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SWISS ALPS AND EURO TOUR 2018

IMG-20180803-WA0317It all begun with a dream: To unwrap the world, one destination at a time.

After months of meticulous planning, trying out different options, having doors slammed in our face, negative feedback that this was a wild dream, going back to the drawing board several times and finally setting a date Mountain Slayers Kenya made it to the Swiss Alps in August 2018! But not before we had our day at the Embassy which made me realise that the reason many people do not bother to travel is because we are made to feel like second rate citizens begging for a chance to leave our country. We all got our travel documents in order thankfully, then the countdown begun, and before we knew it, it was July 31st and we were at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport- finally the dream was coming true.

IMG-20180803-WA0120Ten Mountain Slayers believed in the dream, signed up and were on our way to the inaugural overseas hiking expedition. Switzerland was no longer a dream but a reality. Here is our story.

After an 8 hour journey aboard Kenya Airways, we landed in Amsterdam with one hour to catch our connecting flight to Zurich, call me a greenhorn, I was bright eyed and mouth hanging somewhere halfway between my tummy and my knees. It was my first time to travel to Europe and I was taking in all the sights and scents with all my five senses, yes, ALL MY FIVE SENSES. We were processed through immigration in Amsterdam quite smoothly (except for my spray can of Deep Freeze that was confiscated) and hoped onto our KLM flight to Zurich. I was surprised to note that the air stewards were quite mature in age unlike the ladies who are the norm on Kenya Airways and other local flights. But I must admit that these mature ladies seemed to appreciate their jobs much more and offered service with a smile and were all eager to offer any assistance.

IMG-20180805-WA0167The first indicator that I might not have understood what summer is was when we landed in Zurich and we were hit by a wave of heat and bright sunlight despite the fact that it was 6:30pm. We quickly located the train station and jumped onto the train that would drop us off at Zurich Central Station (ZCS) from where we would find our accommodation for the night. I cannot even begin to talk about the efficient transport system that they have, the only problem that I had was the fact that everything is automated, I am used to talking to a human being and not a machine, so I was that person who would look for a uniformed officer to ask for directions.

IMG-20180803-WA0118Our hotel for the first night was 5 minutes walk from ZCS, we were too wound up to sleep early or maybe it was because the sun did not go down until 10:00pm. Eventually we settled in for the night and planned to meet at ZCS at 9:00am to begin our journey to Lauterbrunnen. I have seen pictures of Switzerland many times before, but those pictures and movies did not prepare me for the actual thing. To say that Switzerland is beautiful would be an injustice. I will just say that the Swiss are blessed to have sensory gourmet on a daily basis.

IMG-20180803-WA0098We travelled a distance of about 100km to Lauterbrunnen which is South-West from Zurich. When we stepped out of the train station, we knew that we had picked the right country for the inaugural Mountain Slayers- Kenya overseas hike. We could not stop gaping and staring at the rolling hills around us. Some were capped in snow and others had a brilliant green on them. If I thought that the excitement was high, we were now almost giddy with joy. We had a quick lunch and shopped for a few supplies before we jumped onto a bus that would take us to the little town of Stechelberg from where we would begin our hike. We made our way to the inn for the night, Alpenhof Inn, which was run by a sweet couple- Marc and Diane. IMG-20180803-WA0085But I think I am getting ahead of myself, now note that we are deep in Switzerland, and here we were ten black people carrying huge hiking bags and carrying on in joyous banter as we made our way along. To say that the locals were surprised and shocked to see us would be to put it mildly. I remember we walked into this little diner for a meal and the patrons sat with their mouths wide open. I kid you not. They were mesmerized by us. I could tell it was not from a negative place, but simply curious as to how and who these dark skinned individuals were and what language they were speaking in. One of the attendants asked us where we were from and whether we were talking to each other in our native language. Well, clearly we do not speak the Queen’s English but something that I learnt is referred to ‘Kenglish’ or ‘Kenyanesse’

We were lucky to land in Switzerland the eve of their National Day so our stay in Stechelberg, this little village town in Stechelberg was quite festive. The Swiss are known for their Cheese and Chocolate so it was not a surprise that the cowbell ringer is a revered man in this town. The climax of the celebrations was when the cowbell ringer and his assistant led the town members in a march around the town, marching in time to the cowbell gong that they were clanging as they made their way. After the parade, we were treated to fireworks which had been rigged from one of the hills closest to the town. We were warmly welcomed to partake in the traditional brew and hot cross buns after the cowbell ringers had returned. We were so engrossed in the celebrations, and the long days were confusing that we almost forgot that we had come to hike.

