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My Experience

THE ELEPHANT IN THE BUCKET

It’s 4:50 am, I’m standing in a strangely busy street in town. This is where all adventurers in Nairobi begin their expeditions. I’m with a friend. It’s advisable at this time of the morning, mainly for security reasons. This is Kanairo

We wait for the rest of the team, one of them doesn’t have Uber access at this time of the morning, so we have to wait a bit longer. Anyway, the excitement overshadows the lateness at this point. 

We were given specific instructions on what to wear and from the attire one can tell it will not be the usual walk in Karura. Warm Jackets and hiking boots. He was specific on those.

We are free spirits, so quick introductions for those we don’t know each other and hugs and kisses, wait what? Sorry, just hugs for those we know and off we take. We are picking some people on the way, no idea what to expect, and a few minutes later, they are part of the team. Again, a few minutes later, we pick another team, 3 individuals, at least they are familiar faces, some even kin. 

Are we all? No, not yet, there is still the man of the moment that we have to pick, he will be our guide for the day. Cool guy. Steve

Now we have a full house. We should be there on time despite having a late start. Oh sorry, I didn’t introduce the other main guy. The driver, a chilled out guy. He is focused on the road ahead so not much to talk about really.  The sunrise is behind us, so no great photos to show here.

We are heading West, the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway, this is a familiar route. Maybe not for long. We divert left at some point called Flyover, that will be our road for the next 45 minutes. 

It’s a rough tarmacked road, not so strange in Kenya. So uncomfortable if you are seated at the back of an 11 seater van. The driver doesn’t know we exist. Or so it seems. But we’ll soldier on since as mentioned earlier the focus is on the Elephant in my Bucket list.

We arrive after a few head bangs on the car roof. 

There is a big crowd. But that’s none of what we came here to do. 

It’s a scary site, no clouds at the moment so we can see what lies ahead, no no, that’s not right. We can see what stands ahead. Some tall bushy mountain named after the largest land mammal. 

It’s cold. A few stretches and the guide gets us going, oh! by the way the big crowd had like 5 buses with them, seems like a popular destination. 

I had a quick chat with the guide and he states that you have to book a guide for KES. 1500 and entrance fee is KES. 250 only.

I’m with a foreign friend, since after introductions I realized we are in the same career field. I’ve always told you networking is key and that is part of why I travel. For the other part you’ll find out when we have a chat over a cup of coffee, maybe.

We are among the top 20 if this was to be ranked. We move slowly, chatting while we can still catch a breath. The terrain is forgiving at this point so we pick up the pace. Still chatting on how climate can be forecasted better and communicated better to stakeholders. Yeah, I can be that boring sometimes. Hehe. 

2 Kilometers later, (yes we measure in Kilometers here). We see a signpost that we are at the starting point. Oh boy, now it hits us that this is going to be a tough one. Anyway, in Kenya we say ‘sisi ni nani’ when we are about to turn on the turbos. That’s exactly what we do. No stopping now, we have an unannounced target. The 2nd board reads bamboo gate. Joey would say,  we are about to get bamboozled. An entire canopied trail of bamboo trees, leafy floor and this awesome feeling of quietness. No birds chirping, no crickets doing whatever they do. I’m way ahead, I have no Idea why , maybe it’s the unannounced target, I stand still for a few minutes just to hear the dead silence, oh, sorry my heavy breathing can’t make it dead enough. So I hold my breath (that’s how crazy I can be). I need to listen to this. Dead silence. Nature is speaking. I think. 

I push on, alone in a crowd of trees. All bamboo. It is steep but ‘mimi ni nani’

Next stop, Desperado (A point of Despair) that’s what the board reads. This was hectic, I’m dripping sweat in a cold environment. Great feeling though.

I’m no longer alone. I have a sandwich, I deserve it. Oh, and the other team is here too. It’s a healthy break. We have to go now. 

Again, the unannounced target in my brain keeps reminding me of what I am capable of. Jonnie Walker will have to rebrand, I’m his biggest rival at the moment.

Whatever is in front of us is one scary, beautiful looking beast of a climb. It’s rocky, all along we keep asking each other, why was the last stop a point of despair. That was nothing compared to what we are undertaking. There are no guides around to ask, so we despair. Nuh, we are stronger than that. It is a stair-cased rocky climb. The chest has acclimatized in and out the bamboo forest, so it is not complaining at the moment. But the legs keep screaming, why the hell would you drag me into your endurance issues. Keep that close to the heart, not me, so I make a bargain, a few stops in between, should do the trick, or else, the legs might shut down. 

At this point the conversations are fewer compared to the start. It’s more of, are we there yet? A few of those and yes oh yes, we are at The Tail. 

For myself, all I see is lush vegetation. Apparently the Elephant hill is shaped like an Elephant so we are the tail. It feels like a summit, so I deserve a banana. The guides are here, and they show us where the real summit is. What the?…Now this should be a point of despair. It was hell of a torturous climb. We wait a bit longer here. 

The best part about any hike is getting to the summit, so that’s what we do, we proceed. Slightly slower but an easier walk compared to the previous two stops. Fifteen or so minutes later we are here, 12,000 feet above sea level ( yes, feet). It is weird how all the other stops were in meters but only the peak reads in feet. Who labels these things? So quick calculation, that translates to about 3,600 meters above sea level. It’s a quick gain in altitude and I am glad I am not having any sickness. Some of my friends are having a tough time, really tough. 

One cannot fail to spot a plane crash on the side of the hill. It’s sad. 

Ahh, this time there is a guide, I have few questions

First, when did that happen? About 2016. It killed everyone onboard. Damn, so sad. 

All of a sudden a thick cloud starts to gather towards Kinangop peak, yeah, apparently there is another peak close by that is the second highest of the Aberdare ranges. Research about the highest on your own. I can’t do everything for you. Hehe. Nobody wants to stare at it much longer; you might be tempted to proceed since the view is spectacular, and we love challenges.

A few pictures later the team that I got to the summit with wants to start descending. I have to wait for some of the team members that we drove with to get here, then descend, so I stay back as they roll down. 

I can spot one, two, three, Oh, great they are here, The earlier cloud is now on us, we are pretty much inside it. It is damn cold. A few pictures later we start the descent. We have a self proclaimed rainmaker in the group, he assures us it is not going to rain. So the descent is pretty much slowed down. 

Sorry, this time he forgot to sacrifice the black goat and the gods open up the clouds, a continuous light drizzle that by the time we get down we are soaking wet. Luckily I didn’t believe him so I carried a raincoat.

First thing we notice a lady selling porridge and we have to regain what we’ve lost to the mountain. A few cups later, we are on the road. It is no longer an elephant in my room. I conquered

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