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Attempting the unthinkable! The Daring Double that Conquered Mt. Kenya in Half a Day

Please, don’t try this at home“, was a common catchy phrase synonymous with Tuesday Kenya nights when wrestling used to air on TV. Two friends of mine recently took this phrase to a whole other level… 4,985 metres (16,355ft) above sea level to be precise! PLEASE DON’T TRY THIS AT ALL!

Breaking conventions: Are rules are for sissies?

When Ephraim Kihia and Willy Sise told me that they were going to climb Mt. Kenya in one day, I was utterly gobsmacked! I’ve been up Africa’s second highest peak and, I must tell you that it is not only treacherous, it is deadly! If you read my post about the climb, you’ll see from my face that it isn’t quite a smiling game. Summiting such a rocky mountain, with steep cliff faces requires a lot of planning and preparedness, and nobody should ever be in a rush!

However, the duo was having none of that! They actually did a trip from Nairobi, to the mountain, and back in just about one day! To be precise, the climb from the base of the mountain to Point Lenana (4,985 metres) took them a record 14 hours 8 minutes, a total distance of 43.63 kilometers! Can I get a confetti explosion! Damn! These men are made of valerian steel! Thrashing all rules about mountain climbing!

Dare-Devil climbers: Who are they?

Well, my dare devil friends never shy away from a challenge. They are professional Mountain guides, sought from two different mountaineering companies. Unless disputed by fact, these two chaps are the first to ever summit the mountain in a record 14 hours 8 minutes!

 

And if you thought climbing Mt. Kenya in a day was the ultimate challenge, they say they still have Kilimanjaro and Rwenzori on their platter! Go for it boys! You can follow Ephraim on his facebook page, and Willy on his website too!

What are the risks of climbing a mountain too fast?

Conventionally, it is recommended that you shouldn’t climb higher than 300-500 meters/900-1500 ft per day. Doing a climb in a hurry carries its own share of risks. If you are an adrenaline junkie, here are a few reasons to shoot more adrenaline into you:

  1. Acclimatization – Marked by headache (relieved by aspirin), irregular breathing at night, rapid breathing at day, increased urine output.
  2.  Altitude sickness – also called Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is marked by dizziness, vomiting, losing your balance, persistent coughing, sleepiness.
  3. Lack of orientation/Awareness – Going through a climbing track too fast makes it harder for your to keep track of your path, and make it more likely for you to get lost.
  4. Accidents – Rushing too fast up or down a mountain slope, especially at treacherous as Mt. Kenya, puts you at risk of slipping, falling and severe injury.

If you need plans on you next climbing expedition, reach out to these daredevils… with this achievement, you’ll always be in safe hands!

The hike in photos…

There you have it! Summiting Mt.Kenya in 14 hours and 8 minutes!

Get in touch with Ephraim on Facebook here and Willy on Facebook here!

Challenge yourself!

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Japanese Teppanyaki at Sake Restaurant;Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa

Japanese Teppanyaki is a culinary performing art.

The first time I tried Japanese cuisine I did not like it. The honey glazed chicken didn’t go well with my taste palettes especially because whoever prepared it put too much salt in the chicken, so it was more like eating salt mixed with sugar.To make matters worse,the meal cost me an arm and a leg. Since then,I decided to go slow on experiencing foreign cuisines.

During my recent visit to Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa, my previous not so good experience with Japanese Teriyaki chicken was thrown out of the window.

The Sake Oriental Restaurant.

The restaurant offers Japanese, Indian and Chinese cuisine. Inside the restaurant,there are two Teppanyaki tables. There is also another set of normal dining tables and a floor sitting arrangement synonymous with the Japanese dining style. The set-up of this restaurant is personal and intimate.

Inside Sake Restaurant.
Japanese Chabudai table.
Teppanyaki dining table.

When we walked in, we were told we would be served a Japanese Teppanyaki dinner. I did not know what to expect. I was not sure whether it was alacarte,buffet or something else.However, I was curious to know what teppanyaki was and on enquiring, I got to understand teppanyaki is a technique where food is cooked and served on an iron ‘table’ where the customers are dining. ‘Teppan’ means (iron plate) and ‘yaki’ means (grilled/ pan-fried), so teppanyaki means meals grilled in an iron griddle. The interesting performance during the preparation of the dish is called ‘Hibachi.’

The Teppanyaki experience and Calvin, the chef with culinary theatrics.

We were shown to a window facing table at the furthest left of the restaurant. A few moments later, Chef George(the culinary arts guy) who welcomed and walked us in,handed us safely to Calvin and stepped aside. Calvin; the Japanese cuisine specialty chef, took over. He looked shy at first, while the rest of us seemed unsure of what to expect. Little did we know the performance that was coming our way. He was exceptional at Hibachi; you’d think he was born and raised in Japan.

The Food entertainment in the making of  Emperor course.

The Emperor course is the five-course teppanyaki meal served at Sake Restaurant .

It basically consists of an appetizer course consisting of vegetable salad and/or sushi,followed by seafood.

Vegetable starter…
Sushi.

The seafood of choice that paired nicely for this meal was lobsters followed by prawns, both of which were prepared separately.

Lobster.
Fried lobster.
Prawn.

Cooked Prawn.

The third course was meat. He made chicken followed by beef fillet with steamed vegetable mix.The vegetable was also pan-fried and then covered to steam for about two minutes.

Chicken fillet,garlic,mushrooms and butter.
Frying the chicken.
Beef fillet chunks.
Smaller pieces of beef cooking.
Vegetables.
Beef and vegetables served.

The fourth course was vegetable rice.

Boiled rice,carrots,onions and green pepper.

The rice was pan fried with garlic, carrot and green pepper.

Finally, the soup was served. It was made of chicken soup as the base, mixed with miso paste and beef dash.

Soup.

The whole time, watching Calvin skillfully flipping, turning, cutting, stirring and setting flames to the grilled meat added more excitement to the suspense in the air. Almost a nail-biting experience.

Flaming up the grill.

Speak of meals with an adrenaline rush.

My recommendation

Book your next stay at Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa. Ask for Japanese teppanyaki, and thank me later.

Contact Diani Reef on facebook, twitter, instagram.

Check them out on trip advisor for great deals as well.

Alternatively, you can call them on: +254 709 481 000.

 

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Grace Wangui~The soft spoken hiker,traveler and photographer

The first time I spoke to Grace was on Instagram, someone had stolen my photos and was using them as his. Any creative knows how annoying and disrespectful that can be. I was struck by her kindness. Soon after, our paths crossed again, only in person this time round. She was one of the three ladies shortlisted for the CRBC’s SGR photography Contest. I was the official blogger for the competition. The week long competition with daily stops from Mombasa to Nairobi gave me a better interaction with Grace.

She comes across as soft and almost harmless, but do not be fooled, she is aggressive, tough, firm and a go getter.

She is a fantastic landscape,travel and wildlife photograher.

Here is how our interview went.

  • If you got to the Airport just in time to check in (heading to Himalayas), then you notice you left the pack that has you camera in it… would you still go?

Oh my God! Prophet of Doom! Please let this not happen on my trip to the Himalayas in April 2018. I can visualize myself pulling my hair at the check in terminal while making calls to the Uber guy to confirm that the bag was not left in the car. Yes, I would still jump onto the plane with the hope of buying a camera on transit or in Nepal. That’s what miscellaneous budget is meant for, for a mountain girl like me, not for doll shoes.

  • Not everyone appreciates the beauty that is traveling… has is ever been an issue in your personal relationships? Do you get Positive support?