IMG-20180805-WA0184After a restful night at Alpenhof Inn, where we had to feed coins into a machine to dispense hot water for showering, we were treated to a hearty breakfast before we set off for our hike. We took a cable car from Stechelberg to Murren and then began a trek that would take us almost 9 hours to complete. The weather was favourable, the trails well marked plus an added bonus of having water points along the way, including a mountain inn where we had our lunch before proceeding to Sefinenfurgge pass. I must let you know that we were starting from a level of about 250M and ascended up to about 1500M above sea level.

When they say summer, you best believe that it is hot. This was Mountain Slayers- Kenya first self-guided tour with no porters and the experience was amazing! I now believe that Kenyan hikers carry too many things because they know that they have the luxury of giving their stuff to the porters to carry. Well, I must commend my team, they all carried their bags with no complaints (even if they were tired, complaining would not have helped because there was no assistance to be offered)

IMG-20180805-WA0156We kept at a steady pace, manoeuvring over streams, passing by cows in the meadows (I finally understood this phrase from the movie ‘Sound of Music’- ‘The hills are alive, with the sound of music’ the cowbells make the most melodious sound) leaving the meadows, getting onto the scree and eventually the peak. We had to scramble up the last section, but thankfully we found ropes fastened into the side of the mountain to pull ourselves up. We made it to the summit and were relieved that we had made it without any incident. IMG-20180803-WA0320This joy was short lived. We glanced down the other side of the mountain where we were treated to steep stairs that descended into clouds of fog and mist. We descended into the valley and crossed some more streams and focused on making our way to Griesalp where we would spend the night. Now, we had thought that Stechelberg was a village town, nothing prepared us for Griesalp. This place was even further in, and their shock at seeing a troop of black folk was even more pronounced. I remember one small boy who came out with his binoculars to stare at me; I was less than 5 feet away from him. As we walked through the town, the place came to a standstill. The people stopped and unashamedly starred at us. There were some calves frolicking in a pen right before us. These calves were playing with some European hikers who were passing close by, but when we approached, they took off, the calves, not the hikers.

IMG-20180803-WA0312I thank God for the long days that we had, the natural light made it easier to keep on walking way even when we knew it was late. We were grateful to eventually get to Naturfreundehaus, which was manned by an interesting fellow called Heinz. The next day we had one more summit to slay. Out of the ten hikers who had started this journey, only five were committed to the second summit. IMG-20180803-WA0005We set off to conquer Hortuli, which was another 1,000 metre ascent and just as steep descent. We were rewarded with crossing right by the breathtaking Oeschinensee. Such aqua blue water, I have never seen before. If I thought the previous day was long, I was in for an even longer day. To understand just how intense our hikes were, let me share this. The first time we mentioned our destination to fellow hikers, the reaction we got was, ‘Oh my God!’ We were getting to Kandersteg at 8:30pm. The rest of the team that had opted not to hike were waiting for us and wondering what happened. We were out on the hills, enjoying ourselves, getting rained on, and taking pictures, getting chased by cows and soaking in all the glorious beauty around us.

IMG-20180803-WA0288When we arrived at Kandersteg, we were treated to the loveliest of inns, and well worth the struggle. Our hiking trip came to an end at Bernerhof Inn. We celebrated a birthday, toasted the persistent, resilient fabulous five hikers who hankered down and slayed the two peaks of the Swiss Alps.

IMG-20180807-WA0054The next day we transferred back to Zurich where we spent the night before starting off for the Euro Tour that took us to Germany, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Lichtenstein. Eastern Europe is filled with such rich history. We did so much in such a short span of time that my head is still spinning from everything that I saw.  We  passed by the Rhine falls in Germany where we were taken through the history of the Cuckoo clock and learnt about how Eiswein is made visited. We then moved on to Frankfurt for the night. The next day we made our way to Prague (pronounced Praha) where we visited the St. Vitus Cathedral and visited the Schonbrunn Palace.  Hungary was our next stop. We sailed the Danube River and grabbed a meal at a little café run by the famed Chef Jamie Oliver. That same evening we were treated to a traditional Hungarian dinner. I cannot begin to go into detail about how exquisite this experience was you had to be there. Vienna, the home of Mozart, was our next stop.  We went to Musikverein where we had a delightful musical evening watching the Vienna Orchestra. Our second last day took us back to Germany, Munich, where we stopped at the factory of the famous Octoberfest, where we indulged in original ale, straight from the factory pitchers. I know understand why Octoberfest is such a huge deal. After a whirlwind tour, we made our way back to Switzerland where we made a visit up Mount Titlis. A tour to Switzerland would be incomplete without the famous cheese fondue.  As you can tell, we soaked in as much as we could given the short amount of time that we had. Space cannot allow me to get into more detail here. This is simply a condensed version of our experience.

