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ChallengeMy Experience

SATISFACTION

CASTLE FOREST

What day is it? All I remember is that I went hiking sometime back. It was a weekend. Forgive me for asking. I’ve got Tsetse fly venom in me. It causes trypanosomiasis. Try saying that with a mother-tongue influenced brain. English calls it sleeping sickness. So we will stick to that. 

I went hiking with my daughter for the first time. She’s 10 now, I guess she can handle what the world has to offer. It was an amazing experience. Being looked up to and asked questions like, why do we hike, Dad? The Dad part is what hits you before the question. I’m used to hiking with an adult team, so no one calls you dad on a hiking trail. Unless they want to be back-ridden or something.

So yes, this was different. Especially when she said she wants to make me proud. It makes you feel like superman flying across the universe. 

Well then, why do we hike? Or even better, why do you hike?

For personal reasons I believe. Some it is to just stay fit. Probably from a doctors’ order. Some to escape from the basic lifestyle. Some I believe is just peer pressure. And for some, actually not some but for most it is for the Gram. You know, posing in front of the camera with a green picturesque background, a waterfall thundering through the air and birds chirping above the trees. That’s worth the hustle.

Well for me, I try to combine all those. At my age, I need my bones to get up and down my staircase and what better way than to train for it through amazing nature trails and fresh air. I haven’t gotten any doctor’s orders yet and I hope it remains that way. One of the sole purposes of Trek is to get out there every 3rd weekend. This reason was built upon the fact that I used to waste most of my weekends. (At least it felt that way) I would be stuck indoors binge watching episodes after episodes of amazing series and that was way before Netflix. So you can imagine what would have happened if I didn’t break that habit. Saddest part is that it never gave me any satisfaction, and at the end of the day I would still feel sorry for myself. The next morning would still be tiring even after the recommended hours of sleep. Then I would top it up a few drinks over a soccer match. By the time I realized, it was already Monday at 6:00am. This doesn’t mean that I never think of not going out for Trek activities. I do, but the peer pressure that I have built over the years keeps pushing me to never quit on this team. 

Castle Forest is one of those examples. Like I said in my previous post I have the annual calendar out. I shared it among my team and one of the tasks is to select all that you can attend from the 12 activities. I keep checking on the list prior to the event. This helps me plan for logistics much better. This time there were 6 of us. Excluding my daughter. (She doesn’t know what goes on behind the scenes). The day before the trip there were 4 of us. The departure day, there were just 3 of us. Kind of demotivating right? Such moments are what I am talking about. But hey, 3 of us is enough to give me peer pressure not to quit.  It actually reminds me of why I started in the first place. That is what I call positive peer pressure. 

Departure time is scheduled for 6 am, one of us is coming from a distance so we depart an hour after the schedule. I read somewhere it is a 20km walk. So we have got to hurry. The drive is easy, tarmacked all the way to the entrance. 

We are greeted by John, He is the forest ranger on duty. We make our payments via mobile money. (no cash payments allowed) Kes. 232 per adult and a service fee of Kes. 58 and zero charges for Children. He explains to us that we have 2 options. One is to start our walk from the entrance which will make the total 20 kilometers or drive straight to the Forest lodge and start from there which will total to 12 kilometers. Guess which one we picked. Hehe. We got there at around 10 am so we thought it would be wise to cover a shorter distance. Plus we have a minor with us and we care a lot about her, we don’t want to scare her into not hiking in future. She might need some photos for her gram, or whatever it’ll be called then.

We head straight to the forest lodge. I have no Idea why it is named Castle Forest Lodge. I didn’t see any castles, or maybe they were built up in the air. We should have asked. We are getting old Nyambura, we shouldn’t forget such critical information. Hehe. We are greeted by a gentleman called…, damn it I can’t remember his name. This is on you Kirinya, you distracted me with the horses. Yep they’ve got horses as well. Kes. 1200 for an hours ride.

