Perfect getaway on the slopes of Mt Kenya
Updated 4 hr(s) 13 min(s) ago
By Kassim Shitawah
A trek up the sacred mountain of the Samburu left us totally exhausted but exhilarated. Coming downhill was, however, much faster probably because we desperately needed to reach the base camp for a descent shower. The last one we had had was four days earlier, sweat and dust notwithstanding.
As soon as we got downhill, we loaded our luggage onto the vehicle and tearfully bade farewell to our Samburu guides and the donkey handlers. Our journey back to Nanyuki was more relaxed compared to the previous day. The countryside looked different this time. From Isiolo to Timau the landscape is almost exotic. The expansive farms of wheat and barley, the fenced farms with merino sheep and cattle grazing gives the landscape the ambience of farms in Far West. Tourists often identify easily with it.
After Nanyuki, we stopped at the Equator crossing to enjoy the memory of striding the two hemispheres. We met a lanky fellow who introduced himself as ‘Professor’ Zach and insisted on teaching us about "The Corriolis Effect".
To demonstrate how water rotates in opposite directions depending on which side of the hemisphere one stood, the ‘professor’ poured water in a bowl that had a small hole at the bottom and floated a matchstick in the water. He then let the water drain into a jug placed below the bowl.
Mountain rock lodge
The farther one moves from the Equator towards the northern hemisphere, the water oscillates in the clockwise direction whereas in the southern hemisphere, the water oscillates in the opposite direction. Apparently, wind systems, tornados and hurricanes rotate clockwise in the northern hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the southern hemisphere.
Zach could have done a good job in his explanations had he not heavily tried to imitate the American accent — which he did a pathetic job of considering the interference of his mother tongue, which made his explanations incomprehensible.
After the demonstration, the beaming ‘professor’ flung certificates at our faces. He demanded we buy them as proof of our crossing the Equator. We did not really need the certificate but we did not want to anger him so we bought one for the whole group.
Afterwards, we drove to Mountain Rock Lodge. This is a delightful country-style lodge tucked away in the woods of the forested slopes of Mount Kenya, seven kilometres north of Naromoru along the Naromoru–Nanyuki Road.
Established over 20 years ago as a base for mountain climbers, Mountain Rock Lodge has grown over the years to become a famous holiday destination for both foreign and local tourists.
The lodge is surrounded by luxuriant gardens with a spacious lawn and a man-made mini lake. The tranquil atmosphere and the all-round professional service promise one a memorable stay.
Hikes can be organised for visitors to the Mau Mau hideout caves to learn more about the history of Kenya’s freedom fighters. Its proximity to game parks such Aberdare National Park, Sweetwaters Game Sanctuary and the Samburu National Reserve makes it an ideal tourist destination.
Day trips to these parks can also be arranged from here. The lodge’s chief executive, Patrick Wanjohi, told us it was common practice for tourists visiting Mt Kenya National Park to spend a day or two at the lodge to acclamatise and prepare for their high altitude hike.
We checked into our cosy rooms and after that much-needed shower, we met at the Old Moses Bar to relax with some Tusker beers as we waited for dinner, which was a sumptuous selection of African delicacies.
The starter was a fresh, delicious and mildly spiced vegetable soup. The main course included roasted goat, grilled chicken, mukimo, rice, ugali and chapatis as well vegetable salads. For dessert, we had the choice of banana fritters and tropical fruit. Kenyan tea and coffee completed the feast.
Satisfied and tired from the activities of the day, it did not take long before we retired to bed. It can be chilly at night but thankfully, we each had two or three blankets and could request for more.
The following day, we decided to take a nature walk in the indigenous forest surrounding the lodge. Our guide, Joseph Gatheru, led us past the man-made lake where one can do boating. During our walk, Joseph pointed out certain plant species and explained their medicinal and cultural uses.
We caught a glimpse of a beautiful, furry, black and white primate with an exceptionally long white bushy tail. We learnt that this was the rare and shy colobus monkey, an entirely arboreal monkey. It spends its entire life in the upper branches of trees where it gets its food. The monkey only comes down to search for water. Its furry skin helps it glide from one branch to another, while its bushy tail provides the necessary balance.
Sadly, the colobus monkey is on the verge of extinction due to frequent poaching by the locals who hunt it for its skin, which is used to make traditional costumes for the village elders.
Birdlife is also abundant in this forest. We saw bee-eaters, hautlaubs turacos, fiscal shrikes, hornbills, ibises, crowned cranes, owls and other birds of prey.
We unfortunately had to cut our walk short since time was not on our side and we had to move on to our next destination.
—The writer is a professional tour guide