IMG-20180803-WA0175To the fabulous group of Mountain Slayers-Kenya who were on this trip, I take my hat off to you. I salute you for believing in the dream. This is just the beginning.

If you want to be a part of this amazing group of hikers, email us on info@mountainslayers.co.ke for more information.

 

THREE COUNTRIES- ONE SUMMIT

IMG-20180520-WA0462

I have not written this year. Do not mistake that for saying that I have not been hiking. I have. And to many exciting and exotic places. I was encouraged to get back into writing after the Mt. Sabinyo trek so here I go.

I did not plan to go on this trip. No specific reason I just did not wrap my mind around going on it but boy am I happy that I went. The adventure began right here on home turf. I made it to the airport for the early 5:00AM flight in good time. I was at the airport by 3:00AM and I am glad that Njeri, my neighbour, had insisted that we get there in good time. No sooner did we get there then I realized I had left my identification card at home, and the immigration guys were too happy to sarcastically tell me, ‘Karibu Kenya’ I was having none of that and quickly hailed a taxi and dashed off home to get my card and was back to the airport in good time. This would definitely not have been the case if the flight had not been at that Godly hour (God had His hand on the timing of the flight-CLEARLY!)

IMG-20180520-WA0275We landed in Kigali International Airport at about 8:00am, after a brief stopover in Entebbe. I was wide eyed and taking in all the sights and sounds of this little gem in Africa. The place is clean and orderly. The motorbikes (bodabodas) follow the traffic lights and the passengers on the bikes actually put on their helmets. I was in awe. Beyond that  Kigali is such a beautiful city- the country of a thousand hills. It truly is breathtaking. First stop was breakfast. We headed to a mall in the city where we had a sumptuous breakfast- the portions were so huge that had we known this, we would have shared the orders.  We took our time having breakfast and bonding with a few Kenyans who have made Kigali their home.

Our destination was Kisoro in Uganda and to get there we had to get to Musanze, a border town in Rwanda, where we would then cross over into Uganda before making our way to Kisoro which is the little village that is at the base of Mt. Sabinyo. I think I should have paid more attention in my intermediary French classes. When we got to the bus park I could hear what was being said but understanding, not so much! Luckily we had a very amazing and funny lady as part of our team, she was able to imitate the local dialect so precisely that she was able to decipher what they were saying and they in-turn believed that she was a local. Eventually we sorted out our transport and off we headed to Musanze. The roads in Rwanda are well constructed, no potholes, proper drainage, lighting, pedestrian and pedal-cyclist paths- such good planning. The rambling hills which were green from the current good rain and the streams and rivers bubbling along; I have not had such optical pleasure in such a long time. The one other thing that stood out for me was the genocide memorial sites that are evident as you move from town to town. On the surface, Rwanda has really come a long way from the horror they underwent more than 20 years ago.

IMG-20180520-WA0375Eventually we got to Musanze where we met up with fellow hikers who were joining us on the expedition. I think the people at the bus park knew we were tourists because the rates that they were quoting to get us across the border were mind boggling! Eventually we decided to use regular transport which gave us the edge of interacting directly with the culture of the place. Something interesting about how they drive in Musanze is that, as much as they drive or are meant to drive on the right side of the road, they actually veer to the left side and only move back to their side of the road when there is on coming traffic. Another thing I noticed is that they would put on their indicators as they passed each other on the road. I tried to ask the driver about this and he fluently explained it all to me in crisp French.

Eventually we crossed the border and made our way to Kisoro and to Amajambere Community Camp for the night. We woke up in the morning excited about our adventure and were ready to hit the trails by about 7:00am. By the time the administration and briefing was done, we started walking at about 7:45am. We were a mixed group comprising of Mountain Slayers Kenya, Mountain Slayers Uganda and some Americans who were syked up for the trip. We set off at a comfortable pace all dreaming of chewing up three summits and eventually arriving at the peak that sits on 3 countries (Rwanda, Uganda and DRC)