Traveling is not for everyone. Just like any hobby or profession, you have to dream, visualize and actualize it. There is so much to see and experience from different continents, countries or even different regions of a country but I have learnt overtime that not everyone will understand. Some think it’s a waste of time, others think it’s a waste of money, others have just not been exposed to that kind of life.

  • To set you on a very tight spot, as an ardent hiker and a photographer, are there moments where you’d wish you just ditched the camera and got lost in the moment? Or are there times where you are really so caught up in a climb/hike and you’d wish there was another clone of you behind the camera?

This scenario is typical of many hikes/climbs that I have undertaken in the past. At the start, I am usually upbeat and full of energy to photograph each and every landscape beauty I see but as the hike/climb gets tough, it’s a struggle between a step at a time and a click away. At times, ardent hikers are not necessarily ardent photographers hence I find myself playing catch up when I stop to click away. My DSLR camera seems to get heavier as the hike/climb progresses. In 2015, when it was new I would ditch it and pass the baton to a fellow ardent hiker and photographer ‘Mits Kimiti’. So yes! I at times wish there was another me behind the lens but am glad to report that I have successfully carried it through for days on two major climbs I have undertaken this year – Mt. Elgon (Kenya – Uganda) and Mt. Rwenzori, Uganda.

Mt. Rwenzori, Uganda .                            

Lake Bujuku, Rwenzori National Park.

  • In your travel routines… are you the backpacker or the plan-it-to-the-second type?

I would say I am both. Back in the day, there were random trips out of town (including one that was to Dar, Tanzania in 2008) that I went with friends without major planning of hotels to sleep in or restaurants to eat at but with knowledge of sites to visit. However, in the last few years my kind of travel requires meticulous planning by me and by the travel/mountain guide. I am not a solo traveller, I always find a way of convincing others to join in but I have done a solo climb of Mt. Ololokwe in Samburu last year after potential companions pulled out due to the heat.

  • Everyone would love to travel, but the million dollar question is how they’d pay the costs. How do you manage to cover such an ‘expensive’ lifestyle?     

Let’s demystify the notion that travel is expensive. Not necessarily, though at times it is. It’s possible to travel on low budget especially within your own country. It’s about planning and sacrifice, if you are passionate about travel then you can make it happen. It can be just that one trip you save for and take in a year but all worth it.

  • Have you ever been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?

Yes! Pre-election weekend at Mt. Ol Doinyo Lengai aka Mountain of God! I was astonished that it is harder to descend Mt. Lengai than ascend. I would describe it as a dusty, rocky, steep and slippery wall. It took us 5 hours to ascend but took 6-8 hours to descend. 

  • In our bucket list of travel destinations… what remains, what’s achieved?

A lot remains! The bucket list keeps increasing while the hole gets deeper in my pocket. Top on the list is Everest Base Camp trek. God willing I shall embark on it next year as one of the epic treks in my life as a hiker. A lot has been achieved! I can’t complain.

  • Now that you are Queen of two Kingdoms, between photography and travel blogging, which – in your opinion – is more rewarding?

At the moment photography is more rewarding. I am still struggling with writing, am more of a verbal story teller. I am able to describe experiences in detail but putting words onto paper is a bit difficult for me. I know with a little more effort and practice I shall break into it.

  • There’s usually a whole lot of photography DIY kits/tricks online… Do you have something you spontaneously came up with while on your hikes/photo excursions? A useful hack or a challenge on the road maybe?

Try as much as possible to take pics during ‘bush moments’ and rest stops as ‘picture stops’ might not arise especially in a fast paced hike. The same applies at lunch points, click away first then sit down to eat, otherwise you might not get an opportunity to take a shot when fellow hikers are full and ready to move. Always remember you will not forgive yourself for missing a shot.

  • How was it the first time you went on a bungee… did u hesitate? Or were you all psyched up start to finish?

I’ve only done bungee once in 2014 and I can’t repeat it again at least not at Sagana. Adrenaline rush! That’s the best description of the experience that began with psychological preparation years before I took the jump. I had been to Sagana in 2010 while on a road trip and promised myself to go back to jump off the 60m high tower. I said a prayer, jumped off, closed my eyes and got lost in the moment of oscillation in silence. No screams! Spectators thought I had died of heart attack.

  • The hardest thing for the ‘working class’ travel enthusiast is to find and make time to travel and experience. How would you advise someone whose day job seems to always be on the way in finding time to travel?

I would advise them to create time. Make good use of your weekends, public holidays and leave days. In addition, take advantage of any work travel you undertake to visit a park or any attraction in the area. Don’t just work and write reports, spice up your life. Just like finances, if you are passionate about travel then you can make it happen.

  • What’s your lowest/most discouraging moment as a photographer?

Discovering photos are underexposed when displayed on a desktop. Sometimes the camera’s LCD screen misleads me on the exposure of photos in low light situations. That means I have to spend more time editing the pictures and I hate it!

  • Has your passion for travel/photography ever gotten you into trouble with the Authorities?

No. Thank God I have never been a victim. However, the laws and regulations of the country/city have made it very difficult for photographers to capture the beauty of our cities especially Nairobi. Photographers have faced harassment from various authorities including the police service and County Government officials popularly known as ‘kanjo’. We hope the new leadership at Nairobi County Government shall better facilitate photography in the city as already signaled by the Governor, Mike Sonko.

  • Talk to us about Gracia Photography.

Gracia Photography is about landscape, wildlife and travel photographer. About 13 years ago, I bought my first camera; a Kodak film camera to document my travel adventures. Since then, I have been capturing moments and preserving the memories I experience along the walk of life. Through the lens, I am able to share my stories and experiences and showcase earth’s beauty of landscapes, wildlife, cities, people and culture. Over the years, I have photographed the beauty of countless hills, mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, parks and reserves within Kenya and its neighboring countries of Tanzania and Uganda. I am a passionate advocate of #TembeaKenya that promote local tourism. Gracia Photography aims to inspire the world to visit my beautiful country, conserve the environment and serve as an information tool to fellow travelers and photographers. You can check out www.graciaphotography.com, like the FB page Gracia Photography and follow on IG and Twitter @graciaphotos @gracawangu

  • For someone who has never climbed a termite hill… what, in terms of advice, would you tell them if their end game is to summit Mt. Kenya in 6 months?

I would warn them not to repeat the mistake I did in 2012 on my first Lenana Peak mission. I heard of a Mt. Kenya climb 3 weeks to time and jumped onto the bandwagon. Let’s just say I was ill-prepared of the summit night torture that I underwent. Join a hiking group. There are many today in Kenya with their presence on social media platforms. I have majorly climbed with Kwea Milele, Outdoor Circuits East Africa and Xtrym Adventures. Once you have tested your fitness, stamina and tenacity levels on different day hikes then pay up for Mt. Kenya. It’s doable!

  • Can you tell us of a near breaking point experience in your climbing experiences? Have you ever had any serious injuries?

Near breaking points are many. One of the most recent is on Mt. Rwenzori. Day 6 on this mountain is a day I shall live to remember, we were on a long descent from the highest camp (Elena Hut) to the lowest camp (Nyabitaba Hut) after a successful summit of 19 hours the previous day. That means we were to skip two huts! By the time we got to camp at 9pm I was kaput! I just lay on my bed and cried as my whole body was in pain especially my knees. It took the intervention of fellow climbers Sarah Kocko and Nyamzy Giati to help me stretch my muscles for me to walk and laugh again. Thanks people! Otherwise, I have not had any serious injuries during climbs despite many falls other than my knees complaining on descends.

