When they said this would be a tough hike, we should have listened. When they told us to dress warmly and arm ourselves with gloves (you will understand why the gloves were crucial later on) we should also have listened. And when they said it would rain during the hike, we should definitely have listened.
Let me start from the beginning. I have a feeling I might get carried away as I write this and end up with a short story instead.
For the past three trips or so, my best friend and I have been traveling with a tour company called Matembezi Travellers Club (MTC) – a very good group by the way. When it came to our attention that they were planning a hike to Ole Satima, in the Aberdare Ranges, our interest was piqued therefore signing up was a no brainer…we went ahead and invited two other friends.
The long-awaited day finally arrived and although the planned departure time from Nairobi was 5.45am, we ended up leaving at 6.00am or thereabouts, with pick – ups along the way. We used the Nyeri route this time round as opposed to the route we had used in my previous blog. The drive was mostly uneventful except from the jerks and shocks we got when we reached the bumpy parts of the road – we were seated at the back seat of the bus.
We arrived at the Aberdares KWS headquarters, which is past Nyeri town, at almost 10.00am – this is where the ticketing is done, and it is also where we were to meet our two guides. The first guide took one and a half hours to show up while the second one would meet us at the park gate. Obviously, things were not going according to plan.
The drive to the park took an hour or so…the road there is the worst. Remember where we were seated? Let’s just say the driver did not give two hoots about us. Past the park entrance, the second guide joined us and we continued with the drive until we got to a point where the bus couldn’t move any further. This was at approximately 12.45pm. We got off the bus and got ready for our hike. You should have seen how siked up and bubbly we were…taking a gazillion photos, not knowing what was coming our way. It is hilarious just thinking about it.
The point of having the two guides was that one would lead the way while the other would be the last, in case an animal appeared or something happened to any of us. The hike up had a lot of winding sections with the most beautiful trees and flowers. I could say that there were birds singing everywhere, like the leader of the group put it…but I didn’t see any bird or hear any singing – then again, I don’t think I was paying enough attention.
If you’ve been to the Aberdares before, then you must be familiar with or even tasted the wild berries that grow there, very scrumptious;
One of the reasons the only reason I would visit the place again. 4 kms up, we got to a car park area where some people had set up camp.
We went off the main path onto an area covered with tussock grassland which was magnificent and I think it’s one of those things that you can look at all day. Fog had started rolling in and I remember there were instances when we had to call out to the people ahead of us so as to get a signal of the direction to follow. My fingers were freezing from the cold -this was cold like I had never felt before. You know the feeling you get when you hold something straight out of the freezer for long? That’s how it felt. Painful. When I mentioned that the gloves were crucial, now you understand why.
We walked for what seemed like an eternity and every time we reached a horizon thinking we had reached the peak, all we saw was another horizon staring at us. This happened a couple of times and each time we just got more frustrated. Luckily, there were rocks along the way where we took a breather, at this point my friends and I were among the last group – this happens in every hike, no matter how much we try to catch up with the rest.
The hilly areas were a nightmare especially because my legs were killing me, but when we got to the flat areas – which for some reason were fewer than the hilly areas – it was such a relief. The fresh hyena droppings that we came across nearly every 100metres just added to the frustration, mind you, it was almost 5pm and we still had to hike back through the same route – a whole 10kms. Most of us were so tired to take photos or even speak, myself included – I kept wondering why I went hiking in the first place because it sure felt like torture…never ending torture. Were it not for the thought of going back alone and my friends pushing me to press on, I swear I would have gone back.
We got to a point where we decided that there was no point in torturing ourselves so we would wait for the first group to meet us as they turned back. I have no idea where the guide who was with the first group appeared from – to be honest I was just glad to see him. Hope. He told us that only 370metres remained to reach the summit and whoever wished to proceed could join him while the rest remained behind. He insisted that we do not move and to sit behind some huge rocks which would shield us from the cold that came with the fog.
At this point the cold was unbearable. As my best friend followed the guide – she was the only one among us who did not give up – we sort refuge behind our precious rocks and bundled up for warmth, this however did not help. We waited for what seemed like an eternity before the first group came back to where we were. We didn’t want to be left behind this time, because it would definitely get dark before we got back to the bus.
We started our hike back at around 5.40pm, more hilly and flat areas, more fog, more cold and more hyena droppings. Scary. This is when all our problems started. If you thought things couldn’t get any worse, then you my friend, are wrong. Because guess what, they did get worse. It started with a drizzle then turned to actual rain, for two hours straight, until we got to the bus.
A few of us had armed themselves with water proof clothes and shoes – one of my friends had an umbrella (not that it helped) so you can imagine how strong the rain was. Most of us, myself included, had light clothes on; and within minutes, we were drenched and our shoes were soaked in water. The slippery ground did not help as we kept tripping, I even fell at some point. This was not the fun I had been looking forward to. There were instances when we thought we were lost but the ribbons along the way which were used to guide people gave us hope. It took us an hour, approximately, to get to where we had found the camps.
Light at the end of the tunnel. We were a little bit closer to our saviour – the bus. I don’t know if it was the anticipation or the path had actually been long, but we never seemed to get to the bus. With every corner, and believe me the corners were many, we expected to see it, but we never did – until we finally did, of course. About 1km left to the reach the bus, my legs had started shutting down which was a very painful process – I literally had to drag my legs. I remember almost crying but I had to hold back my tears because I was not about to be dramatic in the middle of nowhere surrounded by trees and who knows what else.
By that time, it was already dark but not too dark such that we couldn’t see. We finally managed to get a glimpse of the bus and this must have been the happiest I have ever been, this plus when I piddled in the bushes before boarding the bus. Don’t judge me.
Getting rained on was one thing. Having no change of clothes with like five hours left to get back to Nairobi was another thing. We had no other option but to cuddle up in our drenched clothes and shoes, shivering like crazy, and wait for the rest of the group to get back. By the time we were leaving, it was almost 8pm. With one hour to the park entrance and another one plus hours to the main road, and the bus occasionally getting stuck in the muddy road, it was 10pm.
We got to Nairobi at around 1pm and it took me a lot of effort to go up the stairs to my house. The following day was worse but the pain has eventually disappeared. As to whether that day was my worst or most memorable day, I think it was my worst experience and my most memorable experience. I didn’t think that was even possible!!
Prices 2000/= to 2200/= Travel Tips Carry water proof clothes and shoes Dress warmly If you intend to do the hike in one day, either start early or start hiking back early
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~life is so much easier when you just chill out