In the month of October 2013, the Rotaract Club of Milimani in Nairobi invited me to a cycling adventure to raise funds for their charity projects. Following my weakness to adventure, and my intention to give back to the community whenever I can, I jumped on this invite like a cheap suit! 😉
We all met in the central business district area of Nairobi. We split up into the several vehicles available, and we set off towards Naivasha. Excitement was evident in the group, it was obvious that everyone of us was looking forward to the experience.
I imagined cycling down a scenic landscape, coming across some wildlife, listening to the humming buzz of the insects in the grass, chirping of the birds in the trees and the whistling of the wind. I couldn’t wait to have this experience and also try to document it in photos to share with you all! I wasn’t disappointed.
We drove down from Nairobi via the Mai Mahiu road whose meandering corners, sliced rock ascends and portions of road providing view to the Rift Valley base make it one of the most scenic routes in Kenya. The road is cut in a gradual descend into the Rift Valley floor. As we traveled this road, we were treated to the sight of the imposing Mt. Longonot, the vast Lake Naivasha silvery under the sun and the steep mount Suswa.
We finally arrived at a time when the clouds had gathered and were hanging low ready to pour. It was a dull late afternoon, but nothing was going to dampen our spirits. We prepared ourselves, the bikes and proceeded into the park after paying the entry fees at the KWS manned gate. As we begun to cycle out into the park, it started drizzling and I immediately knew that I wouldn’t have a chance to capture good shots in natural light as I had hoped to. I however in a deviant way strung my camera across my shoulder and packed a plastic bag in my pocket to protect it from getting wet should the rain get heavy.
The earth road into the park welcomed us to a beautiful scenery of volcanic rock features that were just heart warming! The group of riders were keen on getting to the end of the 10km stretch. I on the other hand was more interested in capturing the moments and the beautiful surroundings of this national park. Before long, the entire group was cycling way ahead of me. I was somehow glad that I could now enjoy the beauty of the park in silence, a slow paced ride, an occasional whistle to an imaginary tune and a stop here and there to click away on my camera! This was awesome! 🙂
Everybody cycled with zest and I wondered if they took time to enjoy the nature surrounding us. As much as I was having fun cycling in the sporadic instances of speed and rough terrain maneuvers, I reached those I could and either captured their shots in action or requested them to pose.
We cycled down from the main Elsa gate of Hell’s Gate park and down to the Olkaria geothermal power station and into the Hell’s Gate Gorge main entrance. Along the way, some of the cyclists got too tired and opted to push their bicycles. As is often in adventure cycling trips, we also witnessed an accident where a lady fell of her bicycle after being startled by a reckless driver in the park. Luckily, she only sustained minor injuries. There was one instance I captured where a lady cyclist had trouble with the bicycle chain. One of the fellows was kind enough to stop and assist her, which showed good sportsmanship and care!
On arrival at the Hell’s Gate Gorge gate, it was quite late in the evening and this made it not possible for us to take a hike through the gorge since we needed to be out of the park by 7:00pm as per the regulations and also if we wanted to be safe from being gored by the wild animals! We however managed to get an introduction talk on the park and the several natural features in it from a very interesting and friendly game warden, Mr. Joseph Seret. He informed us that the park was established in 1984 and it has several campsites, a Masai cultural centre and several geothermal stations at Okalria. He told us that a majority of the features in the park and the ash that can still be felt in some sections of it were formed when Mt. Longonot erupted in the 1900s. The features mostly have ‘hellish’ names owing to the volcanic activity witnessed in the past. There is the ‘Devil’s Kitchen’, the ‘Devil’s Bathroom’ among others.
Mr. Seret shared stories of the many safaris he has had in and out of the park, and the several encounters he has had with dangerous wildlife like poisonous snakes and lions. He told us of trips that can be organized from the park down to Olduvai Gorge, as well as a 15 day experience of the Masai culture within a real village. This got me thinking that I should plan to experience it. I hope to find time and eventually do this!
The dark was now creeping in and so we set out on our way back to camp. On the way back, some of the cyclists decided to try their hands at ‘acrobatic’ cycling.
We also encountered some wildlife grazing in the plains, just as the game wardens had warned. The buffaloes were out in their herds and we were careful not to agitate them into a charge. I also happened to spot a gracefully tall giraffe hiding in the trees, a heard of zebras and a few antelopes grazing by a cliff. I also saw a community of baboons but by then it was too dark to take any clear photographs.
The cycle back to the main gate found us caught in the dark and some of the animals were now coming out to hunt. We couldn’t stay inside the park to watch as it is dangerous and against the park regulations. We had to retire back to camp (Cray Fish Camp) and prepare for the following day when we would make a visit to the Olkaria natural spa.
Before we left the park, I took time to document my visit to the Hell’s Gate park, and to honour my ‘baby’ Black Giant. She was very cooperative on the long trip, patient when I pushed her to the limits and looked pretty for me through the thick and thin!
This is an incredible way to enjoy a weekend out and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The best way to enjoy nature at a pace that allows you to soak in all the beauty and the magnificence of all creation. If you are looking for an adventure spot or you are an adventure junkie like I am, I would highly recommend a cycling tour of the Hell’s Gate National Park!
Hell’s Gate lies south of Lake Naivasha and north west of Nairobi, in Kenya.
Approximately 109km from Nairobi City Centre, about 1hr 30min drive.
Park Entry Fees:
East African Citizens: Kshs. 300.00 (Adults) Kshs: 200.00 (Children)
Residents: Kshs. 500.00 (Adults) Kshs. 300.00 (Children)
Non Residents: USD. 25.00 (Adults) USD. 15 (Children)
Where to stay:
Hell’s Gate Park has some campsites (Oldubai, Nairburta and Endchata)
One also has the choice of staying at the many hotels and campsites along the South Lake Road, Naivasha. (Cray Fish Camp, Fisherman’s Camp, Sopa Lodge, Enashipai among others)
Activities available in the park:
Biking, Hiking, Rock Climbing, Bird Watching, Wildlife Watching
What to Carry;
Drinking water, camera, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, walking boots, guidebooks and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight