Mt. Longonot, The Ascent!

Mash, seeks more climbing adventures for 2014!

Mash, seeks more climbing adventures for 2014!

My wake-up alarm went off, blaring my favorite wake up tune at 0545hrs on 3rd January 2014. I had slept readily packed for the trip and by about 0630hrs we were well on the road to the meet-up point, where we were to link-up with the rest of the pack. The mission was to climb Mt. Longonot!

Mt. Longonot

Mt. Longonot

This is however not where the story begins. The story begun on 1st January 2014, when my family and I were invited to a New Year’s barbeque party at the Wildebeest Eco Camp in the leafy suburbs of Karen, Nairobi. Here we not only made merry, but also met a bunch of really cool people whom (on striking conversation) I discovered were quite adventurous! Before long, we were buried deep in chitchat on how beautiful a country we have and the many adventure escapades one can undertake here. Shortly we were talking about this blog and I shared my ambitious intention to climb several mountains this year. I learned that the group was in the planning stage of a Mt. Kenya climb, and in preparation they were to climb Mt. Longonot in a day’s time. Needless to say, I hopped on and into their plan and as they say, the rest is history! 🙂

The good road down to Longonot

The good road down to Longonot

Mt. Longonot is located in the Great Rift Valley, southeast of Lake Naivasha approximately 60km from Nairobi. We took the Mai Mahiu route (Old Naivasha Road) which is the most scenic route down to the floor of the Rift Valley.

Mai Mahiu, a settlement just before getting to Longonot at the Great Rift Valley floor

Mai Mahiu, a settlement just before getting to Longonot on the Great Rift Valley floor

Power cables running down the escarpment to the rift valley

Power cables running down the escarpment to the rift valley. Mt. Longonot in the background

We arrived at the Mt. Longonot National Park gate, where the team made the final adjustments to their gear making sure that each would be comfortable on the ascent. On paying the park entry fees, we all congregated and took some instructions from our guide for the day (Mr. Kanja from http://www.dawntreader.co.ke).

Preparing for the climb

Preparing for the climb

Stretch that muscle! :-)

Stretch that muscle! 🙂

The pack listens to Guide Kanja's climbing tips

The pack listens to Guide Kanja’s climbing tips

He gave the climbing tips which included; asking the team to remain together on the ascent, nobody should wander off the trail and into the bushes, we were to all keep a pace comfortable for everyone in the pack and the one that stood out the most for me was that the climb would be daunting, and the trick to keep going was to ensure that one foot was always in-front of the other. Off we went into the park to conquer the Longonot!

Off to conquer Mt. Longonot!

Off to conquer Mt. Longonot!

I had climbed this very mountain back in 2011 with my two close buddies (Nick & Joash) and to some extent that was a battle of the boys on who was in the best shape to climb. I climbed in 45min. This time I was determined to push myself to doing it in 30min. However, my intention was dashed when our guide said we all needed to stick together (a pack of climbers climbs only as fast as their weakest link). This created an opportunity for me to enjoy nature’s beauty, capture shots documenting the adventure and also to take time and wonder at how great our God is in his creation!

Welcome to Mt. Longonot National Park

Welcome to Mt. Longonot National Park

The trail up the mountain is a gradually steep footpath often interrupted by shallow gullies dug out by run-off water. This caused us to be in a single file for the better part of the climb. The mountain is mainly covered in short shrubs and thick savannah grass. It is therefore wise to wear trousers for the climb.

Single file going up Mt. Longonot

Single file going up Mt. Longonot

The sun was sweltering hot and with every step up the mountain the feet became heavy. I however knew what to expect on the ascent and therefore I decided to take time and enjoy the little interruptions along the climb. I let myself listen to the constant buzz of the insects in the grass, I allowed myself to enjoy the rare waft of dry wind over my sweaty face and I was glad to be in the distraction of the birds flying by. Every once in a while I would dash up to the front or lag behind of the pack to snap and capture beautiful moments on my camera. I was delightedly lost in the splendour of nature!

A lone short tree, standing tall amongst short friends. :-)

A lone short tree, standing tall amongst short friends. 🙂

Soon it was easy to know why it was necessary to stick as a group. Notice the warning sign!

