Thursday, July 14, 2011

I’ve Been to Hell and Back

Sorry for the delay … things have gotten quite busy in the evenings with work.  On July 2nd & 3rd we took a group to Lake Naivasha for a weekend of hiking.  We took off first thing in the morning to ensure that we would have enough time to hike the park before dark.  Our first stop of the trip was the equator, which marked my first cross into the southern hemisphere. 

After perusing the street side stand and a few funny photos we hopped back in the van and were back on the road.  As we made our way down the highway (really just a 2 lane road) we were informed that the stretch of road we were on is considered the nicest in Kenya.  The road was smooth and for the first time we noticed yellow lines dividing the lanes and signaling when passing was allowed and when to stay in your lane.  Of course these lines meant nothing to the drivers as they had never seen them before and the driving was as erratic (if not more so) as any other road we had travelled.  It was during this time that I mentioned to our driver that I had seen street lights and crossing signals in Eldoret that looked perfectly new but were not in use.  Ironically, I was informed that the local government installed the signals without public notice and upon activation caused more accidents and commotion than organization.  In total, the lights were activated for 4 hours before being shut down and abandoned … an interesting metaphor for how improvement efforts have been attempted in Kenya. 

We arrived in Naivasha town late morning and headed to Hell’s Gate Park for our first adventure.   We arrived at the park and decided to rent mountain bikes for the 8k journey to the actual Hell’s Gate gorge.  The bikes provided an interesting experience in themselves as they were amalgamations of what I’m sure at one time were nice bikes but now were missing pedals and had loose handlebars.  The most comical flaw in my bike was the broken bell that would go off at the slightest bump in the road … this wasn’t exactly conducive to approaching the wildlife on the rocky trail we were riding on.

 As we arrived at the hiking location and met up with our Masaai guide who would accompany us on the journey.  When traveling on Masaai land you’re always supposed to have a local Masaai accompany the group.  We ascended into the gorge and started off through the gorge.  The hike was fantastic and at times provided challenging obstacles to traverse in order to continue.  I found myself jumping drop-offs, scaling rock walls and attempting moves that were akin to something you would see on Ninja Warrior.  The highlight of the hike occurred as we entered a split in the gorge which opened up into a beautiful cavern halfway through our hike, where we happened upon a photoshoot of Kenyan models.  Nick made friends on the way through and was invited to be a guest model for a few pics.  Check out  his zoolander-esque pose in the photo below!

Unfortunately, our hike took a few turns for the worse as we neared the finish.  First, we got to the end where we could scale a 30 foot rock wall if we wanted.  While the way up was challenging, it was the getting down which proved to be an interesting experience.  A half hour or so later we made our way back to the split in the gorge and proceeded on the final leg of the hike. 

As we approached a cliff face with a waterfall we stopped for a few photos.  In an attempt to take a partridge family-like picture our guide was positioning himself and managed to slip on the edge of the cliff and fall into the gorge … luckily he fell into an area that was only about 6ft deep before the drop-off.  Unfortunately, he was pretty banged up and took one of our friend’s cameras with him.  Thankfully, we had a doctor in the group who checked out the injuries and after a few minutes of examination we were back on the trail.  As we finished our hike we were met with some amazing views as you can see below. 

After grabbing some water and waiting for a gaggle of baboons to exit the area, we jumped back on our bikes and headed back towards the park entrance where we met our guide and headed back to camp. 

Day 2 took us on a morning cruise on Lake Naivasha where we had the chance to get up close to a number of large groups of Hippos.  It’s a bit unnerving as you approach a group of Hippos when suddenly they submerge below the surface of the water only to pop up around your boat … especially when you see how large and in charge these animals are. 

We crossed the lake and landed at Crescent Island … a game preserve protected at the far end of the lake.  Here we were able to walk amongst groups of Wildebeests, Zebras, Water Bucks, Antelope, Gazelles and Giraffes.  This is one of the few parks where you are free to roam the park … likely due to the inexistence of any natural predators or aggressive animals.  A few hours later, tired from the two days of hiking we jumped back in our safari van and were on our way back to Eldoret.

We stopped for lunch on the way through Nakuru and as you can see I ran into a fellow ND Fan ... during our discussion he predicted an undefeated season for Brian Kelly ... this was all in Swahili of course :P


  1. Ryan,

    Your pictures are amazing and I love reading your stories. Next time if you need an extra assistant...well you know, I'd be free! :-)

    Seriously, you are experiencing something the majority of us dream of and never get the chance to participate it. AWESOME!!

  2. Ryan, well done on the pics!!! Looks like you are having one heck of a time and I hope everything is working out well for you.

    I will check in again, hope all is well.