Contrary to popular belief, Makueni County in Eastern Kenya is not a desert,neither is it an expansive flat land with thorny bushes with drying crops and hunger stricken animals.
Allow me to introduce to you the Makueni County I went to last weekend for a hike. As the rest of the country wallowed in the continuing drought with visible repercussions, there was a different narrative from this side of the republic.
Rehabilitated land, irrigation schemes, gabions and mixed farming was heavily evident. Fertile slopes that would have otherwise been left to all sorts of erosion had been put to profitable agricultural use. This might not be the script in entire county but it holds water for the areas I passed through.
From the lessons learnt after Mt.Longonot hike, I was much wiser on this one and wanted to make it as comfortable as possible. This meant proper gear, more water, more fruits and energy bars!
The estimated time of departure was 5:30 am EAT. According to the info sheet circulated earlier, it was clearly put that anyone arriving late was to be left behind. Well, I did not want to that person. So despite the insomnia and the three hour sleep, I was right on time.
The first stop was Makongo in Makueni. It has a nice view point of the green hilly country side with hanging clouds,busy ants and a snaking tarmac road that made lazy turns between hills.
About an hour or so away was Nzui shopping center.This was the second stop. The tour bus we were traveling in couldn’t go further into the rough terrain,therefore we had to seek alternative means of transport to Matuluni shopping center where the hike was scheduled to start.
The two options we had were motorbikes or Toyota Probox. I had heard so many funny stories about Probox such as its supernatural ability to carry twenty people yet it has a capacity five,its imaginary turbo engine etc. Let’s just say after that ride, I understood why it has a ‘comfortable’ capacity of fifteen and twenty if you stretch it!
After about fifteen minutes, we were at Mituluni. All ready to start the hike. The weather was conducive for the day considering it had rained the previous day.
Nzaui hills is under Kenya Forestry and being a virgin trail, we were assigned two guides, one at the front and the other behind us just in case we got lost.
The terrain was moderate, no steep slopes and has the best landscape views.
A round hike was about 20km and it took approximately six hours.
The best aspect of the hike was the shade provided by the forest canopy.
About six kilometers into the forest, the gentle slope came to an end and a steep slope with undefined paths led to the first summit. That was the toughest part of the hike because the bushes were almost the same height as the tallest of us and one had to find their way through the thicket.
On approaching the first summit, you are presented with a view that instantly erases any memory that might be left of the tough ascent,the panting and sweating.
Summit two which was steeper was about thirty two minutes away. The bush gets thicker, the legs heavier and eyes narrows as one tries to make their way through.
As it is always true with hiking, the epitome is getting to the summit.
Nzaui hills proudly stands in the heart of Makueni County and can easily pass as a watch tower. From above, rivers, ox bow lakes,farms, shopping centers and homesteads can be seen as miniature structures.
The summit is a huge rock and has a perpendicular slope.
After enjoying the view at the top, the guide took us to a gentler slope during the descent and within a few hours were were back at the starting point in the shopping center!
The descent was scenic and picturesque. There were lots of soft wood trees and dried branches,millipedes and birds.
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