Happy New Year!! Happy Valentine’s! How have you all been?
You see sometimes when the gods want you to do something you will just do it however much you escape. I have escaped hiking Elephant hills since my Kijabe hike simply because I could not imagine the torture plus I had been told elephant hill is no child play. After declining three invites I finally joined Xtrym Adventures on a day hike to Elephant hills.
We departed from Nairobi at 6.a.m from International life House. I was scared and was unsure of myself if I would summit since I know of serious hikers who told me how tough this hill is. During our journey to Njabini, I kept on staring out of the window imagining how I had decided to meet my death halfway and also how my parents are going to come for my body from the Aberdares. From where I sat I could hear different stories everyone narrating how this hill is not loyal. Luckily I fall asleep and only wake up as we approach Njabini forest gate. The place is full and I can not help thinking of how people are passionate about hiking. As I get out of the bus I hear someone asking ‘Are you ready?’ I remember mumbling a quick ‘mentally yes’ despite the fact that I was not sure if I was ready.
Warm up is done, we get introduced to our ranger, lead guides for the day and then the hike begins.
Our hike begins at Njabini forest gate towards a dusty road, where the terrain is moderate and everyone is very chatty as they catch up with friends they had not seen in a while. I am still quiet thinking of how this day is going to unfold then from nowhere it started raining and yours truly here did not have a raincoat. I guess this is the point I say the weather at elephant hill is very unpredictable make sure you are well armed and don’t forget to have good shoes because this can always turn into a muddy affair. We get to the main gate, I say a silent prayer about how we should stick to this particular terrain. We are told to dress down because here the rain had stopped and it was getting hot. I later learnt that when you feel hot while hiking you are likely to give your body a hard time thus making you get tired.
The sign board of the bamboo forest can now be seen clearly and dearly beloved this is where life happens. Why do I say so? Here you you walk through a forest that the terrain constantly changes and you find yourself holding on to the bamboos for support also you can get a stick maximum support is needed as you go through the forest. The altitude also changes here and we are now at approximately 2900 Above Sea Level which continued changing as we climbed on. It is really beautiful since the bamboos do form a canopy at the top which was very beautiful from where I was and even the path are really amazing. Along the way you see elephant footprints and other animal droppings which constantly remind you that you are in a reserve.
After walking tirelessly the bamboo forest clears and you get to the point of Desparado also known as the point of despair. Ladies and gentlemen this is indeed the point of despair since you get to decide if you will summit or not also you get to asses your body if both of you are all on the same page. From a distance on your right, you can see Sasuma dam and Ndakaini Dam on the left oblivious of us nature trailers and just going about their usual business.We have a quick snack break take a few photos then we keep walking.
Before we could even go far, the terrain changes to a rocky one and it keeps on getting steeper as we walked further. Due to altitude changes, you start feeling altitude sickness kicking in. I used to hear people talk about altitude sickness and thought it is something you can ignore. No, you cannot instead keep on hydrating it helps you manage it. Remember when I mentioned how chatty people were? At this point, no one is talking and you do not need to strain to hear the hills gossiping. Later on, I learnt this part is called the elephant’s back which clearly explains the toughness. The elephant cannot be minding her own business and you are there trying to walk on her back. You have to experience difficulty.
Botany enthusiasts would definitely enjoy this part because of the plants you see on your way up and how they are neatly arranged as you make your way up. I did not manage to take a photo because one it was drizzling the mist kept on clearing and coming back and lastly it was windy and I was struggling to find balance because if you have a weight like mine, that wind might decide to blow you away and I do not want to make my earlier thoughts about my parents coming for my body from the Aberdares a reality.
After an endless walk, I say endless because the person behind kept on asking people descending how far the summit was from where we were and everyone said almost yet we were still not there. Also, I forgot to mention I saw a 5 year old descending and I was like some parents know how to torture their babies ama that is how they punish them? I would rather get my strokes and sleep crying. Anyway, I just digressed. The trail finally levels off and at this point, I am completely done and I am asking myself why I even took up this challenge in the first place. Wait! Was it even a challenge ama I just decided to cause my own death. As my thoughts ran wild my eyes caught a view of the summit and I could hear people screaming. You know those shouts our mothers make when they are celebrating or when you have made them proud? I would have said ululations but they were not. For a moment I wished I could fly and land at the summit because it was not far the problem was my feet were done with this plan.
On your way you pass the remains of SAX aircraft but interestingly I did not see it, I only saw it after I had passed. Finally, I got to the summit and I have never been this proud of my self. In order to believe, I moved closer to the board at the summit and the words there made my eyes teary. ‘THE ULTIMATE HIKING DESTINATION CONGRATULATIONS!’ It was freezing but then I had to take photo so that when someone argues with me I can show them this picture and tell them I deserve respect. Before my excitement could settle in, it started raining but this time hailstones. I was completely done with this mountain that they mistakenly called a hill.
One thing we should be constantly reminded is that going up a mountain/hill is optional but coming down is a must. This is the descent that makes you regret going up and make you just want to throw yourself all the way to the bottom. This descent takes a toll on your knees and you are just left there wondering what life is if your own knees cannot even support you. Going down was harder than I thought and I remember somewhere along the way we even saw an imaginary buffalo and got lost somewhere but this is what adventure is all about right?
Despite my sore feet and aching knees, it was a beautiful evening and the sky was covered with clouds, a rainbow, the sun through those clouds that gave her a had time, she still peeped through and I managed to get a shot. We finally get to our starting point,I was extremely proud of myself because no one in our family would dare walk for 8 hours and try covering 19 KMS so technically I am my ancestors favorite.
I am sorry I do not have nice photos, I had all my poses in mind but then life happened. I was so in the moment and this hill did not give me a chance. I promise to go back and capture all those amazing views for you my people. Also all the best to the team to those we hiked with on this particular weekend, guuuys they are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro next week!! Go ye all and conquer Kili.
Special shout out to the Team Leader Xtrym Adventures. He constantly checked on us first timers and gave us several reasons why we need to summit. Thank you.
Till next time; Happy Hiking.