Activity: Elephant Hill Hike
When: 16th March 2019
Service: Elyzza Tours and Adventures (fb), @Elyzza Tours (twitter), @Elyzza Tours & Adventures (IG)
Charges: Ksh 2,200.
Photos: My phone camera, canon no longer with me
The journey to Njabini started at 6:45am from Nairobi whereby we made a left turn at Flyover (Nairobi-Naivasha road) to get through to Njabini-Ndunyu Njeru road-Nyandarua County. We were at Njabini shopping center at 8:00am and needed a boost to start off the hike. Our rumbling stomachs that woke up early not be left out by Elyzza Tours, took breakfast here. Around 8:45am we took a right turn that had untarmacked road to the South Kinangop forest station where our hike was to begin. Registration (for solo travelers you can check the KWS website for charges) and guide in check, we were ready to conquer one of the best and most challenging hill in Kenya; Elephant hill. This we began at 9:30am.
Named after the shape of an elephant, the hill is located in the Southern Moorland of Aberdare ranges, Njabini, Nyandarua County. This hill is mostly used as a preparatory hike by hikers who want to conquer Mt.Kenya and Mt.Kilimanjaro. The weather here is one of a kind as it keeps on changing drastically and hikers are advised to hike during warmer days. Elephants and buffalos are the major wildlife attractions on this side. Yesterday been International Forest Day, the Aberdare ranges like any other forest has been prone to fires caused by humans and logging. However, Paul (our ranger) explained they have been working round the clock to ensure the forest cover has increased which has actually played part to the 4-7% cover swell countrywide.
The first thing that struck me on our way to the starting point were the colonial houses and school that colonialists used. Actually the school block here has been left to house cows that wander about in the park in search of pasture. The one hour walk also brings to light the shamba system used by locals that has now been left abandoned after the government kicked them out due to encroachment. A dusty trail takes center stage, motorbikes ride their way carrying farmers who are trying to salvage their produce before the 30th March deadline. Luckily, pine trees have been planted to bring back the glory of the forest.
Effect of the walk trickled in real fast as the sun had us exhausted. The starting point path led us through dense forest cover, cool climate that had us rejuvenated, elephant footprints were visible. We were still together as a pack, exchanging banter, psyched, loving it till we got to the next point; bamboo route. Here the altitude went higher, bamboo trees danced and honked on each other. Bamboo leaves piled our paths calling for walking sticks to avoid sliding. This I noticed is the longest routes of all. It required slow carefully planned walks. The thought of coming back downhill now that we were ascending, gave me the jeepers. From here one can spot the tail.
Desperado point as the name suggests is not for the faint hearted. Before we embarked on this route, we took some snacks and lunch that were self sponsored (not in the package). The view was clear as we spotted Mt. Longonot, Sasumua Dam and Ndakaini dam. Those good at bearing were kind enough to show us where various geographical features could be found. However, the strong winds could be felt and it was time to buckle up to warm clothes. Two gentlemen gave up and decided to not forge ahead. Bamboo path had them drained!
Despair path has staircases of rocks. One that needs short people like me to really use the walking stick for balance. The vegetation here is unique as it is greener and grows on rocks. Moorlands can be spotted across regions. Chit chat faded, gave way to the fast hikers, my first water bottle was exhausted and decided to take my pace. I was in the middle pack. Just when I thought this was another longer route, tourists descending came my way. As usual we exchanged greetings while their armed ranger encouraged me I was minutes away to the top. Man, did he give me a lying encouragement! I think in the excitement of almost there, the more I climbed, the more it became obvious I wasn’t there yet. I made it though.
Major thrills were now rocking in at the tail path that led to the summit. The weather changed drastically to nimbus clouds, fog kicked in, handkerchiefs did the talking as our noses started running all of a sudden and we could not spot the end peak. Our ranger Paul, advised us to not take a break as the fog could blind our path. Here rocks also did the talking but in an exciting manner. You had to descend a smaller valley, cross a rock path (Picture Rivers and valleys) then ascend to another hilly valley. Groups became separated and for the most part I hiked alone with other after and before me. The interesting part was having to take a rest on the hilly valley as I awaited the second last pair whom I figured would not identify which path to descend to. Here I waived, did some funny sign language and even shouted to let them know which way to get to me.
Ten minutes away from the summit we did a detour to the ill-fated plane crash that killed ten late last year. The SAX debris still looking fresh, was something to turn our excited faces to a dull mood. Here everyone had their moment, we questioned, Paul explained how they located it but to imagine death in such a painful way was too much. The summit was calling. We made it to 12,000ft above sea level after five and a half hours, 3:00pm. We congratulated each other, finished our snacks, shared our last bottles of water while Kinangop peak came in view. The unwelcoming robust wind and blinding fog had us leave for the descend. It was much simpler than we thought conquering each point in just 20 minutes but after bamboo point we slowed our paces. One could feel their muscles aching, friction rubbing in between shoes and toes. At this juncture my voice was almost gone. Thunderstorms could be heard distances away. Everyone just looked tired, lazy. We made it back to the tour van at 6:00pm and back to Nairobi at 8:00pm.
PS: Now I can comfortably say am fit for Mt.Kenya! More so, Elyzza is embarking again on this hike on 27th April for just Ksh 1,990.