KENYA // NAIROBI – SALAMA – NAIVASHA – LEWA CONSERVANCY – MOUNT KENYA – NAKURU – MOMBASSA
June 10, 2009
The in-flight movie is "Taken" ... WHY??!
June 22, 2009
I spent all day trying not to die in Hell’s Gate National Park. After taking a matatu from the campgrounds to the gate, I met a very helpful woman at entrance who gave me instructions on what to see, suggesting that I hike the gorge before cycling the Buffalo Circuit (after she told me I needed a Kenyan husband; thanks for the suggestion). Initially, I was being stubborn and tried to first bike the 14 km loop, but my whip kept fighting me by switching gears independently and skidding out in the sand.
I headed across the painfully bumpy dirt road towards the Ranger’s Post where I would be able to hike to Hell (seriously, that’s what it’s called!). The path cuts through a grassy park which was covered with zebras grazing, a few giraffes eating off the tippy tops of some trees lining the path, impalas, ostriches, the odd cow, and groups of warthogs scurrying for a place to hide from me (they’re so funny with their fat bodies wobbling on stubby legs, covered in what looks like hair plugs).
Once I arrived at the post, I told the guides that I’d prefer to hike alone, as I stubbornly tend to do. They were a bit weary, but didn’t put up much of a fight. One man showed me to the start of the path, which is quite tricky to get to since you have to crawl over boulders and scale down a narrow crevice that is not made for wide American hips. The remainder of the instructions; follow the water (a small, trickling river of sorts) and when I get to the hot springs about an hour and a half down, take a right at the yellow Acacia tree and follow the path back up. DO NOT PASS THE TREE. Beyond the tree is native Masai territory where the predatory animals live.
That sounds simple, enough. I followed a path along the water and was looking down into a crevice with three small waterfalls while singing when a 10 year old boy herding goats ran up behind me to tell me I was going the wrong way. Apparently I had to LITERALLY follow the water, not along it, IN it. Meaning I had to go through that narrow crevice and UNDER the three falls. Time to get wet! This is called the Devil’s Shower; the first two falls are hot and the third is ice cold. Beyond that, the path widened out significantly and I was left trekking through the water and sand while staring up at steep, eroded cliffs on either side of me. I saw some steam up ahead to my right and two guys chipping at rocks on the other bank. I thought the steam was actually smoke from a fire, at first, so I asked the men where the hot springs were; they stared blankly so I figured I needed to keep going. One guy then ran after me and brought me back into a wooded area where the ground was rumbling beneath my feet and there was a puddle of bubbling, sputtering muck that was apparently the hot springs. Ok, so where’s the path? He points back to the “river”—no, there must another one. He shakes his head “no.” I walk a few feet and see a dirt path heading up, “does this go back to the Ranger’s Post?” He shakes his head “yes.” Ok, thanks.
This path isn’t very well marked in places, it bends abruptly and forks, forcing me to guess which to follow. With my sense of direction, this is a recipe for disaster. Somehow the path came to an end at the edge of a cliff. Having run out of ideas, I started yelling out “hello,” but received no answer. Was I in Massai territory? Was that plant that stabbed me in the calf poisonous?! Fear started to get the best of me when I noticed large black clouds were quickly rolling my way. Mid-panic I turned around to see a young boy waving to me from the cliff on the other side of the gorge. “Wrong way!” He shouted.
"I KNOW!” He disappeared only to show up beside me a few minutes later. He lead down to the riverbed and up to the opposite cliff, right to the road. I was only a ten minute walk from the post. I arrived back at the hut just as a crack of thunder signaled the start of a blinding downpour. I sat under the awning with the guides until the rain slowed.
“Good thing you got out when you did" they explained "when it rains, there are flash floods and you get a free ride, hah, hah.”
You probably should've told me that before I decided to hike alone.