Soon it was clear why it was necessary to stick as a group. The warning sign! (Caution; Be ware of buffaloes)

A neat picnic site within the Mt. Longonot National Park

A neat picnic site within the Mt. Longonot National Park

A few meters up the mountain, we came across a group of elderly nuns who were determined to reach the peak. I was very impressed by one of them who seemed to be the eldest. She was dressed in her official garments, armed with a wide-rimmed cotton hat and a walking stick in hand. She took every step with a gait burdened by age, yet she could still afford me a smile and a greeting as I went past her on the climb. She was to later find us at the peak, minutes before we set off on the climb down! She reaffirmed it for me that no one is ever too old to get out on an adventure! 🙂

The elderly nun climbing Mt. Longonot

The elderly nun climbing Mt. Longonot

We soon came to one of the rest points on the trail, and here the pack was glad to shelter in the shed from the hot sun. The shed was a good spot to catch a breathe and snack lightly to gather the much needed energy for the rest of the climb. KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) has also built an ablution block at the rest post where climbers can relieve themselves before proceeding on the climb. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be for one to pace up the mountain while battling not to answer a call of nature. So, Kudos KWS!

Resting and sharing energy snacks at a rest point along the trail

Resting and sharing energy snacks at a rest point along the trail

As we proceeded on the climb, I realized that the higher we went the steeper the mountain became. It was harder to keep a grip of the ground, the trail had mild meanders around boulders of eroded rocks and the vegetation became thinner. We soon came to a point that was so steep such that some of us had to go on all fours to make headway! At this point, KWS has tried to make it easier for the climbers by laying down concrete steps on a stretch of about 30m at the steepest section of the trail. This was somewhat disappointing for me since I would expect a climbing trail to be as natural as possible. I am sure you all have your views on this, and it will be good if you can share them in the comments.

A steep section of the trail

A steep section of the trail

The steep section of the climb. Notice the concrete steps.

The steep section of the climb. Notice the concrete steps.

A beautifully eroded section of the mountain

A beautifully eroded section of the mountain

The peak seemed so close, yet so far. My feet were hot inside my shoes and my skin was sweating underneath my clothes. My body was slowly being lured by fatigue, but I fought on. The silence was audible as we approached the peak, partly because the chitchat in the pack had died down (possibly as each one tried to concentrate their energy on the climb). Chests were taking in heavy gasps of air, muscles ached, some feet slipped in their slow shuffle up and some even stopped to catch a breath, but we kept pushing on. Soon we were at the top of Mt. Longonot!

Finally at the peak of Mt. Longonot! Dance to that!

Finally at the peak of Mt. Longonot! Dance to that!

Mt. Longonot, conquered!

Mt. Longonot, conquered!

Exhilarating was the feeling that engulfed me as I looked down the beautifully rugged slopes of Mt. Longonot! My lungs appreciated the pleasantly fresh air and my eyes could not have enough of the picturesque view! In the afternoon of a bright sunny day, the view was so vast and clear that I could actually see Lake Naivasha from this vantage point. We (the entire pack) had done it!

The beautifully rugged slopes of Mt. Longonot

The beautifully rugged slopes of Mt. Longonot

A breathe taking view from atop Mt. Longonot. Notice Lake Naivasha in the background

A breathe taking view from atop Mt. Longonot. Notice Lake Naivasha in the background

Mt. Longonot

Mt. Longonot

Awed!

Awed!

We had climbed 3.1km (3100m) of jagged terrain, and all our bodies were yearning for was that much needed rest and rejuvenation. Almost instinctively, we all hurdled into yet another resting shed at the top of the mountain and shared the remaining supplies amongst ourselves. Cheerful chatter ruled this break and I noticed a smile of gratification (for completion of the mission) on everyone one of us!

Resting in a shed at the peak of Mt. Longonot

Resting in a shed at the peak of Mt. Longonot

A section of the Mt. Longonot crater rim

A section of the Mt. Longonot crater rim

I was willing to go round the full circumference of the crater (7.2km) but we only made it to 3km before the pack unanimously agreed that we wouldn’t make it round the crater, and therefore we had to start on the climb down.

Our attempt to go round the crater

Our attempt to go round the crater

We climbed down the mountain, this time at a much faster pace due to the ‘obedient’ gravitational pull. My toes inside the hiking sneakers felt swollen in the heat, my knees trembled with every step down and I jerked into an involuntary run every time I came across an unfriendly slope. 🙂

Our guide Kanja (www.dwntreader.co.ke) assist a climber down the mountain

Our guide Kanja (www.dawntreader.co.ke) assists a climber down the mountain

On all fours to make it down safe. That steep!