  • What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever done while on climbing trips? For someone who has never climbed, do they even have toilets on top of Mount Meru? Or do you have to hold it till you get all the way down?

Hahaha! There are toilets or in most cases latrines at designated camps on all the mountains I have been to including Mount Meru which I climbed in 2013. However, along the way (between camps) you have to make use of the bush, we call it ‘bush moment’. I can’t think of any unusual thing I might have done that climbers don’t do. For e.g. it’s normal to take a nap on a cold rock at high altitude in the dead of the night, sleep walk to the summit and pee at the summit on arrival.

Connect with Grace on her social media and get to enjoy her journey as she quenches her thirst for wanderlust.

www.graciaphotography.com,

Facebook page:Gracia Photography.

IG: @graciaphotos

Twitter: @gracawangu

 

 

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Lost in paradise: A weekend at the Voyager – Ziwani Camp

You’ve practically read all the reviews on TripAdvisor or expedia about the best places to be when on Safari in Kenya… You’ve probably even scanned through all client 5-star reviews on google, but still, you are lost for choice, and can’t make up your mind. Worry no more! Let me fill you in one of Kenya’s best kept secret.

A pearl in the wilderness

Perched away on the eastern slopes of the World’s Highest free-standing mountain, the Voyager’s Ziwani Camp is your next favorite gateway to the expansive wilderness that is the Tsavo. Mornings from the serene tented camp are an experience to behold. At dawn, the lazy grunts of the wild hippo as it grazes on the manicured lawns interrupts your sleep as the shrieks of the regal African fish eagle – calling its mate – bring to your attention the richness of the day ahead of you. But how do you get here in the first place?

Getting to Voyager Ziwani Camp

Nothing  matches up to the satisfaction drawn from an incident-free trip across the African landscape.

The Madaraka express is one of the best, faster and cheaper alternative to get to Ziwani. The train passes right through the heart of Tsavo National Park and makes the ideal stop at Voi Intermediate Station in under 3 hours from Nairobi.

 

The other scenic and adventurous alternative route to the Voyager Ziwani tented camp from the city of Nairobi would be through the A109, down towards Mombasa, then take a right turn on the C102 when you get to Emali town. The enchanting route,will treat you to zebras,gazelles and occasional elephants on the expansive wilderness. This road trip takes an average 6 hours, getting you intimately familiar with the landscape of the vast land conquered by the famous Maasai of Kenya. If you start your trip late morning, you can make it on time for a sumptuous buffet dinner at the voyager. Along the way, you’ll have a chance to get souvenir curios and mementos from vendors at Emali or Oliotokitok towns…

Sundowner in The Jewel of Tsavo

Driving into the Voyager Ziwani tented camp at sunset is an experience to behold, with a breathtaking view of the sun setting behind the majestic Mawenzi peak of the towering Kilimanjaro.

Ziwani’s Pier – Best place for a cold evening’s drink

A sundowner with chilled drinks, some fast Wi Fi and a great bunch of friends the on the lawns next to the Sante dam as hippos float on the shallows is the perfect way to see the day off. The raging bonfire keeps the stories flowing as another thrilling day gives way to a spectacular night sky. And Voyager Ziwani will not let you down, with the residents naturalists, Salim and Lekatoo on hand to treat you to a tour of the night skies with powerful telescopes!

After the thrilling views of the night skies, a sumptuous dinner follows

 

Enjoy a cold beer or cocktail by the lake, on the bosom of the Sante Dam’s pier, watching the hippo peep and emerge from the water for their nightly browse as if to eves-drop on your conversation. From the pier, you can order from Ziwani’s savoury menu of soups, salads, fish and meat, both barbecued or grilled… followed by cheese and/or dessert.

Your favorite meal is just a call away… or you can let the chef take your taste buds on an adventure… you’ll get the best meals under the African night skies, no doubt.

The peace of the night: a star-gazer’s bounty

Growing up, we believed wishes come true if we made them at the sight of a shooting star… The night sky at Ziwani is expansive and unpolluted. Leaning back from the comfort of your chair or hammock, you get to gaze at the wondrous beauty of the stars in their glorious constellations. In fact, from the confines of Ziwani tented camp, you can unmistakably identify up to 60 of the 88 known constellations. The clear,rolling skies makes it easier to catch a glimpse of virtually every shooting star. This is the ideal ambiance for a marriage proposal or a birthday weekend treat(Just saying…!)Retiring for the night in Ziwani’s tents is yet another experience fit for royalty. The re-done tents are bigger, with en-suite bathrooms and all modern amenities to bring you all the comfort of your home in a tent. The tents are organized in a half-circle around a well manicured lawn and best of all, each tent has its own veranda giving you an unobstructed view of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Accommodation at the Voyager Ziwani Tented Camp

Lost and unwilling to be found: The Game and landscape of Ziwani

The African nights at Ziwani are quite exciting and full of thrill. From the frightful distant roar of the Tsavo lions, to the sweet chatter and activity of the nocturnal birds and animals. At sunrise, the aroma of the freshly baked breads will waft you from your bed to the restaurant. You’ll be served a breakfast of unending choice of tropical fruits and juice blends. The chefs never tire to keep your plate supplied with sausages, bacon, beans, cheeses, or eggs cooked just like you like it!

The best times to go on a game drive is usually in the morning… when both prey and predators alike are flowing with excitement and energy for the next chase, dash or hunt. you can take a morning game drive into the Tsavo West National Park, visit the various World War I battle grounds. Other places include Lake Chala, Lake Jipe and the Grogan Castle. You can go for either a morning and afternoon nature walk, while a night game is a must – Ziwani being in a sanctuary is one of the few places you can enjoy this encounter with nocturnal animals in Kenya.

Rich Wildlife at the comfort of your tented camp

Time flies so fast at the camp and, honestly, a weekend would hardly ever be sufficient! The camp itself is an amazing work of art… a good mix of the greens and browns, which blends far too well with the sub-saharan bush. Voyager Ziwani sits in a private sanctuary that extends into the eastern edge of the Tsavo. For the more conservative traveler, you’ll get the advantage of being a breathe away from crocodile, hippo and a myriad of bird species that come to water in the Sante dam. Ziwani is a Birder’s paradise. You may also take an hour’s nature walk around the sanctuary and the dam, with the resident wardens and guides assuring your safety all the way.

Rich in History, Rich in experiences: No place like Ziwani!

Being within eyeshot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Voyager Ziwani would be the ideal stopover on your way to climbing Africa’s tallest peak. Tales are told of mane-less lions that meted a spate of terror on a company of rail-builders as they were setting up the Kenya-Uganda railway in the Tsavo. Infamously christened ‘The Man-eaters’ of the Tsavo, this pride of lions were finally gunned down, but not before ending the lives of several railway workers towards the end of the 19th Century. When you visit the Voyager Ziwani, you get to encounter the descendants of The Man-eaters of the Tsavo. You’ll also be amazed at the majesty of the mighty Red Elephants of the Tsavo. The Tsavo boasts the largest herds of the few remaining elephants in Kenya.

With tales trapped in the facets of time; from battle fields frozen in the First World War, to the rich life flowing in the clear waters of the Mzima springs, the serenity within and around the Voyager Ziwani is unmatched… If I ever get lost at ziwani, please don’t come find me!

 

Come with us to Voyager Ziwani Camp the weekend of 29th-1st of October 2017.

Our good friends at Ziwani and Turn Up Travel have set up a discounted rate fun filled weekend just to quench your thirst for that African Safari to the Tsavo West National Park.