He briefs us on what to expect. There is a short walk that doesn’t require a guide, then there is the longer walk that definitely requires a guide. We had an option of taking a guide from the gate and that would have cost us Kes. 1500. We are going for the long walk of about 6 Km so we need a guide. He wasn’t available at the moment so we had to wait. But before that we have to pay for accessing the lodge which is Kes. 250 per adult and Kes. 50 per child. We scrolled around waiting for our guide to arrive. After about 10 mins a charming guy named Robert appears. He briefs us on the possible routes and suggests that we start at the furthest waterfall. My daughter’s eyes  light up, she is eager to dive in the water, but she has to endure a 6 Km walk through the Tsetse fly infested forest. 

This wasn’t part of the briefing. Robert is a calm but extremely honest guy. We didn’t know what they were when we started walking. You would think they are regular flies until they bite through your skinny trousers. That’s when you know you are infested. They came in plenty. Robert had to pluck branches off trees that we could use as fly whisks. This was our Journey through most of the trail. We kept asking Robert if we are safe or if we will be waking up on a Friday evening only to be told it is the Good Friday. From the stories we have heard tsetse flies cause sleeping sickness. Robert kept reassuring us. He even didn’t carry a whisk himself.

They decrease as you ascend. An entomologist might have a paper to write about. We are just nature lovers, that’s it. Robert keeps telling us his encounters with wild animals and this terrifies us a bit, but his confidence is reassuring. Elephants and Buffalo trails can be seen throughout the forest. Most of which is reafforested. Our guide explains that years ago all that we were walking through were farmlands and the government had to intervene in order to protect Mt. Kenya Forest reserve. He does a bit of farming in his 3 acre piece down the hill and he is content with what he gets, especially from his coffee farm.

We are even brave enough to take a break in between. Nothing to hike about really; it is mostly flat terrain until you get close to the falls. I look at my daughter and the excitement is real, we go down a steep slope and there it is. Thundering from about 50 feet high. She rushes towards it and immediately sits down on a rock nearby and stares at it. The guide follows and sits next to her. She is quiet, I guess she is amazed. I hope. I am still struggling with the steep slopes, that’s one measure of age difference. We all sit down next to the falls. Nobody says a word. We are the only ones here at the moment. So we soak it all in. 

I have to dive in, this has become my norm so far this year. I change into my costume and dive in. nothing fancy, just a colourful short really. Hehe.  

It is freezing cold but I am getting used to freezing waters these days. A 1 minute dip and then I get out to let my body recover. it feels like somebody is sticking pins throughout my body. My daughter tries to join in but she immediately backs up, the water is cold. I don’t know what she expected, so she chooses to swim at the periphery. The crowd starts trickling in. We found a spot where we can take photos. We are just 4 of us, we take turns, each one putting up their best pose. As I said, this right here is one of the reasons for hiking.

I jump right back in the water for a last dip before heading back. I feel like my sins are washed away.

The trail back is silent. You can sense the satisfaction in the air. Plus there are no more tsetse flies. Like I said, this needs to be studied. We pause a few times to just enjoy the calming air. We were told there are 2 waterfalls so we divert midway to get to the other.

I must say, this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have seen. Most falls just drop from a high cliff. Well, this one splits into two as it rolls down, it doesn’t just fall. it has a calming force to it. It cascades over the rocks and forms a small pool underneath. The vegetation around it is untouched. It looks animated. A few photos then we roll down. Robert mentions that there is a 3rd waterfall. This is my lucky day I guess. We go down a makeshift staircase and there we are staring at yet another waterfall. This is like a hidden gem. You can walk right to the waterfall. The surrounding is sort of hidden and much calm compared to the rest. There is even a sitting area. So we take our last break. Robert takes a photo of us all. We head back to the parking lot. It’s just a few meters from the falls. Oh did I mention that we have to pay Robert for his services. This is separate from what you pay the forest lodge. He works for the community around the forest. We liked his service so we paid Kes. 1500 for it. 

We bid our goodbyes. The drive back is quiet, this is usual after a trip. It is 5pm. We stop over at Sagana for a late lunch. We had made prior orders so we didn’t have to wait long. All done here. We drive out. I check my rear view mirror, my daughter is starting doze off. Satisfaction. I guess.

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