IMG-20180520-WA0445Now, I do not like researching in detail about the trail I am going to blaze and the reason is that I do not want to be prejudiced by anyone’s opinions. Someone had mentioned ladders on the mountain but I paid no heed. Well, it is safe to say that I will never look at a ladder the same way AGAIN! After a deceptive easy, leisurely one hour walk, things got real. The incline on the mountain started at a very rapid rate and before I could say Sabinyo, I was on all fours scrambling up the ladders. The crazy thing about this mountain is that you think the ladders are not that many until you realize you are on ladders more than you are on terra firma. One after the other after the other! Because of the rapid ascent and the fact that I was trying out some new eating plan, I got hit by the altitude right in my tummy. Waves of nausea swept over me and I knew that it would not be long before I gave up. Luckily my trusted partner, gadget guy, had me covered and he eventually caught up with me and gave me some mint sweets that helped ease the nausea. At this point I had made it to the first summit and was seriously contemplating turning around. Whether it was a touch of mountain madness or just the euphoria of climbing ladders on a mountain and not actually hiking, I pushed past the pain and made it to summit two and finally to summit three. If I thought the ladders I had encountered were bad, the final set of ladders (like 4 sets of stairs each with about 150 stairs) was gruesome. The cloud cover had descended so low that looking back where I had come from, I could see nothing and looking up into the clouds, I could also see nothing. We rightly named the ladders, ‘staircase to heaven’ because it felt like that is what we were doing.

As I hauled myself up the ladder I questioned my level of sanity at subjecting myself to such an ordeal. Did I actually pay to bring myself to this monstrosity of a mountain? Well, I did. And you know what? The summit was worth it. I think the clouds had descended low to prevent me from seeing the sharp declines all around me, but when I got to the summit, Oh My!! The pain, the sweat, the tears were worth it. The clouds lifted and there was Rwanda, Uganda and DRC to the North, West and East. Such beauty.

This disease that gets me on mountains every so often is a disease that I gladly bear- it is an affliction that I am happy to have. It is a burden that I gladly carry. There is no better way to experience life, to live than to be out in the wild with nature. If you think my story is over, you have no idea. The trip down was filled with laughter and dancing because of what we had just been blessed to experience. 12 hours later we were back in camp and ready to drop into bed. We had another adventure awaiting us the next day.

IMG-20180520-WA0381Gorilla Tracking:

When I heard about gorilla tracking I really had no idea what that meant. I just assumed we would find the gorillas lined up in an organized way and we would smile at them, take pictures and head off. How wrong was I? Gorilla tracking is just that. Literally tracking gorillas in their natural habitat; how they do it is that they have a team of rangers who follow the gorillas on a daily basis and then give direction on where to head to in order to find them. Gorillas share about 95.7% DNA with human beings and are therefore some of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. It takes about two and a half years to habituate Gorillas. It is a slow and arduous process that requires patience. So there we were at Mghainga Gorilla National Park in the Virunga mountains chasing Nyakagezi gorilla group. After walking in the mountains for about an hour and a half we spotted Mafia, a huge silverback who preened and posed for us from a distance. Eventually we spotted Mark, the dominant silverback of the group and shortly thereafter we spotted the most adorable gorillas- a mother a her 9month old young one. The adult gorillas were not disturbed by our presence and actually allowed us to get really close to them, the baby was shy and kept peeking at us from behind his mother trying to understand who these ‘relatives’ were who were speaking a different language. This was simply one of the most amazing experiences that I have had to date and it is something that I would be willing to do again and again.

IMG-20180520-WA0282After spending enough time with the gorillas, we quickly hiked out of the mountains and headed back to camp to collect our luggage before heading to the border and back to Kigali. The adrenaline rush we had experienced in the three days had me sleeping for most of the journey back to Kigali.

One final thing I needed to do before leaving Kigali was visiting the genocide museum. This is not something I can write about. It is a personal experience that shifts how you view life. Human beings have a lot to learn from the animal kingdom.

For a trip that I never intended to go for, how glad am I that I went on this trip? Everything about the trip was more than I bargained for and I know I am blessed and richer for having experienced three countries in one short weekend.

For more on how to join us on our next adventure, follow us on Facebook, Instagram or send an email to info@mountainslayers.co.ke

 

MT. KENYA- OCTOBER 6th-10th 2017

IMG-20171011-WA0047Same mountain, different team, different experience. Always. Guaranteed.

We set off for Mt. Kenya on the 6th of October- 9 eager and excited hikers. This was not my first time there and I am sure it is also not my last time there. We had two repeat hikers. One who had successfully summitted when he was younger and one who had made it almost the whole way up but had missed the summit by less than 300meters.