It would be unfair to reveal everything in this blog post and therefore the untold story is going to be discovered by you. Join me, Turn Up Travel and other travel enthusiasts for this epic trip.

For Ksh 24,000, get to experience  a wild weekend getaway at the Luxurious Voyager Ziwani Camp for 3 days and 2 Nights from the 29th of September to the 1st of October 2017.

This fee is Inclusive of:

  • 2 nights full board accommodation.
  • One way train ticket from Nairobi to Voi and Return by road in a safari van.
  • Excursion to Lake Chala and Gicheha Ranch Tour
  • Sundowner at the camp
  • Game drives through Tsavo West,Mzima Springs,Poachers Lookout and Shetani Lava.

You can book you slot by paying a deposit of Ksh 5000 to Lipa na Mpesa till number 741321,

or Email: Reservations@turnup.travel

or Call 0724215977.

You can also download the poster below for more details and share with your friends…The more the merrier!

 

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Sham, Shamit or Just Sham It; the traveler with a golden heart

Hidden in the dust storm… Rediscovering travel with Shamit Patel

Shot straight out of your wildest imagination, our traveler of interest is quite easily mistaken for Vikings TV series’ Ragnar Lothbrock! Hold on… If you got lost in his appearance, you’ll miss a chance to experience the tales of his captivating conquests in the unexplored northern frontiers of Kenya. He is only one out of the fantastic four behind the amazing idea called ‘Routes’… he is kind, he is forthright, he is a giver, and so much more… meet Shamit Patel.

1. Before running on to the not so obvious… I think you totally nailed the unconventional Bohemian look, would we be wrong to say you watch too much TV? Vikings maybe?
Shamit Patel

Haha, you called it. I do watch a lot of Vikings. It’s one of my favorite shows and even before the show, I was always fascinated with the Vikings and Norse Mythology in general. The Vikings were true explorers. Embarking upon voyages across oceans that no one else had traversed. They were fearless and curious and adventurous and that is how I believe everyone should navigate this life. My look changes a lot.  I have had many different looks. I believe that it’s not how you look but the content of you mind that should determine someone’s outlook of you.

Ragnar Lothbrock

I like to look different because it challenges people. People are uncomfortable with things that are out of the norm. But hopefully when they hear me talk, it changes their opinion. And hopefully that serves to break some stereotypes.

2. On a scale of 1 – 10, how strict would you say your parents were?

My parents were strict when I was much younger but not to the level of completely nullifying my creativity by instilling fear. They were and are the fundamental pillar of love in my life. From my mother, I learn patience and serenity. From my father, I learn wisdom and the value of silence in a noisy world. On a scale of 1-10, I’d consider them a 5. But it took a while for them to understand my mind and our relationship has evolved through the years. They don’t always agree with my life choices but they make an effort to understand me and that means the world.

3. If we were to equate you travels to an animal, would you consider yourself the solitary leopard, or the pack of wolves?

It’s funny you should ask this because over the past few days I’ve been wondering what animal I relate to the most and two that kept coming through my mind were wolves and tigers. I don’t really know. I’m a social person but I also crave solitude. In the wild, I like to share those special moments like beautiful sunsets or miraculous new places with people I am close to. But I also like to have the silence of the wild to myself. So to answer the question, it would be some strange species in the middle of leopard and wolf.

4. Tell us about Routes…

Routes is something that has been created as a project of passion. Three years ago, a few friends who became like family decided to come together and build a platform that would showcase this country through their eyes. We initially begun as a TV show but due to many complications and brick walls, less than a year ago, we decided to gravitate into online distribution of our travel content. We are now a community of creatives who have come together to show travel and adventure as never before seen in this country. Routes Adventure is a way to show that people can travel on the cheap, that people can go to the places we go to. It’s about shifting the perception of a preordained lifestyle.

We release our videos primarily on our YouTube channel called Routes Adventure and distribute pictures through our Instagram channel @RoutesAdventure. We aim to build this community into something wonderful that inspires, educates and informs the masses about our style of travel and in doing so, we hope to boost domestic tourism.

Routes Squad.
5. In all your travels, what has stood out for you, and helped you learn something different about the world we live in?

Everyone will always answer this question in a positive light. I feel like we need to tackle it from a different angle. In all my travels, I’ve learned of the human race’s insatiable ability for destruction. We destroy forests and pollute rivers and from the north of Kenya to the south of Kenya, I’ve witnessed the most isolated of places strewn with discarded plastic bags carried with the wind. We’ve encountered tribes living in isolated areas who do not take care of the very land that sustains them. I’ve learned that our appetite for civilization is going to consume nature until there’s none left. It’s a scary prospect but it’s real and it needs to be talked about because this world we live in is a beautiful place but we’re not doing our part in taking care of it. It sounds generic but it’s as simple as that. And one thing I’ve learned is that you can only change the world if you see it first. We must acknowledge the bad to be able to do the good.

6. Do you think your experiences in different places of the world have taught you how to see things differently?

Yes, definitely. In the question above, I mentioned something negative about what I’ve seen while traveling but there are also so many wonderful things to be proud and happy about. It’s the other end of the spectrum but we’ve witnessed such compassion amongst many people we’ve met. I’ve seen things that I never thought I would and they have opened my mind up. When you live in a city and grow up in a concrete cage filled with chaos, you don’t have time to appreciate the little things in life. Like fresh air for example. Or the trees dancing in the morning wind. Or a sunrise that evokes all the emotion in your mind. And so yes, definitely…travel allows you to live every moment. Your mind is stimulated all the time. You live instead of just passing the time.

7. If you were to talk about your opinion on touring different places and communities of the world, would you consider travel to be a window or mirror?

I feel like we start of as a blank canvas. Again, that sounds generic as hell but as you travel, the brushstrokes of the places and people you meet paint a picture of your personality. Therefore, I’d say that travel is more of a window where what you see influences your ideology on life and love and everything in between. Mirrors show you what you are. I am nothing if I don’t see things and therefore I consider travel to be a beautiful little window.

8. What’s your favorite pre-flight ritual/experience when you are headed out for a long trip?

It’s funny but I don’t really have anything that I do before heading out. It has become so common to go on long trips that I’ve lost any little superstitious rituals that I may have had a long time ago. I just get really excited and usually can’t sleep much the night before because of the anticipation of being on the road into the wild.

9. Are you a choreographed traveler, or the spontaneous kind?

Definitely more spontaneous rather than choreographed. However, due to the work we do with Routes, I’ve found that we have to plan our trips out quite well because of filming, timing and other factors. However, if it was up to me and finances weren’t a concern, I’d be in the wind all the time. Not knowing what happens next is the most exhilarating feeling. Not just in travel but in life itself. Meticulously planning everything can be brain draining.

10. In your travelling snack pack, do you usually carry sandwiches or candy/chocolate bars? Would you share it with a random stranger?

I don’t eat much when I travel. Which is surprising because I’m usually a pig when it comes to food. I’d prefer sandwiches to chocolate bars though and of course I’d share it with a random stranger. Food is best when shared.

11. If you were to get lost in an exotic trip; would you rather be on a camel in the Sahara, or on a Boat in the Amazon?

Shit, this is a tough one. How about being on a boat in the Sahara and a camel in the Amazon? 😃
No, I don’t know which one I’d rather be on. The Sahara would offer stars like I’ve never seen before and the quiet calm of the desert. It would be not only traveling through the desert but through time itself and that’s something I’d love. The boat on the Amazon would be incredible because of all the diverse life that would surround me. So many creatures and plants and I feel like the energy would be something beautiful. Between sandy desolation and green energy, I don’t know which would be more beautiful in this context.

