Published: November 28th 2010November 28th 2009
View out over Lake Naivasha
On the road up to the Park gates
The other half of "escape from Sudan!"
After a bit of a delay getting out of the airport after flying back from Pemba, it was out into the Nairobi night, late on a Sunday, heading into Karen for a place to stay with friends and the start of the other half of my leave before heading back to Juba.
The plan was to borrow a Toyota 4x4 Prado from some friends, Phil and Cynthia from Malawi who were now living and working in Nairobi and head off and explore some of Kenya, a country I had not seen anything of except the road up from Arusha and a few days in the capital in 2008.
I wanted to walk, so the Aberdares and Hells Gate National Parks were on the agenda along with hopefully a trip up Mount Longonot if I had time.
Ann, a friend from Kampala, who had also been in Malawi and knew Phil and Cynthia was also in Nairobi, so we were going to head out together for some company on the road and hiking.
After a lazy start and some internet catching up and properly drying my dive kit for storage, we loaded up
The park gates
At 3192 meters, it was pretty chilly especially after Sudan and Pemba!
a cooler with a few beers and not much else before heading to pick up some “luxuries” (read in there stuff I hadn't been able to find to eat in Sudan!) and headed out of town, Ann managing to navigate out to the main highway without getting snarled in Nairobi's legendary traffic, no mean feat!
We head out east and even found the “old road” down the escarpment towards Naivasha, which we were told, now the new road had been built should be quiet with no Matatu's (Minibuses) or heavy trucks. That was a wrong bit of info, they are all on the old road, no idea why, when the new road (which I came back on later in the week) is in such good condition and traffic free, some things are just unexplainable in Africa!
The old road is very impressive, just a scar running down the side of the rift valley, which is spread out a thousand feet below, running away into the distance. Lots of near identical curio stands, all claiming to have the “Best Rift Valley viewings” mostly on Coca Cola advertising signboards, selling “best Kenyan tea” and “unique” curios. The road hugs
the rock, sheer drop below and near vertical cliffs above, with many repaired stretches of crash barrier standing testimony to the many vehicles that have not made the trip all the way up or down managing to stay on the road.
Naivasha was a pass through this time, we found the road that led up from the town towards the Aberdare park, our objective.
Crossing the new and very impressive “North” road heading on towards the agricultural areas of Nakuru and Eldoret, we had a snack at a service station and got some “camping” provisions (read into that some water, chocolate, crisps and chewing gum! Because we didn't plan to camp... but the best laid plans....
So heading up towards North Kinangop we climbed up towards the park, realising that the first night we weren't going to make it into the park, so was time to find somewhere to stay. Nyeri seemed like a good place to start looking and being as this was a holiday, so we found the Aberdare Country Club, set in it's own 500 hectares of sanctuary it was a great place for a chill out meal, long chat and stunning surroundings. Breakfast out
on the terrace with a view unfolding over kilometres is just sublime!
After breakfast it was off into the park, although it did take a while to get there as we had no real idea of where we were heading, all part of the mystery! Arriving at the parks highest gate, Mutubio West Gate (at an impressive 3192 meters) we got a fantastic welcome from the park staff and having had a discussion about where to stay they got on the radio and booked us out the whole of Tusk Camp, which having no real idea sounded like it could be great or......
Wow, it's a big park! It certainly takes some driving around, we had now a map and decided to see what we could find on the way to the camp, so headed in the general direction of the Karuru Falls, which when we finally got there and wandered round (which was a nice change from sitting driving!) were stunning, very ethereal and great views both down and up a valley.
Not the easiest park to get to and with roads that do require 4WD and can get very muddy (we did nearly get stuck once,
a very long walk from anywhere) during our time in the park we were to see but one other vehicle so we did really have the sense we had Africa to ourselves.
We arrived at Tusk camp in the dark and cold, at that altitude it was COLD, but the camp guy soon had a blazing log fire and hot water on the go, we managed to have a beer and bought some tea and some food from him so at least we had more than chocolate and crisps to eat!
It is a collection of a few huts, some showers (oh fantastic hot showers!) and a lounge where the roaring log fire was just so relaxing, the full expanse of the African sky outside and distant lights on the horizon. Just the best way to be, no power and sounds of the bush.
The morning was greeted with a view (very briefly) of Mount Kenya, before it disappeared in cloud.
After some tea for breakfast we headed out to find the road part way up Ol Donyo Lesitima, the highest peak in the park at 4001 meters. We thought we might do a little hiking....
The dining room with the kitchen and shower block behind, I missed the view of Mount Kenya before the cloud came down.
were we unprepared for the cold, we pretty much put on everything we had and only moving kept us warm in the end, there was an extremely bracing wind on top of the mountain!
After a good early hike, food was calling (well shouting loudly really as we hadn't eaten properly since breakfast at the Country Club) so we headed for Nyahururu (or Thomson's Falls) the highest major town in Kenya at 2390 meters and has a pretty spectacular waterfall. Worth the visit and hanging out at the Thomson's Falls Lodge was very pleasant, it has bags of “olde worldy” charm and character (the food wasn't even too bad!)
As Ann was heading back to Kampala the next day, we started heading back towards Nairobi, on the way finding a little gem of a place that looked ideal to stay in, Kiglo Sanctuary, a private game “ranch” that has a little camp on the banks of a small river and offers some walking and fab food in a great setting, dinner close to a huge roaring fire with some great company and then to a great well earned warm shower and comfortable bed.
There are more photos below