Hiking… is… Exhilarating! The end. 🙂
No, really? Yup! No matter which direction you decide to head out, it’s an Excursion… or if in a large group, an Expedition… an Exciting adventure of discovery (of the location, of flora, of fauna… even of oneself and ones hike-mates, too!). It’s undoubtedly going to involve ups and downs, at least if you want to Exert yourself, just a little… or better still, to your limit!
It gives you a chance to Explore new frontiers, places never before seen, or maybe seen all the time but not quite like this. It’s a way of really getting away from it all, because whether it’s a summit, hill top or destination, your only focus is to get there, soon… now maybe, if your body could only carry you faster! And yes of course, it can also be Exhausting! Most destinations look nearer than they are, especially if you are looking upward with Expectation. And the worst part, what goes up, must come down; indeed what goes out, must invariably come back home. 😉
This is a wee bit summary of my past 3 hike experiences done in preparation for the big one: Mt Kenya. Thanks to my two person support group, we’ve enjoyed a triple Delight-in-Discovery of places we (thought we) knew, and one we didn’t. All three are in Kenya and close to Nairobi, each unique in their own challenging, yet Exciting way.
Mt. Longonot, County of Nakuru
This is a popular hike and one that’s often done in primary or high school as an outing, mostly because it’s nearby many locations, and there’s a lot to learn about its volcanic features. We, the 3 musketeers arrived around 9 am and found it already crowded. We chose to pay for the company of a professional guide and it was a worthwhile investment. It’s a tough, really steep but relatively short hike up, and even with our slow stop-to-chat-and-marvel-at-the-unfolding-view pace, we got to the crater rim within 3 hours. We stopped briefly to take our signature energy inspiring jump-for-joy photo and proceeded to circulate the rim (first time for all 3 of us), so that we could get to Kilele Ngamia, the highest point of the mountain. After a brief snack break we moved on, and about 2 hours later were on the decent, and were treated to a rare sighting of giraffes & zebras grazing a bit of a distance away. It’s a busy area with lots of groups, clubs & youthful ones moving upward, mostly reaching the rim and descending thereafter. We were surprised that some of the young people looked thoroughly harassed and exhausted with the additional hike around the rim, and kept asking if the ‘end was near’! Somewhere near the descent, we heard the sounds of what might have been a buffalo and everyone stopped with dread for a moment, and then we moved on. One of the girls, never to miss a light moment started taunting another not-so-slim boy shouting, ‘there are no buffaloes around here… only this one’! (Poor boy was blushing red… thanks to the hiking to cover up the reason! Lol…. Ah, Kids??!)
The weather was cold and misty most of the time which made for perfect hiking, but not so great for enjoying a clear view. We were back at base by 5 pm and had thoroughly enjoyed our first go at a prep hike. We got home exhausted and had to admit, next day was a struggle to sit, get up or walk! Pains & strains in places we never thought possible, like in the butt, underfoot, knees… everywhere!
Photos can be seen here: www.facebook.com/CountyExplorer/Longonot
Mt. Kilimambogo, County of Machakos (+ 14 Falls, County of Kiambu)
This is less frequented but familiar to many. It sits quietly beside the Thika-Garissa highway, closer to Thika and is located within Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park. With our excitement from the last hike, and this being a new location to us, we tried to get there as early as possible and ended being the first to arrive! As such, there was no option but to pay for an armed KWS Ranger to go with us, in case some of the many buffaloes inhabiting the mountain (as the Kikuyu name suggests) may be lingering along the way. This time round it was a looooong hike, steadily going up, and while the slope is seemingly gentle from a far, this was much more challenging than Longonot. We trudged up for what seemed like an hour or so, then came to a sign that indicated 4.6km ahead – wow! Though our guide was quite entertaining, regaling us with horrifying stories about the government training for rangers and other armed officers, it was not lost on her how much we had to exert ourselves to keep up. We made it to summit in about 3 hours and celebrated with the usual snacks, then (yippee!) photos. On our decent it was interesting to meet with yet another group of young folks struggling to make it up, and keeping on asking how far the summit was. We opted to use the Kamba standard response to such questions – ‘no vaa’ (it’s just here)! Even for those nearer the start, we couldn’t be honest, in any case it’s better to encourage people to keep going, and not give up!
This time round we were out by 3 pm and opted to treat ourselves to some touring nearby. What a lovely bonus to venture into the Fourteen Falls which we discovered were in full flow (there was a time they were just 2-3 during the drought some years back). The entrance is manned by Kiambu County officials dressed up like parking attendants who are very friendly as they collect the 100/- fee. Further inside you’ll be greeted by even friendlier youths operating as guides. Be forewarned, they do not provide free or cheap services, please negotiate BEFORE you allow them to accompany you to the water’s edge. To be honest you don’t need assistance unless you want to take a boat ride across, but it’s a project to skive them – they are a determined lot! Despite this, it was an awesome finish to our excursion of the day and we got home with less aches, and more exhilaration in us than before.
More photos here: www.facebook.com/CountyExplorer/Kilimambogo
Kijabe Hill, County of Kiambu / Nyandarua / Nakuru
This was recommended by our Longonot guide (now a good contact) and it proved to be the toughest, yet the most exciting to climb so far. Kijabe hill is a range that sits at a location of convergence of 3 County borders – Kiambu, Nyandarua and Nakuru. The easiest access by foot is from the Mai Mahiu road which is squarely in Nakuru. However, there are routes accessible to 4WDs on both the Nyandarua and Kiambu sides. It’s a hill you see all the time, but never notice. When you are next driving from Mai Mahiu towards Nakuru, the hill on the right all the way past Longonot is Kijabe Hill.
After parking on the road side, we set off from the main road and slowly made our way up towards a summit we couldn’t make out because of the early morning mist. Though long, and the path not quite defined, our expert guide led us through private land, then the Kenya Forest Service managed areas, crossing the ancient built (and still in use) railway tracks, higher and higher. The best thing happening was that the mist was gradually clearing enough for us to see Mt Longonot directly opposite from us, and what a sight to behold! And then, without warning… first one, then another… paragliders doing their thing in tandem, off the top of the hill – WOOOW!! Beautiful! We had to stop and gape in envy as they expertly navigated across the skies, catching the wind to glide up and down while moving in its direction towards their landing destination. We were not even aware this was something done right here…. sooo within reach! What a treat, I just kept thinking, ‘I wanna do that’! When we got to the top, while marvelling at our perfect front row seats for glaring at the now very clear Longonot Crater, guess what? Another pair of paragliders, this time each individually took off from the lower peak of the hill – oooh maaan, we were just sooo green with envy! We eventually had to drag ourselves off the amazing peak, offering panoramic 360 degree view of the surroundings, as far as Kijabe, to Njabini to Longonot town. With reluctance we cleared our trash and set off on our descent, totally bowled over by the views it took us much longer than it should have to get to the bottom. It was a wonderful day out, the sights and sounds, the exertion, the discoveries, made it the most Excellently, Exciting, Excursion yet!
More photos here: www.facebook.com/CountyExplorer/KijabeHill
Up ahead: Last Prep is Ngong Hills, County of Kajiado
So here we go next Saturday, feel free to join us! Another exhilarating adventure ahead… At this rate I suspect am becoming a hiking addict! Escape!! 🙂