12. Is there such a thing as your favorite photo shot? Would you say you have one? Who/What was it of?

I have many photos I love. I don’t really have one that I’d say stands out for me. It’s honestly so damn difficult to capture some of the places we go to. Beauty like that isn’t meant for the screen.

14. What is the most amazing place/person you’ve (or wish to) ever experienced?

I haven’t been to the most amazing place yet. I don’t think I ever will. Every place has its aura, its own ethos. To find the most amazing place is part of the journey that every traveller is on. For example, I’d love to see the Earthrise from the horizon of the moon. Or hike the volcanoes of Hawaii. Or the northern lights over the vastness of the Northern plains. Still searching for that most amazing place. Not to say that the places I’ve gone to aren’t amazing in their own regard.

15. If you were to pick between being super attractive/handsome, exceptionally intelligent or to be famous for doing something amazing, what would you choose?

I think wanting to be super attractive is something silly. Your flaws are your beauty. Being exceptionally intelligent would be great because learning new things would be so much more simple. However, with exceptional intelligence comes the weight of constant thinking which often leads to depression. That’s why they always say that ignorance is bliss. And thirdly, fame is not an interesting factor. It is a transient ego boost that disappears with the next big story. I’d rather just be a combination of the three in smaller amounts and live happily ever after!

16. If time travel was possible, would you prefer a 3-day trip into your past or to your future? Why?

I’d go into the past because if I go into the future then I lose the element of spontaneity and will always be living in anticipation. However, by going into the past, I can unhurt those I have hurt and hopefully help people and myself find a little bit of peace.

17. What do you think is the best kept secret when it comes to travel destinations? Do you feel there’s one place that isn’t getting the attention it deserves?

I definitely feel as though the north of Kenya is a jewel which hasn’t been showcased as much as it should be. With Routes, we are going to try to do as much as possible to build as much awareness about what it has to offer. They aren’t really secrets but more that people have the perception that the north has always been inaccessible and dangerous, neither of which are currently true. I’d urge people to travel this country to see the places that exist before civilization creeps up and destroys all our beautiful places.

If you thought you’ve learnt everything about Sham… you are probably wrong! You haven’t even scratched the surface! Check out what he does with Routes, and maybe even ask to tag along to his trips in the North! Discover the hidden gem, veiled in a cloud of dust and desolation, that is the Northern Frontiers of Kenya!

Your friend definitely deserves to meet Shamit… sharing is caring! Spread the word!

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Kilifi Maghreb-The ideal host to explore Kilifi and its environs.

Kilifi has always been my destination of choice every time I visit the Kenyan coast. This is because of its balanced feel of forest, beach,hidden treasures and rich cultural blend that all yearn to be explored.

Characterized by palatial beach houses that stand majestically on cliff tops overlooking the sea,powder white beaches, anchored yachts that sway lazily side by side to the tune of tides,super tall palm trees that line the beach line and dot the mainland,the Kilifi Creek to cheap street delicacies,affordable eateries,aggressive tuk tuk drivers to the most dramatic sunset in the East African coast!

Having  been to Kilifi many times before and doing the same stuff, this time round I decided to try out a different host and see how my visit would turn out.

I set out for Kilifi from Mombasa at around 5:30pm. Despite a small snarl up at Nyali Bridge all the way to a place called VoK, the rest of the journey went as planned as I made my way through Mtwapa,Vipingo and finally Kilifi. By around 7:00pm, I arrived at Kilifi Maghreb; my host.

I was taken to my room by a pleasant lady who was keen to know how my trip was. When they opened the door, I was pleasantly surprised! From the balcony with potted exotic plants, to the interior of my self contained one-bed roomed apartment with modern finishing and expensive furniture. It was so refreshing.The smile on my face slowly came back despite the strong resistance from the day’s fatigue. It had been a long day. The lady left after showing me around. All I wanted to do then was settle in,have a long hot shower and get a good rest.

Shortly after, the door bell rang temporarily interrupting my train of thoughts and mental notes of how I was going to get the best of my stay in Kilifi.It was room service.Freshly blended mango juice and a warm smile, as I placed my order for dinner.

Sleep quickly kicked soon after I had dinner and a hot shower! The fatigue was real.

I had the most peaceful night and did not even notice it was morning already. My plan for the day was to take a walk to Kilifi creek, then later on spend the afternoon at Bofa beach, little did I know my host had other plans for me! An organized day trip to Kilifi and its environs. Well, that came in as a nice surprise. As always, I was more than ready to hit the road.

But first I had to to take quick shots of  the hotel because I knew by the time we were to come back, it was going to be late in the evening.

Before long,I was ready to start my trip, found Shadrack;the cool guy from the hotel waiting for me in the van. The aroma of freshly prepared packed lunch got be salivating even before the delicious breakfast settled in my stomach.

We took off at around 9:30am towards Malindi and our first stop was Mida Creek Marine Reserve.

I have always wanted to go Mida Creek because apart from lovely photos of a boardwalk above a mangrove forest, I have never really known what goes on in there.

Just 6km south of the Gede junction on the Malindi-Mombasa road, lies this almost landlocked expanse of tidal water opening to the sea through a 500m wide channel. It covers an area of 32km2 consisting of muddy sand flats and deep water channels. UNESCO terms it as one of the most important mangrove system in the world.The number of organisms supported in the creek is unbelievable.

Mida creek.
One of the many organisms supported in the ecosystem. The snails that never come out out their shell.
Snails eating a leaf.
A crab.
More crabs.
Oyster growing on the snail shell.

The famous boardwalk is run by an organization called ASSETS( Arabuko Sokoke School and Eco-Tourism Scheme) a community based organization, where all the proceeds go towards supporting bright students in the community access secondary education.

 

The famous Mida Creek boardwalk.
Some parts are a bit squeaky but nothing dangerous when you walk cautiously.

The cost of the boardwalk trip is Ksh 500 for a guide(they are very knowledgeable) and Kshs. 100 per adult. (Please note you can not go without the guide).

 

Apart from the boardwalk, there are many other fun things to do at the creek like enjoying a canoe ride,eat fresh sea food at the Mida creek restaurant, sip on Madafu, photography and finally buy handmade jewelry from the Giriama youth of the ASSET program.

Mida Creek Restaurant
‘Madafu’
Handmade jewelry.

Stop 2: Malindi Marine park

It is located about an hour away from Mida Creek is Malindi Marine park.It is said to be Africa’s oldest Marine parks and boasts of sea grass beds, mudflats, coral gardens in the lagoons, fringing reefs that houses marine mammals, turtles, colorful fishes and dolphins.

Entrance to Malindi Marine Park and Reserve.

Top things to be done here is enjoying a glass bottomed boat ride that goes from Ksh 4,000 per boat. I am not sure how many people the boats can accommodate but I know I have rode in a similar boats with seven other friends before in Watamu Marine Park. It is during these boat rides that snorkeling fits in perfectly. Uniquely,this park is also ideal for camping.

Malindi Park beach.

There is no entrance fee, but other services within the park are charged.

Stop 3: Malindi town.

Being a lazy Sunday afternoon, nothing much was happening in this touristy town. A few motorbikes here and a handful of people coming from church. Shadrack was kind enough to show me the main streets all the way to the Malindi-Lamu road.

As he made a turn to start our trip back to Kilifi, Something else caught my eye.

Wood carvings.