Roadtrips are exciting even without the promise of a mountain to slay. We were going up through the Sirimon gate and so after meeting up at Java, off we went. The banter in the van was pregnant with anticipation, expectation and nervousness. I love tuning out and listening to the chatter of the team. It wasn’t long before I nodded off to sleep.IMG-20171006-WA0006 For the first time I got to see the slopes of Mt. Kenya from Karatina. Amazing that I have never seen this ever; and yet this is a route that I have taken numerous times. It helps when you have a Captain among your team, they have a comprehensive hold of geography and he was able to point this out and also give direction to those of us (read I) who are geographically challenged.

IMG-20171011-WA0178Day 1 is a 3 hour trek that covers roughly 10 kms from Sirimon gate to Old Moses campsite. Lunch was served at the gate- and that meal was just fingerlicking delicious! There is something about mountain food. It is just so tasty! But of course all props to Benson our chief chef for the trip. He really threw those meals down. The weather was favourable and the pace comfortable so the team kept up the banter while stopping to take in their surroundings as we moved along to Old Moses. IMG-20171011-WA0027We got there in the dark and quickly changed out of our hiking clothes and headed straight for the mess tent for our dinner. I remember some of the team October slayers discussing and saying how dinner would be a waste seeing that it was going to be served only a few hours after our lunch. Well! Nothing was wasted. We scoffed down all the food laid before us. Something about the mountain that works up an appetite- but I should add that this only happens at the lower altitudes. The higher up we went, the lower the appetite levels were for a number of the slayers.

IMG-20171010-WA0061Day 2- Old Moses to Shiptons- Mt. Kenya is still one of the most scenic mountains I have been on. It is a pity that the authorities do not take better care of the amenities on the mountain. Shortly after the junction that heads either to Likii North or to Shiptons, the heavens opened. It started off as harmless drizzles before the hailstones started coming down. The rain thereafter was heavy. Being pelted and rained on at the same time is what make these trips so enjoyable (well, I can say that now, but as I was being pelted and had to walk sideways to avoid getting the hail direct into my eyes, I wondered what I was doing back on the mountain!) IMG-20171011-WA0166We sheltered briefly while we waited for the rain to dissipate. When we realized that was an exercise in futility, on we trodded to the caves before the Mackinder valley where we were scheduled to stop for lunch. Thank goodness for Weetabix, their Alpen bars and Protein bars kept us energized from breakfast all through the hike. Thank you Weetabix!Now, I knew that the word cave was being used very loosely but the rest of the team had no idea what lay ahead of them. Shock on them when they were directed to a huge rock, it was actually amusing to watch the team struggle to find the ‘entrance’ to the cave. Poor guys. Lunch was served and we gobbled it down as the rain continued to pelt us mercilessly. If there was a point of giving up and turning back, this was it for me. I was frozen to the bone and thought that I was going to be sick-no doubt. Luckily our porters were also ‘in’ the cave so I was able to get out my summit jacket to keep me warm. After lunch, one of the slayers felt faint and had to be attended to. How the body behaves on the mountain is unpredictable so you always need to be prepared for any eventuality. She was quickly put in the recovery position and covered with a thermal blanket as the team watched and prayed that it would end quickly. Thankfully she recovered well and we were able to continue our journey to Shiptons camp. IMG-20171011-WA0167We took in the amazing views as we marched on to the base camp. We got there slightly after dark and thankfully we were able to change and dry out in the Shiptons bandas before heading to our tents for the night.

Day 3: Summit. The initial plan had been to attempt a night summit and then walk to Lake Ellis for the night. One thing I have learnt over the years is that I may have my plans and schedule however plans change according to the team dynamics. By the time the entire team was at Shiptons, one of the slayers was suffering from mild mountain sickness. It was time to make a decision about how we proceeded as a team. As we were doing the initial briefing before the journey begun at Sirimon gate; I had made it clear that the trips is all about the journey and not the destination. The peak is less than a 30minute affair but the struggle and pain to get there is where all the growth and bonding happens.

IMG-20171020-WA0008These were the options; begin our summit attempt at 2:00am as planned and be prepared to have a less than 100% success or a very prolonged and painful summit attempt. Or sleep in, begin the journey at 8:00am and give the entire team an equal chance of success. Group dynamics are so important because this is the point where the members decided that we would all sleep in to give the weaker members an equal chance at summitting; and that’s exactly what we did.