On all fours to make it down safe. That steep!

These feet can now tell a tale about climbing :-)

These feet can now tell a tale about climbing 🙂

On our way down, got lucky to spot graceful giraffes grazing

Lucky to spot graceful giraffes grazing, on our way down

My body was tired, covered in dust and caked sweat when we got back to the base of the Mount Longonot. I was glad to find a block that has showers and toilets where we all freshened up before moving to one of the eateries (Old House shop & restaurant) near the park gate for some nyama choma (barbequed meat) and ice cold Tusker (beer).

Old House, the restaurant

Old House, the restaurant

To the pack (Nduta, Angie, Ben, Ikua, Jackie, Kanja, Ruguru, Sijenyi, Gladys, Kariuki) Kudos! 🙂

The pack. We did it! :-)

The pack. We did it! 🙂

It was an awesome trip and a great way to usher in 2014, the year in which I intend to indulge in more climbing adventures!

Different angle shots from atop Mt. Longonot

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Location:

Mt. Longonot lies south-east of Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya.

Approximately 60km from Nairobi City Centre, about 1hr drive.

Distance up Mt. Longonot (to the rim): 3.1km

Distance round the crater rim: 7.2km

Park Entry Fees:

East African Citizens: Kshs. 350.00 (Adults) Kshs: 250.00 (Children)

Residents:                   Kshs. 700.00 (Adults) Kshs. 350.00 (Children)

Non Residents:           USD. 30.00 (Adults) USD. 20 (Children)

Where to stay:

This is mostly a day’s excursion. However, one has the choice of staying at the many hotels and campsites in Naivasha which is not far (Cray Fish Camp, Fisherman’s Camp, Sopa Lodge, Enashipai among others)

Activities available in the park:

Hiking, Climbing, Bird Watching, Wildlife Watching

What to Carry;

Drinking water and energy snacks, camera, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, comfortable climbing boots, comfortable trousers to climb in, guidebooks  and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight (at a nearby campsite)

-MASH-    Macharia Njuguna

Hot, Wet and Natural! (Olkaria)

Sunny morning at Cray Fish Camp.

Sunny morning at Cray Fish Camp.

During my recent short stay in Naivasha ( a market and tourist town located north west of Nairobi), I remembered reading an article in the Business Daily back in 2012 about a natural spa that was being built by KenGen at the Olkaria Geothermal fields which are located about 33km from the town, and only 13km from Cray Fish Camp where we were putting up. It was a must visit!

Mash

Mash at Olkaria spa

After a rushed breakfast at the Karuturi Club House, we all boarded the vehicles and proceeded down the Moi South Lake road towards the Olkaria geothermal fields. The road is smooth, without many vehicles and it can be tempting for one to speed. This was however not the case this time, as we were captivated by the panoramic view of Lake Naivasha on the right side of the road. The visible wide expanse of the lake, combined with the soothing warmth of the early afternoon sun and the lazy breeze seeping through the open car windows  gave one a feeling of deep tranquility!

Beautiful Lake Naivasha

Beautiful Lake Naivasha

After leisurely driving for about half an hour, we arrived at the Olkaria Gate where we had to pay a park entry fee of Kshs. 300.00 per person albeit the fact that the tickets we had purchased in the late afternoon of the previous day read that we were allowed entry for the next 24hrs!

Olkaria Gate into the Hells Gate National Park

Olkaria Gate into the Hells Gate National Park

To avoid paying additional park entry fees for the vehicles, we parked outside the Olkaria Gate and opted to walk in to the Geothermal Fields which were several hundred meters away from the gate. We packed what we thought we needed at the spa in backpacks and within minutes were off, walking towards the Olkaria Natural Spa whose construction was partially done but was now open to the public. This will be the biggest natural spa in Africa and it is built to accommodate about 500 people at a go!

Olkaria natural spa bath under construction. (File photo courtesy of Nation Media Group)

Olkaria natural spa bath under construction. (File photo courtesy of Nation Media Group)

The natural spa has four interconnected hot water lagoons. The first, second and third lagoons have diameters of 30, 40 and 70 meters while the fourth, a child’s pond measures 10 meters wide.  It is also said that the spa which is to be known as the Direct Use Centre,  could also host a geological and geothermal museum tracking the development of geothermal resources in Kenya as well as progression of global technology for converting steam into economic activities.