I have always wanted one of those,but the price tags have been very discouraging. Anyway, I met Dimbalu, he is a Mozambican wood carver and from the Makonde tribe that was recently gazetted as the 43rd tribe of the people of Kenya.He told me he inherited the skill from his grandfather and father. I bought a wooden key holder and requested him to engrave my name…I wasn’t sure how it would go but lets just say, I placed an order for more than five items after seeing what he was capable of.

Dimbalu, doing what he does best.

 

Having my name engraved on the key holder I bought.

Our trip back to Kilifi was estimated to be around an hour.

The trip back was a quiet one. I absent mindedly asked Shadrack where the Ruins of Gedi were and whether they open on Sunday. Before I knew, it made our fourth stop.

Ruins of Gedi was what remained of a Swahili town located in Gedi. The mysterious thing about the town of Gedi is that unlike most Swahili old towns, there were almost no historical records that was made of this town. The ruins were discovered by British settlers who were clearing the forest where the town of Gedi was located at the beginning of the 20th century.

I had a special and interesting experience during the evening trip around the ruins. Maybe it was the curator’s extra ordinary ability to take me decades back or just my deep imagination of the place and how I imagined it to be. A vibrant Islamic town, with defined administrative structures. Streets,mosques, a palace, a court of law, deep wells of water, an inner wall that protected the rich and revered, as the poor and slaves lived in the peripheries of the outer wall.

Route to Ruins of Gedi.

One of the wells that supplied water to the town.

There is no concrete evidence on what might have caused the collapse of Gedi but theories have it that it might be because of a plague that wiped out the entire population or the falling water table in the wells outside the great mosque or finally the Wazimba raid of the East African Coast in 1958.

 

Excavations by British explorer and a resident of Zanzibar; Sir John Kirk uncovered numerous artifacts, including beads,ceramics amongst others, which have been used to identify the type of economic activities that took place and also to try back date the towns occupation. The stone houses found in the ruins of Gedi were named after the different objects found during excavation. Many of the names given to the stone houses refer to the objects found within or in association with them including two Chinese coins, a porcelain bowl, scissors, a Venetian Bead, cowrie shells, an iron lamp, and an iron box.

The items have been preserved in a museum a few meter from the ruins.

There is a butterfly farm and a snake park in the same compound.However, I did not find them as intriguing as the Ruins of Gedi.

Shadrack promised that there was so much to Kilifi and we were not even half way done. Unfortunately darkness was creeping in fast and I had to rush back to Mombasa the same evening. I really wanted to stay back and enjoy Kilifi Maghreb for one more night…

I cant wait to head back to Kilifi Maghreb and compile Part two of Kilifi and its environs. If you happen to go to Kilifi before I do, Call Kilifi Maghreb on +254710791394,they have accommodation options that can fit into anyone’s budget(You can also carry your own tent at the fairest price in the area.)

Till the next post, enjoy your travels.

NB: I did not harm or kill any animal at Mida Creek for photography.

 

 

 

 

 

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Naivasha is always a good idea…

A weekend getaway after a hectic work week to Naivasha has been one of the most popular plans amongst young travelers from Nairobi and  other towns in Kenya.

For a long time, I kept resisting the Naivasha bug, but the defiance did not last long. I have since visited Naivasha more than ten times in less than two years. Everytime I get there, I discover new stuff that I never knew existed.

In one of my visits, I had the pleasure of joining Orange Adventures for an organized trip. This was the first time I went to Naivasha with a tour company.All my other instances have been on solo trips or with a few friends and yours truly got to plan the logistics.

I was flattered by the idea of sitting pretty and having everything organized.

There were a few delays that morning as we waited for every one to get to the meeting point and when everyone else got there and we were ready to leave, there was a bit of drama with Kenya police as one of the organizers was charged for double parking you don’t want to hear the end of it. Despite the bumpy start, my spirits were not dampened.

As a solo traveler, trying out group travel with new people can be a bit of a challenge especially if the other guys know each other. Not to mention when everyone else is a couple!(Well I am exaggerating for effect) Can you imagine it was a Valentines getaway?I was totally unaware… Exit Bonita on Safari,enter Bonita the third wheeler… I wanted to turn back at this point but well, it was a bit too late.

We got to Naivasha slighlty after an hour and a half, made a quick stop at Buffalo mall then headed straight to Crater Lake Game Sanctuary, where we were to go for a two hour hike round the crater, have lunch while at it,then head back to Cray Fish Camp where we were to spend the night.

Surprisingly enough, the group wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be.

I had underestimated the hike but it got me breaking a bit of sweat.

Crater lake is a green volcanic lake at the bottom of an old volcanic crater inside the game sanctuary. Occassionally, a flamboyance of flamingoes can be seen on the shallow ends of the lake, stubborn monkeys, warthogs , zebras and graceful giraffes on the other bushy sides.

The two hour hike was so picturesque, it felt like walking in a virtual world, floating in the clouds above and having an aerial view of the Lake.

 

We stopped to have lunch at one of the highest point of the crater where one is able to see Lake Naivasha and Lake Oloiden. Geographical history has it that all the three lakes was one big lake before a volcanic eruption that ended up splitting them.

 

The route back to the reception was through Crater Lake Lodge, a cosy,lake-facing, romantic getaway that immediately debunks a not so promising picture originally painted by a floating restaurant that looked like it could use a make over and an underwhelming small swimming pool at a corner.

When I checked out the tented camps… I was pleasantly surprised.

 

From Crater Lake lodge, we went straight to Crayfish Camp.

I had never camped at Crayfish until that day. It was all fun and games until it dawned to me that I was going to spend a long night inside a tent in the cold Naivasha night. I showered, overdressed and immediately after the early dinner, I decided to sleep early to keep my space warm.However that was a mission in futility. I woke up at 10:00pm to warm myself in the bonfire because the shivering! I felt my intestines shrink and my organs quivering.

One by one, everyone else went to sleep and I was left there seriously trying to keep myself warm. The sky was clear and the moon shone so bright. An occasional puffing of the hippos from Lake Naivasha that was a stone throw away to the rustling of dry leaves as the night guard did his routine security checks kept me awake. I repeat, I don’t like camping.

A few minutes to 5:00am, I left the fire place and went to sleep inside the van. The warmth in the car was the best thing that happened to me that weekend. Smokeless warmth.

I thought I’d wake up early that morning to catch sunrise but well, lets just say I was so fatigued.

Day 2.

The next morning was so bright and sunny. Everyone else was up, half of the guys had gone to swim, some of them were having breakfast, other were folding up their tents, and a general good vibe in the air could be felt. I walked down the lake hoping to see a few hippos but I captured more than I bargained for!

I guess Naivasha’s never ending to-do list ranks it highly compared to other touristy destinations in the country.

We wound up the trip on that Lazy Sunday afternoon…

NB: Please share with me your camping hacks! I want to be a cool kid too.

 

 

 

 

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NAIROBI CITY IN 24 HOURS on the 1st July 2017.

Famously known as the green city in sun,Nairobi, the capital of Kenya is amongst the most vibrant, cosmopolitan and fast paced cities in Africa with a nice balanced feel of wildlife and a contemporary touch.

Despite the colorful decoration of Nairobi City, it remains unexplored by locals who get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city as they try to keep up with the ever rising cost of living.

A survey conducted by Turnup.travel; a travel concierge and social media agency,revealed that a big number of Nairobians haven’t explored the city, but given a chance to do so, they would jump at the opportunity. One major reason cited was inadequate marketing of sites and scenes to locals by stake holders whose focus is mainly on foreigners.