I think night summits are overrated. After summitting both during the day and at night, I believe day summits are so much more easier on the body. It is not frighteningly cold or windy. Off we trudged to Point Lenana- excited that we could take in the majestic views as we headed to the summit. Along the way we broke into three groups based on pace and ability. I was keeping a keen eye on the lady who had not summitted the last time because I knew that she would not make it without the group support. When we got to the first Harris Tarn we dropped our daypacks and waited for her to catch up with us. It is amazing how the team pulled together. We chatted and psyched each other up as we trudged up towards the rock of despair.

IMG-20171011-WA0007The last meters to the summit are the hardest, when you are almost there, it is like your body realizes how close to the end you are and just tries to shut down. It took team work to get everybody to the summit. When you are closest to your goal is when you feel the fatigue of the journey and want to give up. (This is also very true in life situations. Failure rate is highest when people are closest to their goals. It is important to have a supportive tribe that will cheer you on to your desired goal). The cries of jubilation, the war songs that were sang, the dancing, the sheer joy that was expressed by the team when we sat at Point Lenana made the struggle all worth it.

IMG-20171010-WA0063Each slayer in Team October was on this journey for individual reasons. After pushing your body to the breaking point there really is nothing that you cannot achieve. Mountain climbing gets you to a place where the physical body tells you enough is enough, if your mind believes your body then your journey is over. If you are able to break past your mental barriers then you will find the strength to push your body to the next level- this next level is within your reach if only you try.

IMG-20171010-WA0057This is one of the reasons that I keep going back to the mountain, I need to remind myself that indeed it is possible, no matter how bleak the situation is, it is possible to move beyond. It is also refreshing seeing people achieve that which they thought was impossible. It is like scales fall from their eyes and they are able to see the world anew. Believing that the stumbling blocks that they left behind are simply that, stumbling blocks that they can easily trample if they push deeper and further within themselves.

IMG-20171010-WA0045After the successful summit, we  started our descent off the mountain via the Chogoria route, which is the windward side of the mountain. Our first stop for the night was Mintos campsite where we had a lovely celebratory dinner and turned in for the night satisfied and content by our group accomplishment.

Day 4 had us walk to Meru bandas. On the way we passed by Lake Ellis for a hot lunch. The landscape on this side are nothing that can be captured in word or picture- this you need to simply experience for yourself. Lake Michaelson and the Gorges valley are just some of the wonders that our eyes feasted on as we trekked.

IMG-20171019-WA0060Eventually we made it to Meru bandas where we finally had a hot shower and warm bed after days of being at one with nature. Thankfully we were still out of network range so we were able to talk and unwind without the interruption of our gadgets. As the expedition leader, it is always rewarding to hear the feedback from the team. That means that not only did they fully engage in the activity but are interested in more activities in future.

IMG-20171020-WA0023To Team October, well slayed! On to the next!

Rurimeria Hike- 23rd September 2017

DSC02762If I have said this once, I have said it many times and I will say this again, same hike different experience every single time. There is no way you can replicate an experience. It is impossible. Many things change;

  1. Group members
  2. Support team
  3. Personal characteristics
  4. Environmental conditions
  5. And many more that I will not name.

No matter how much you try to hold things constant, it is simply impossible to re-experience an experience.

So there I was again, back to Rurimeria Hill after having successfully slayed it in January this year. I was lucky enough to have 2 repeat climbers and they can testify to the above- you cannot repeat the experience.

This time around we tried to leave Nairobi a little early, and the Mountain Slayers did me proud. They were there on time and ready for their adventure. 4:30 am. That in itself shows the commitment of the hikers. The drive to Rurimeria is a good 3 hours away and people took the time to catch up on sleep while others simply caught up (we rarely see each other between hikes)

IMG-20170925-WA0029After eating the birthday cake courtesy of our partner- Valentine Cake House, we loaded the support team into the van and drove for another 45 minutes to the start point. We had a quick brief, shared out the awesome Alpen bars courtesy of our other partners- Weetabix EA and off we went. It did not take us even one hour to fall into groups of the super-fast (those guys move at sonic speed) the average hiker and the guys who have the most fun- the sweeping team.

Rurimeria has a very sharp incline at the beginning and it absolutely knocks the wind out of you. It is a pretty rude shock but the thing is to pace yourself and power through. There are many tricks to pace yourself, some include taking photos of the amazing scenery and my favourite is ‘beating’ stories. Perfect excuse to pause as if you are thinking of the response when in actual fact you are breathing!

DSC02772The Aberdares were amazing this time around. They gave us fantastic mountain weather. It not only rained but we had hailstones pelting us as we tried to navigate our way up the numerous false summits.

