On 4/8/2020, I woke up, and all I yearned for was to gift myself with a 27km run! It was three days before my birthday, and I was eagerly waiting to start my 4-day backpacking and camping birthday trip, but what I wanted more was to be on the trail, with my thoughts, soaking in everything 26 has been to me on a run that matched my birthday.
Having never actively run more than 15 km, I didn’t even think I would hack. I was, however, very determined to see it through. It took me 3 hours, 26 minutes, and 13 seconds to complete 27.10 km at a very impressive pace 😉. I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the entire run.
I was grateful for many things, but mostly I was thankful for the gift of health that was bountiful on me this year, thankful that for once in my life I enjoyed running and being on the trail and I was getting better for it, grateful that I have learned to be mindful of what I feed my mind, grateful that my daughter has a good life and is happy, grateful that I was learning that I could actually love, that I had so much to give now because my cup is no longer empty, grateful that I was happy and of sound, peaceful mind. I was just grateful!
I couldn’t help but think of how 2019 and my 26th year was challenging. I couldn’t help but be proud of myself for picking my broken self up and building her up again. Proud because even though I was sunken and ready to call it quits, I finally realized that I had so much to live for and enjoy from life. Proud that I was finally giving from a place of love and happiness. Proud that in times of turmoil, I was able to not only go through the pain but move on from it because dwelling leads to depression, and depression leads to a sunken place.
I made the run all about me and appreciating how much growth I have had this year, and it solidified why 27 meant a lot to me. Why 27 was going to be an important year.
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you ~ Frank Lloyd Wright.
Backpacking to Naivasha
On 6/8/2020, the long-awaited backpacking trip began. In the wee hours of the morning, my friend and I took our backpacks, fully packed with all our necessary possessions, and started what would be a low-cost, independent birthday trip to stay in our inexpensive tent.
Yes, walking around with your beddings, clothes, utensils, toiletries, and camping gear (including your tent wrapped on top of your rucksack) via public transport can be a bit tiring, but the thrill of it all is what makes backpacking worthwhile.
I consider Naivasha one of the best places for a short, inexpensive camping trip due to its proximity to Nairobi and the abundance of camping sites thanks to lake Naivasha and Hell’s Gate. It takes about 1hr 40 mins via public transport to get to Naivasha town. Thanks to COVID-19, carrying out backpacks in matatus wasn’t so draining thanks to the “one-seat empty” measure being taken by matatus as a preventative measure.
We spotted a small hotel inside the stage – Pork House, and we decided to have our first meal of the day – ugali, Sukuma, and pork. Needless to say, this joint ended up being the food provider for the rest of the day and the following day. We loved the food so much that we ordered some to carry in our lunch boxes to sustain us till morning. Best decision ever!
Getting to town from Kiambu at 5:30 am was easy. What was slightly frustrating was having to wait for the matatu to fill for an hour. However, once the matatu was full, getting to Naivasha was fast. Due to the slight delays, we ended up getting to Naivasha a few minutes to 11.
We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down ~ Jeanne Moreau.
Hiking and Camping at Hell’s Gate National Park
From there, we boarded another matatu to Hell’s Gate. Let’s just say that road needs work. You walk into those matatus clean, and you come out looking like you just stepped out of the posho mill, but then again, those are some of the things you just have to deal with as a backpacker.
We alighted at Hell’s Gate entryway and walked to the park, about 2km. On getting there, all we needed to do is pay the entrance fee and camping fee for the night to enter this lovely rock of wilderness. The entry fee is Ksh. 250 and Ksh. 200 for the camping fee. This meant that for a day of hiking and a night of camping in Hell’s Gate for two only cost us Ksh. 900.
Once you receive your passes, you are free to camp in any of the available camping sites and roam around the park as long as you leave by 11 am the following morning. I have never been this excited in my life!
From Elsa Gate, we walked 1km to Fischer’s Tower (very tall rock highly appreciated and graced by rock climbers), then another 1km through the cliffs to the crossroads that lead to the campsites, and another 1.3km to Naiburta Camp Site. We also checked out the Endachata Camp Site, which is 1.7 km from the crossroad but decided to settle for Naiburta. We were the only campers in the entire park that night. This was going to be both scary and fun!
