750km (465 miles) N of Nairobi

Remote, untamed, untamable -- the heat-drenched deserts that stretch north toward the Ethiopian border are rough and inhospitable. The roads north of dusty Maralal and Archer's Post -- considered by most to be Kenya's final frontiers -- represent instability, danger, and unpredictable trouble. Whether it's the shifta bandits; the harsh, sudden climate; or the savage pitted roads, this is a part of the world not to be taken lightly. Nor is it necessarily the Kenya of postcards and tourist brochures. Despite its patches of magnificence -- well-watered oases, densely vegetated wildlife preserves, and the immense green-tinged shock of water that is Lake Turkana -- Kenyans themselves remain immensely wary of this far-flung zone. Although the goal is often to reach Turkana, the world's largest desert lake -- splendidly isolated and surrounded by volcanic hills, lava flows, fierce winds, and a formidable mix of hardy tribespeople -- there's plenty of interest along the way, particularly for anyone searching for an alternative look at paradise. Here, in the deserts, topographical contrasts are all the more striking, and images of human survival will burn deeply into your memory. The going can be extremely tough, but there's adventure to be had along the way; which is why the north is a popular overland safari circuit favored by rough 'n' ready backpackers.