Here is the thing, without proper pacing and fuelling your body, soon enough you will begin to feel sick (altitude sickness is real any height above 1,000M from where you originate from) and the only way to manage the sickness is to rest and descend. We do not have much time to play around with on a day hike so once your body starts to resist, the only option is to descend. During long hikes (over a series of days) this can be managed by rest and fuel and then moving on at a pace that does not punish the body.

The interesting thing about dealing with adults is that even though they don’t know, they pretend to know and therefore suffer the effects of not following the team leader’s advice.

IMG-20170926-WA0002After a whopping 9 hours (for the sweeping team) we were back to base- frozen to bits but happy to have had an interesting day out. The advance team made it back in 11hours. Big up to them! Seeing that we were turning into popsicles as we waited for them, one of the slayers managed to rustle up some tea from the neighbouring homes which we kept hot and used to receive the advanced team. Never has a cup of tea been received with that much gratitude.

IMG-20170924-WA0060All in all Rurimeria was as tough as it had promised to be but as beautiful as I remember it to be. I am already looking forward to the next hike! If you want to be a part of this team of hikers, drop an email to info@mountainslayers.com and find out how you can connect with the Mountain Slayers Kenya.

RAGIA FOREST- September 2017

So far in my exploration of Kenya I must admit that the Aberdare’s have proven to be one of the most scenic and easily accessible hiking destinations (accessible from Nairobi). Ragia forest did not disappoint. This was my second time there having been there in early 2016- January 23rd to be precise. Unfortunately the visit back was one that left me in shock and pretty sad about what we humans are doing to our environment. (Below is a pic from January 23rd 2016)

DSC01659In January 2016, the drive through the boundary that separates Kiambu from Nyandarua County we were able to see why Sasumua dam is one of the critical water towers that supplies Nairobi County with 12% of her water. The water levels were pretty high and water was all around us. We drove over bridges and spillways that were brimming with water. The sun bounced off the surface of the water causing us to squint at the beauty that lay before us. We took out our cameras (phones mostly) and captured the waterscape before us for posterity. (Below is September 2017)

IMG-20170909-WA0101Fast forward to September 9th and the experience was not the same. I strained my neck trying to figure out where the water was, trying to convince myself that we had taken a different route to our starting point. When I inquired from our chatty guide if this was the case, he sadly said no. It was at this point that I took a keener look around and then it hit me, we were on the same path just without water. Where before there was massive water all around, this time we were looking at greenery; the water basins were replaced by grass. I did not know whether to laugh or cry so I simply stared around me with my mouth agape. Apparently the last time the water levels was high was when we were last there in January 2016. (Below is January 2016, navigating across the water took tremendous skill, this year it was like walking over a puddle)

DSC01753What have we done to our environment? What have we done to ourselves? By cutting down trees, by littering and choking the environment, we have sent the ecosystem to the brink and now we have drought. The weather patterns have been changing over the last couple of years and we will rue the day that we stopped taking care of the environment. The system of life is that we protect the environment and it in turn protects and provides for us. We have forgotten that and abused the environment. Unfortunately the environment can be pretty unforgiving as has been witnessed by the current ‘natural’ disasters that are taking place all around the world. We will regret the decision to drop that wrapper on the ground, to cut down that tree without replacing it, by killing off the wildlife for quick personal gain. We indeed shall reap the effects of our nonchalance to the environment.

IMG-20170909-WA0022The Mountain Slayers who made it to the hike were energetic and committed to the six hour hike. We learnt a lot of history about Ragia forest and the important part that it played in the struggle for Kenya’s independence. Save for the shock of seeing how badly depleted the environment has become, we enjoyed a beautiful hike that left us ‘nicely’ exhausted and looking forward to the next trip. If you want to be a part of the next hike, send an email to info@mountainslayers.com

Until the next hike, take care of your environment and speak out when you see people litter or degrade your environment. Remember that your environment is not only the obvious but also includes any space you find yourself- your office, your home, transport (bus, car, train, plane).

SHUTTING OUT THE NOISE

Mt. KenyaKenya is very noisy at the moment. Not good noise. Many people are allowing themselves to get dragged into the murky waters. One thing I have learnt in this journey called life is that my exterior expression is simply a reflection of what is happening internally. I have also learnt that I am the only one who can control what is going on internally. Many times we become passive consumers of information, which is very dangerous. Just because I am mindlessly listening to the radio, or watching television in the background without giving it 100% attention, doesn’t mean that it is not affecting me. I have also learnt that media is all about the sensational story. We know that, ‘Dog bites man’ is not a story, however ‘Man bites dog’ now THAT’S a story. A story that will get the attention of people en mass and may even start a hashtag trend on twitter.