Turnup.Travel  has announced a full day photographic city tour and nightlife experience dubbed #NairobaeIGtour to be held on Saturday, July 1, 2017.  The 24-hour dawn to dusk to dawn city tour is a fusion of history curated by Owaahh, architecture, faces and places of Nairobi from the lens of Kenya’s top photographers, filmmakers, bloggers, social media influencers and tourists.”

Top content creators will come together with tourists on the day to show the beauty of the great city of Nairobi. The initiative is aimed at raising an awareness and funding where all proceeds will go to Homeless of Nairobi to support underprivileged children.

How to Participate:
The cover charge entitles each participant to 3 meals for the day, transport/cab transfers to the different locations, free entry,specials, fantastic meal deals and great vibes across the board. Mpesa  Kshs 3,000 to 741321 (Buy Goods)

The plan
Each top photographer will be paired with a writer and filmmaker to document the stories.An upcoming photographer will learn from them as the tourists experience the city.

Themes

  • History and architecture – Both old and the new developments in the city.

  •  Faces – Portraiture to capture the cosmopolitan representation of the city, fashion and culture.
  • Humans of Nairobi – Document experiences and dreams of Nairobians for their city.

 

  • Hustle & Bustle – Capture activity, action and Nairobians at work.
  • Nairobi Half Life-Capture the contrast between places and people to showcase inequalities

Partners.

  1. All proceeds will go to Homeless of Nairobi Children’s Home.

  2. Bars Kenya will curate the epic nightlife experience.

  3. Uber will provide the rides for transfers during the day and night.

  4. Nyama Mama will serve breakfast.

  5. Four Points by Sheraton will cater for the sun downer – drinks and bite.

  6. Owaahh.com will curate the history of architecture, government and places.

Well, there you have it! See you on the 1st of July as we tour Nairobae.

Only a few slots remaining!

Call 0724215977 to book your spot or email reservations@turnup.travel

Important notice.The organizers will not compensate photographers, filmmakers and bloggers. Come shoot for a social good initiative to support street kids. The idea is to facilitate collaboration among content creators and learn from each other. Each squad of four people will be assigned an Uber cab for transfers between locations throughout the day and night for convenience.

 

 

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Climbing Mt.Kenya, attempting Point Lenana (4985M): The story behind the glory

As I had previously mentioned in part one of my Mt Kenya experience, I suffered from a terrible stiff neck on the first night of the hike which messed my whole experience-ish. The nights were severely cold and at some point I felt like I wasn’t going to make it.

I was so tired of this mind game, the never ending rocky slope, the kilometers that kept piling and a tough journey that came with no title! I was done. Completely. I wished everyone the very best and decided to just make it to the T- junction that led us to Lake Michaelson; our next camp.

Several attempts to start summiting proved futile until something strange happened.Determination.

I started walking slowly following the other guys footprints. There was no one in sight. The only option I had was to keep going.

I was barely moving, but I covered some distance.

After about an hour, I saw the first lot from our group crawling back. They had summited!They had an accomplished look on their faces but the exhaustion was evident as well. They were not talking much.

Somehow discouraging but I never gave up hope.I kept at it. It was probably going to take me three hours to go up,come down and catch up with the rest.

They were not sure I’d make it back on time with the moody weather. I was not sure either.

As I made the second turn up behind a huge rock, I saw Abbas; the leading guide. He was carrying two bags and encouraged me to go up. I mean if Abbas cheered me on, it was doable.

I crawled, sat, walked, stood but pushed on.

As I made it to the second turn, I saw Charles.

Charles was the other guide. He gave me painkillers the day I could barely walk. When he saw me, his eyes lit and he gave the warmest smile ever, stretched out his arm took my bag and held me.

‘I have met a guide who’s told me they left you struggling to come up, but they are not sure you’d make it past the fifth step! That you’ve struggled to make it this far, I will take you to the summit. I don’t mind going up for the second time. You are truly resilient.’ He told me.

Who wouldn’t get renewed strength with such encouragement? I had to make it.

Surprisingly enough, I did remarkably well thereafter.

Charles was heaven sent. I don’t know how he did it but the next thing I saw was Lewis glacier which is the largest remaining glacier but is quickly receding, I could see the Austrian hut; the camp set up by the Austrian Alpine Club, clouds, Batian and Nelion peaks stood there majestically as well, then alas! a ladder that led to Point Lenana! I instantly forgot everything else. I no longer had the neck and muscle pain. I smiled sheepishly at myself. If only I was this patient with myself always.

The fast receding Lewis glacier.
One moment there are no clouds, the next time its clouds all over.
Still can’t figure out where all this strength came from…

Snow 🙂

Batian checking me out…

At this point, I cared less about catching up with rest. I mean, I was at the summit, the view was breathtaking, Charles was there with me, I was the highest standing Kenyan in Kenya on both feet at that time and I had my camera! What more could I had asked for?

The final climb…
Well, seems like the victory pose world over…
The Bible at the summit.

Never seen such beauty before.
….Go where eagles fly…
The most deserved break!

I went, I saw, I conquered. Victory tasted so good!

Were it was not for Charles, I probably I would not have summited.

Me and Charles!
Charles…the friend with a golden heart.

There you have it! Summiting wasn’t easy, but I did it anyway.

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Summiting Mount Kenya:Sirimon-Chogoria route in 5 days(Part 1)

Mt. Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in Africa. It has three peaks namely Batian,Nelion and Point Lenana in that order.

Mount Kenya National Park receives an estimated 16,000 visitors per year. Apart from hiking and mountaineering which are the most popular activities at the park,game viewing,camping and bird watching is also common with both local and international visitors.

Hiking Mount Kenya is not easy and can not be taken on without preparation. You just do not wake up and decide you want to hike Mt.Kenya. It takes months of training and preparation.

A careful consideration has to be made when choosing a tour company for the important 5 day hike that might be a matter of life and death if not planned by an experienced tour planner.

I booked my hike with Xtrym Adventures back in January 2017 for the April hike. There has to be at least four mandatory preparation hikes,all adequately spaced out within the four months. It is during these hikes that you get to experiment with your new gear so you don’t get disappointed with improper gear and the discomfort that comes with new shoes and gear.

The cost of the hike was charged as follows;

  • Citizens-Ksh 27,000
  • Residents with work permits-Ksh 30,000
  • Non Residents-Ksh 25,000 plus KWS park fees of USD 260.

The above cost does not cover tips for the guides, cooks and porters. It also doesn’t cover for the prep hikes. While budgeting, it is also important to set aside enough money for buying hiking gear which costs an arm and a leg. The easiest way out is renting. Duncan of Xtrym adventure hooked us up with Chris Tembo who rents out mountain gear at the best rate in town.

With more than sixteen organized group trips to Mt.Kenya and countless others to Mt.Meru and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Ruwenzori at the border of Congo and Rwanda plus a host of many other mountains, Xtrym adventures was the most suitable candidate for the job.

The last prep hike was at Ngong Hills, which is approximately twenty two kilometers from Nairobi city centre. It was during that hike that we got to meet the entire team(popularly referred to Team Xtrym Adventures Mt.Kenya Easter 2017 Edition) and have a final pre-departure meeting. From the onset, a whatsapp group was put in place for ease and convenience of communication.

It takes a total of five days to hike Mount Kenya starting from Sirimon gate and finish at the Chogoria gate.

We set off on Thursday 13th April and finished on the 17th of April 2017 as follows.

Day 1

We departed from Nairobi at around 6:00 am. Everyone else kept time apart from me. It was a bit embarassing to hop into the bus and everyone is settled waiting for you.