A building under construction on the site

A building under construction on the site

Happy people walking to the Olkaria spa from the main gate

Happy people walking to the Olkaria spa from the main gate

On our arrival an attendant at the natural spa walked up to us and gave us a quick introduction to the site. He advised us that only those who promised to adhere to the rules of the spa would be allowed to sign in on the visitors’ book and also use the spa. We were a well mannered group and we listened to the attendant keenly as he read out the spa regulations. There was nothing he read that was out of this world, so we all signed in and off we went into the spa! 🙂 Of note is that;

– No visitor is allowed to go to the hot spring reservoir which emanates smoke (an indication that it holds super heated water from the bowels of the earth) and is enclosed with mesh wire to keep everyone well at bay for safety reasons

– Users of the spa are not allowed to dive into the hot water as the bath pool is not conducive for this due to its shallow depth

Elaborate Signage

Elaborate signage on some of the spa regulations

The spa is wide and full of inviting baby-blue coloured water. On one of the sides, there is a temporary shower in the open through which each visitor must go before entering into the waters of the spa.

Mash with the wide Olkaria natural spa in the background

Mash with the wide Olkaria natural spa in the background

I quickly changed into my swimming shorts and went on to discover how the hot natural spa would feel to the body. As I went into the pool, the water was hot and I estimated it to be at about 30 – 35 degrees celcius. As soon as my toes came into contact with the water, the rest of body was sure it wanted to feel the warm caress of these waters! 😉 As I went further in, I found out that the lagoon has stairs to the depth of the pool.

Mash inside the Olkaria Spa in Naivasha

Mash inside the Olkaria Spa in Naivasha

I watched my friends get into a ‘contained’ thrill as they themselves ventured into the spa! It was evident in their faces why the spa regulations had to be so boldly announced; because on setting foot to the tantalizing water, one would be easily tempted to rush in with a dive so as to have the entire body enjoy this feeling!  Once inside the spa waters, the regulation that ‘Swimming Costumes Must Be Worn’ is not too welcome a rule, but we worked hard to abide! 🙂

The wide and beautiful Olkaria spa

The wide and beautiful Olkaria spa

As I immersed myself into the spa, I felt proud that on completion of this facility my country Kenya will have joined the leagues of other nations that have attracted tourists over time through their natural spas. These are countries like Turkey which has the Hamam spa, Costa Rica which has the Thermal Baths and New Zealand which has the Wahkarewrewa natural spa. Once the Olkaria natural spa is complete, it will have a steam bath and sauna in addition to the hot water pools.

My friends and I enjoying time in the Olkaria spa

My friends and I enjoying time in the Olkaria spa

It is said that the spa has good natural skin treatment elements that have been known to heal some skin diseases like psoriasis. Therefore, as much as we were here to have fun, our bodies were also gaining protective qualities from these waters!

Whie inside the spa, one didn’t feel the urge to leave as the engulfing warmth felt like a massage being conducted allover the body at the same time! I walked around the entire pond with my entire body (to the neck) immersed in the water. It was a great feeling!

Julie enjoying the natural treatment in the spa. The smile says it all! :-)

Julie enjoying the natural treatment in the spa. The smile says it all! 🙂

Kama & Trish share a moment at the Olkaria spa! ;-)

Kama & Trish share a moment at the Olkaria spa! 😉

As we floated by in the spa, laughter could be heard and jolly faces seen! Time flew by faster than we wanted it to, and this was an indication that we were definitely having a blast! The sun was fast retreating behind the hills and as much as we wanted to stay, it was time to leave the spa and head back to Nairobi before nightfall. This was quite a treat to our adventurous selves and I would definitely recommend the experience for you, your family and friends!

The children's spa bath at Olkaria

The children’s spa bath at Olkaria

Location: Olkaria Natural Spa, Naivasha

Distance: About 110km from Nairobi

Accommodation: There are several campsites within the Hells Gate National Park, and many camp sites and hotels along the Moi south Lake Road

Parke entry fees: Kshs. 300.00 per adult (Kenyan citizen) and 15USD for foreign tourists

Spa entry fees: A minimal fee to be introduced on completion of the spa facility

What to carry: Sun glasses, Sun screen, Light clothing, flip-flops , a swimming costume, towel and a camera to capture the moments

-MASH-

Motorbikes on Fours!

Motorbikes on Fours!

Motorbikes on Fours!

Not too far from the city of Nairobi, there is a place that is nothing less of the wild (full with the savannah terrain and wildlife) where I go to ride monster motorbikes on fours; Quad Bikes!