Where am I going with this narrative? Kenya is currently very toxic due to the current political situation, but as always I choose to remain optimistic about our lot. It’s not so much what is going on, but what can I do about the situation.

Beach

Kenya is an amazing country. Beautiful all around-from the hills, mountains, valleys, lakes, dams and the seaside- we truly are blessed as a nation. Add to that, the spirit of a people that refuses to say die. We have been to the precipice of disaster and yet we bounced back. I choose to remind and influence those in my inner circle about the beauty that is Kenya. We cannot allow ourselves to be blind to the incredible gift that is Kenya. To remember that we are the custodians of this incredible gift. In order to remind myself how blessed we are as a country, I continue to travel, I continue to climb mountains, I continue to slay.

If you need or want to shut out the noise, drop us an email: info@mountainslayers.com and come and explore- Kenya is God’s gift to you.

MT. OLOLOKWE 19TH-20TH AUGUST 2017

IMG-20170821-WA0083This was my second time back to Samburu county. First time was in 2016 and I must say that, the beauty, vast open country and the majestic views from all round not forgetting the amazing A104 which is smooth as a baby’s behind from Thika road, past Karatina, onto the Kiganjo road that takes us past Nanyuki, off to Isiolo, past Archers post and then into Samburu. That is a drive that needs to be enjoyed over a longer period of time, but we made it work over a weekend by leaving Nairobi at exactly 5:00am on Saturday 19th. With a few pitstops we made it to Sabaache eco-camp at midday, when the sun was blazing down on us.

It has never been a smart idea to start hiking in the middle of the day and not in a county that is known to give people heat strokes, but we had a mission to accomplish so after dropping off our bags in our quaint cabins we hit the trail. We were 8 of us in total. A nice neat group of happy hikers who were excited about getting to the peak and taking in the amazing views that we had been raving about. We had a repeat hiker, Wamucii, who had built up the summit views to epic levels.

IMG-20170820-WA0001There is a reason why we avoid hiking in the scorching heat. In less than 10 minutes after take off, we had our first casualty. Her body was struggling to process not only the heat but the almost 60 degree incline that assaults you as you start climbing up Mt. Ololokwe. Nausea is the body’s way of telling you that it is struggling. In addition to the heat and the incline, she was also suffering from food poisoning. Rule of thumb, ‘better out than in’ so I encouraged her to get rid of the toxins and to just give herself time.  It wasn’t long before the rest of the group pulled away and we were left behind.  After ensuring that the group ahead was okay and had the necessary support, I fell back to keep an eye on her and also to encourage her along.

The beauty about being at the back is that there is no pressure to keep up with anyone. We simply sat down and let the nausea process out and allowed her to recover before pushing on. As we started our journey upwards, we found one of the original team members on his way down. The heat had gotten to him and nothing we said could convince him to journey back up with us. We let him continue with his descent as we clambered on upwards.

Here is the thing, I could tell that she would rather have been going downwards than upwards, but based on my assessment of her vitals, I knew she had the stamina and grit to get to the halfway point, which I knew would be worth the pain and the tears. I kept a safe distance from her as I pushed her on and encouraged her, safe because I knew that given a chance she would probably slog me across my mouth. Eventually after a lot of coaxing and coddling, we made it to the halfway point. The look on her face was worth it. She took in the views and knew that it had been worth the struggle. She also felt very proud of her accomplishment and shared some nuggets of wisdom. ‘When you think you are done, and there is nothing left to give, dig deeper’ ‘the journey is more important than the destination’ ‘surround yourself with the right people, who will encourage you and cheer you on along your journey’.

IMG-20170820-WA0018After spending a good amount of time relaxing and enjoying the solitude of the mountain, we made our way back to base. The journey down was quick and painless. Once we got to camp we were rewarded with hot showers, a hot meal and a bonfire where we chatted and relaxed after a long day. Needless to say, we slept soundly and were well rested for our journey back to Nairobi the next day.

IMG-20170820-WA0014Samburu is a county that is seldom explored and Kenyans miss out on the beauty that is within our borders simply because we do not take the initiative to travel. As always the hikes leave us craving for more-more of the outdoors, more of travel, more of relationships, more of community. If you want to find out how you can join us drop an email to info@mountainslayers.com