Published: November 29th 2010November 29th 2009
The entrance to Hells Gate Gorge
I still had a few days left before heading back to Sudan and even on my own I was determined to make the most of it, so next stop was Hell's Gate National Park, very aptly named for the geothermal activity that belches plumes of steam from the earth.
There are now two power stations in the park, although noticeable with large pipes and bits of machinery in 2 places in the park it is surprisingly unobtrusive during the day.
I came in through the Elsa gate from Naivasha direction, was made to feel very welcome by the park officials and given a pretty good photocopy map of the layout and various tracks in the park. The best thing though, you can walk out in Hell's gate, without the need for a ranger, armed or not!
First stop was Fischer's tower, named after the leader of an ill-fated German expedition (the Maasai slaughtered almost the entire party who were searching for a route from Mombasa to Lake Victoria) it has several well climbed routes up it, which I didn't realize before coming to the park is just how popular it is for climbing!
Heading on deeper into the
park after a quick wander round I was heading for the Obsidian caves, beautiful black volcanic rock left behind from a fair time ago. But it looked good wild country and after parking up the car in the shade of an acacia tree I headed out on foot for a couple of hours, first up to the caves, the black obsidian making it very difficult to get a good picture and the rock is razor sharp where it has broken or been shattered.
Then (after a bit of scrambling and climbing around the area and just exploring) over the top of the cliffs, with some stunning vistas out towards Mount Longonot) and a big loop back round to the car, seeing Eland and gazelles whilst out on foot, hoping really not to run into Buffalo or any of the cats!
It was so nice to be able to walk through the bush, something I so missed and was impossible to do in Sudan, knowing that the possibility of running in to a variety of wild-life adds an edge to wandering through the bush, there was quite a lot of birdlife, but I only saw any of the larger
Well caves is a bit of a stretch.... overhangs is possibly a better description, but the rock is sharp!
vulture/raptor species from a distance, not with a good enough camera to take any shots, I think I saw a Lammergeyer (bearded vulture) but it was high and I couldn't be 100% sure, but it was a big bird!
Venturing deeper into the park round the Buffalo circuit, there were signs of Buffalo, but I didn't actually see any, even in the hikes I did up some of the higher points to get a better view than the road gave. I drove a back up the Hells gate gorge towards Fischers tower again, before turning round and aiming for the Lower (Ol Njorowa) Gorge as if I left it too late I figured I would lose the light. It sure was a busy place.
Accosted by 3 guys before my door was even open, offering for “cheapy guide” I decided as I wanted the peace and quiet to do it the wrong way round! So I politely refused and then wandered off to the end of the gorge and climbed down the steep side to hike up the gorge rather than follow the path down it, which proved in the odd place to be a bit of a challenge,
Looking out from an overhang
Before heading on a little scramble up there and over the top of the ridge
coming down would have been far easier, but not half the fun!
The gorge is simply stunning, the shapes the water has carved are just amazing, thousands of years of water passing down and eroding to form some incredibly intricate yet smooth shapes. Popping out at the top having passed a couple of very surprised guides with visitors going the other way I had some comments as to where “I had appeared from?”
just what I love!
It was getting on in the day and it was time for a random “find a sleep spot” time again, so heading out of the park past the two Ol Karia geothermal plants, I aimed back towards Naivasha and started looking for a spot to stay.
I ended up at one of the large resorts, as the two smaller places I tried for didn't accept drop ins, they had space but I could only stay if I went back to Nairobi, booked and paid for the accommodation and then came back.... a very strange system to be sure! So beware.....
The Lake Naivasha Sopa resort does have some amazing gardens, the rooms are huge and the dining room
View from the top
Towards the Gorge
truly majestic, complete with monkeys on the roof. The grounds are a great walk, all the way down to the much receded lake shore, from where the grand old boathouse used to be with a huge earth jetty, complete with bar area for evening cruises (which is now sadly disused, because the lake shore is over 100 meters away) but I saw Giraffe and warthog, zebra and many birds, arriving back after a surprisingly long walk to a cold beer and a great meal, the only thing missing was the company to go with it!
After an early but leisurely breakfast I was heading on my penultimate day to climb a mountain, Mount Longonot, so I headed up towards the park gate, paid my entry fee and loaded with water and some sweets set off for the trek to the summit and round the crater, about 11-12kms and reaching a peak of 2776m, nearly 1000 meters higher than the rift valley floor below. It was a hard walk, the heat came on quick, but it surprised me how many folk there were at the start, 2 school parties, in school uniform and shoes hiking up and lots of city-slickers
The other way is the serrated profile of Mount Longonot, a challenge for the next day!
on a day trip out, so it was a bit of a surreal experience. Fortunately most of them were only going up to the crater edge and then returning, so the opposite side of the crater I had almost totally to myself for the just over 4 hours it took me to complete the walk, I have tried to attach the summit video, so I hope it works!!
Back down it was time to head back for my last stay in Nairobi before heading back to Sudan and Juba.
There are more photos below