There was anxiety in the air. I was scared too. The horror stories, altitude sickness and trekking for an estimated 80km in total wasn’t something to look forward to. We made two quick stops for breakfast and the other one in Nanyuki at the Equator.

Shortly after leaving Nanyuki, Duncan made it so clear that if there was anyone who wasn’t so sure about the hike, then Nanyuki would be the best place to turn back…There was a piercing silence there after. Stuff suddenly got real.

Arrival at Mt.Kenya National Park…

We arrived at Sirimon gate at around half past midday. When we got there, it was straight to business, off loading the bus, taking lunch, introduction to the porters, guides and cooks. So for the twenty five of us, there were twenty five porters . Your porter is in charge of your main bag.

The bus ready to leave after dropping us.
Sirimon gate.

 

Quick lunch.
Duncan and Abbas the lead guide looking at the future.

 

My babies.
The pairing session.

After a brief introduction, the porters and the cooks left quickly with our luggage for the first camp.

With the lighter day bags, a nine kilometer tarmacked stretch to Old Moses camp,a full tummy and a not so hot sun wasn’t a bad idea after all.

Sunset at the mountain was magical! However, as soon as the sun sets the weather drastically changes and temperatures drop sharply.

Sunset in the mountains.
Cool Kids.

We arrived at Old Moses camp at dusk. The camp sits at 3,300m high. It is basic, dunk beds, benches, two washrooms and a tiny common sitting area. The frigid cold at night was out of this world. Popcorn, biscuits and hot black tea came in handy! Remember, showering is not an option during the first four days and your core business is walking.

 

The cooks did remarkably well with the food. Their consistency with quality and variety and serving meals on time gave me something to look forward to at the end of each day.

Day 2.

The day started at around 6:00am. Sunrise was spectacular and the peaks could be seen from the camp. I wondered why we needed so many days to finish this hike. I mean the peaks were just there.

Breakfast was quick, so was the stretching/workout session. However, all was not well with me. My chances of summiting began getting slimmer because of a stiff neck from the previous night. So painful was my neck that the thought of going back home crossed my mind. There were strict instructions not to take any form of medication and the pain balms and ointments were not working. Tough times.

Waiting for sunrise.
Breakfast.
The peak from Old Moses camp.

 

Stretching session.

Plan of the day was to walk to Shipton camp which is at 4,200m high. The hike was an estimated 17km and was to take any where between 6-8 hours.

We crossed  Likii valley and Mackinders valley.The crystal clear rivers, streams and plants I got to see for the first time. This was the first time in my life I drank directly from a river.

The never ending slopes were a mix of steep and gentle. The pain in my neck was growing and having my day bag on my back made it even worse as the pain radiated to the back of my head and my shoulders. I missed every laughter and joke. This was the time I started questioning the choices I make in life.

I was there physically but at home emotionally. However that did not stop me from taking photos of the enchanting landscape and the obviously tired but cheerful friends.

Old Moses camp from a distance.
The one and only sign post I saw in the entire hike.
Beautiful valleys.
More slopes and streams.

 

Wabbie!

Wabbie,Judy and the magician.

Tanya!
Nnenna!
Enchanting landscape.
Crystal clear streams.
Foggy hill tops.
Cute tiny bridges.

By the time we were stopping for lunch at Likii river, I was so beat and out. A quick estimated had me thinking of wherethe energy to finish the other half of the hike was going to come from. If we were to cover 17km, and we were halfway it only meant we had about 9km to go. I couldn’t eat. Everyone was so supportive and I remember Robert removing stuff from my bag to make it lighter. A quick nap as over lunch, painkillers and a hot water bottle did the magic.Somehow.

The long walk after lunch wasn’t as bad because of the diminishing pain. The scenery, plants endemic to Mt.Kenya, cute mountain rodents and the now very conspicuous peaks made it more exciting.

 

 

The long after lunch walk to shipton was quiet and uneventful. Vegetation was beginning to thin out as we started the rocky terrain. The higher we kept going the colder it became and got worse when the sun went down. Day two was tough.

When we got to the camp, there wasn’t as much excitement as the first night. This was the same night we were supposed to summit. We had four hours to freshen up, eat, overdress , sleep and get ready to summit.

I was not ready. I was scared and weak.

Day 3.(Summit Night)

No sooner had I closed my eyes and zipped up my sleeping bag than I had the wake up call. How now?

I grudgingly woke up, packed my bags then went for tea. The temperatures outside must have been minus a thousand degrees! My hands were freezing despite the two layers of my sub zero gloves.

On the summit day, the hike is meant to start at exactly 2:00am especially if it is a big group like ours. There were some delays but we eventually set off. Biting cold, lack of enough sleep, a throbbing head and a weak body was the story of my life.

The unspoken rule of hiking has it that the weakest hikers lead the pack. The first one hour of trying to get to 4,985m at sunrise from 4,200m was just ok. My body was pulling me back in as much as my mind was all made up for summiting. The breaks became too frequent and the rest of the team slowly but surely widened the gap with permission.

We were left lagging behind with Racheal; who had a bad case of altitude sickness that only got worse the higher we climbed. The only way she was to helped was to get to Lake Harris then start heading down to the next camp. On the other had, I was so weak with a slight headache. I could not even lift my own legs.

If there was that one time I felt so helpless in my entire life was summit day. Thank God for Habbakuk aka Haba Haba who helped with my day bag, held me by the arm and practically walked with me. Bless his soul. Duncan was there for moral support and entertainment and watched over Rachael together with Ken. He even labeled us ‘Team Machozi’.

The ascend was the toughest part of the entire hike. Steep rocky slopes with some eroded sharp edges and loose gravel and feeble legs.

The intention was to get to the peak at sunrise but that proved impossible because even the leading pack was moving with difficulties.

Sweat, tears, doubt and a possibility of not making it the summit was frustrating. The only thing I wanted was to get to lake Harris then figure out my next move.

Haba Haba the guy who came to my rescue!
Habbakuk, Ken and Racheal.
Abbas the lead guide and Nnenna!
Sunkissed Batian peak. The sun came to early!
Habbakuk again!
Jeremy leading the pack despite not being in shape.
Agenda of the trip; hike, walk then hike again.

The next hour was very quiet. Soon after we were at Lake Harris.

Lake Harris

At this point, Duncan had to release Habakuk and Ken. I wanted them to go summit as well.

The leading lot was about 45 mins away, I thought I could make it to go up with Habbakuk and Ken, but I was so weak.

Point Lenana was so near yet so far.

They say nothing is impossible to a willing heart. I removed two layers of my clothes, drank water; lots of it, took sultanas and an energy bar then sat for a while. I felt a bit energetic and decided to follow the rest of the guys. However, there was a problem. There was no way I was going up alone. The options I had were to wait for the other guys to come down after two hours then request one of our guides to go with me or to go down with Duncan and Rachael. Sitting next to the very cold breeze of Lake Harris for two hours at such high altitude was a recipe for a slow death. I did not want to die slowly.

The more time we took to reach to a decision the more Rachael worsened. The only solution was to go with Duncan and Rachael without summiting. Well, there went another ‘machozi’ moment.

As I absorbed what just happened and what was about to happen,something miraculous happen,a hiker and his guide showed up from Shipton and Duncan requested them to tag me along to meet my group.

No sooner had Duncan disappered than the guide told me they were in a rush and they needed to rush. Wow. Anyway, I released them but decided to take a step at a time to the top.No going back.

Check out part two of this series and find out whether I summited on not.

 

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