The place is set in a savannah grassland spotted with thorny shrubs and the occasional rocky hills. The road to the place is quite treacherous and a 4×4 vehicle might be a good idea. However, the place is still accessible with a small vehicle whose owner doesn’t mind a little shocks battering 😉

On arrival we were welcomed by the establishment’s owner and now friend, Mr. Wamae. Our keen intent was to ride the quad bikes out into the wild and through the motorcross track. However Mr. Wamae, persuaded us to first take a walk through the entire place so that we could know what they had to offer.

Parked quad bikes

Parked quad bikes

The establishment boasts a well lit lounge area built in wood. The lounge is accessible using a woody staircase which leads you into a space filled with comfortable sofas, a tv set and a plausible music system. There is no better place to enjoy the breeze and a slight view of the plains! The lounge area over looks the swimming pool and the green lawn below patched with tented bandas serving as more relaxing spots for the visitors. Adjacent to the pool there is a well stocked bar with a wide sitting area and a view outward to the plains. Visitors here can also order meals from the establishment’s kitchen which is ran by a very able chef (this we learned after we ordered our lunch)!The place also has several accommodation rooms whose furniture is artistically built in wood to complete the feel of being in the wild! I automatically fell in love with the place, and what it had to offer!

The lawn and pool area

The lawn and pool area

After the tour, we immediately headed out below the lounge area where the quad bikes are parked. Here we met the riding captain who in very good spirits took us through the simple rules of biking out here in the wild. He also provided protective gear to make sure that we were ready for the ride. A helmet, like while riding any other motorcycles is essential here. It is also advisable to have a padded riding jacket on as well as riding boots to ensure minimal injury in the event of a mishap or accident while riding. We geared up good, and before we mounted the beasts on fours we were requested to sign a risk consent form that absolved the establishment of any liability in the event that any of us got injured while riding. I recommend having personal insurance to cater for such incidents 🙂

Geared up and ready to ride!

Geared up and ready to ride!

We revved up the machines and out we rode into the savannah. Leading the pack was the riding captain who acted as the guide on the trail to ensure that we used a route where we would have maximum fun in terms of, the wildlife we came across and the terrain we passed through. The rougher the terrain, the better! 😉

Revving it up!

Revving it up!

On our way we came across the beautiful sight of antelopes grazing in the grassland and they dashed away in a startled hop on hearing the growling engines. We were also lucky enough to encounter towering giraffes foraging on the acacia trees that spotted the grassland. On hearing the engines, they also took to a graceful run that seemed to be in slow motion due to their long legs! What a beautiful sight! We also came across a heard of elands grazing, and these huge animals were not afraid of the sound of engines. They stood their ground, raised their heads as if to ask, ‘do you have to interrupt our feeding time?’ and watched us as we rode past them. Herds of wilderbeasts and zebras could also be seen grazing out in the plains!

The trail

The trail

Gracefully running giraffes

Gracefully running giraffes

Wilderbeasts crossing the road

Wilderbeasts crossing the road

An Eland

An Eland

The quad bikes raised dust as we sped through the tough terrain leading to the motorcross track through the grassland. The uneven ground helped me enjoy the capabilities of the four-wheeled motorcycle as it bumped, twisted and skidded. My hands strongly gripped the handle bars and played with the clutch and brakes to make sure that the monster was in my control! There is no better feeling than this. I felt like a matador handling a raging bull by the horns! Note: You have the choice of a manual or an automatic quad bike.

Ride on!

Ride on!

We eventually got on to the motor cross track which was the true test of the quad bikes and what they can really do. The track had steep ascends and descends, uneven gullies, wide rumble sticks and unexpected bends! The track is essentially built to surprise the rider and the machine. This calls for good handling of the quad bike for maximum enjoyment.

In the motor cross track

In the motor cross track

Going down a steep descent

Going down a steep descent

The ride is quite tiring, but the fun sure does over-ride the fatigue! We eventually got back to the camp, enjoyed a meal and relaxed by the poolside bar listening to some good music and enjoying a drink or two as we chatted away.

After the long ride

After the long ride

I would recommend that you take some time and immerse yourself in the quad bike riding fun!

Establishment: Lukenya Motorcross

Distance:  Approx. 39km from the Nairobi city centre

Map:

Getting to Lukenya motorcross

Getting to Lukenya motorcross

Get out there and have fun!

-MASH-