We drove to a spot on an escarpment just above town, overlooking the lake. From there, we were able to see a large flock of flamingos extending for several hundred meters along the edge of the lake. We watched the sun set over the western edge of the East African Rift Valley, and set off for home. A nice day off to cap a productive week.