We locked our bags in one of the bathrooms because it was too early to set up camp. We then decided to hike inside the park. While walking past the zebras, buffaloes, warthogs, waterbucks, antelopes, gazelles, giraffes, and the fantastic cliffs was a delight; I finally see why people opt to drive through Hell’s Gate.
Yes! Hiking in Hell’s Gate on foot is not for the faint-hearted, and it can get more exhausting if the mood changes to sour. Walking under that sun didn’t make it any better, but the wind definitely made it more bearable. Hell’s Gate is a sight you have to experience, an experience you will never forget, and definitely the right trail for a gratitude kind of journey.
By the time we got back to set camp, it was past 6:30 pm; we had covered 15km; we were so beat, but still needed to set up camp and light a fire. In a place where cutting trees for firewood is illegal, lighting a fire without even a gas fluid was no easy feat.
My partner-in-camping set up the tent while I worked around trying to get the fire lit with just a matchbox. Luckily, you can never fail, even though you may struggle, with dry leaves and tiny branches that have fallen off trees. In most cases, if the branches and wood are dry, you don’t even need to struggle much, but if the wood is a bit wet…..well, get ready for too much smoking and blowing before the fire lights.
It wasn’t the perfect fire, but I hacked it 😊. I felt so proud of myself; I called my mom the following day to brag. The stars were out, and the moon was creeping in; you could hear everything, including the geothermal. We sat by the fire and ate our food, enjoyed the fire some more before we retired to the tent. It was a beautiful night.
The night wasn’t scary for me with the moon out, and doing this with someone made it easy to sleep in the wilderness peacefully. The morning of my 27th year found me awake and waiting for the sunrise. It was such a magical moment, and it meant so much. I closed my eyes and set out my intentions to the universe and prayed upon the winds to spread them to all elements.
We then enjoyed the chilled morning, ate the leftover food, walked past the wild animals gathering for their morning meetings as we headed to the gate, and set out for the next camp. The female warden at the gate was so kind as to get us a Boda Boda guy to get us to our next camp.
I like being near the top of the mountain. One can’t get lost here – Wislawa Szymborska
Lakeside Camping at Fisherman’s Camp
For the next two nights, the plan was to camp at Fisherman’s Camp. Yes, from a wilderness camp to a lakeside camp 😉 fun, right?
We got to the campsite at 10 am, set up camp, and decided to go to Naivasha town to shop for a few essentials as we were expecting two of our friends to join us later that night. Hmmm! The only thing I can say about that matatu trip to and from the camp is that there is clearly no CoronaVirus or fear of in Naivasha and Never Wear Black!
Since we hadn’t showered at Hell’s Gate for lack of water, the first thing we did when we got to the camp is shower and clean our dishes. But because I was feeling like the birthday-girl I was and wanted to dress cute, I made a colossal mistake wearing black. Let’s just say I got back looking like I was swimming in white/grey sand.
The good thing is, this wasn’t something a quick wipe with a wet cloth couldn’t fix. The next activity on the list was to take a boat ride then go scouting for dinner.
As a hydrophobic human being, being in the lake (despite the boat) and, to top it up – being in the same lake with Hippos didn’t seem like a pretty feat. However, it helps to have someone hold your hand and a boatman who eases you in until you let go of that fear and enjoy the lake and the views blanketed by it.
The rest of the evening after the boat ride comprised getting fish for dinner from local fishermen and waiting for our friends to arrive. The birthday night was so much fun. I celebrated in the company of people I love, near the warmth of a cool-ass fire I didn’t have to light, watching Hippos graze across the electric fence, graced by a lovely fish meal and gin.
Saturday camping comprised more of enjoying the lake scenery, some of us taking bike rides to Olkaria, and another boat ride. Fisherman’s camp was quite the space. We camped there at Ksh. 700 per night and only paid ksh. 150 to rent beddings, and Ksh. 250 for firewood for campfire a bundle. Boating costed Ksh. 3000 per ride. If you are looking to hire tents, they offer that too at an added cost, and if you are not too keen to camp, there are bandas and cottages within the campsite.
This camp was definitely better than wilderness camping because the showers were hot, and you could easily charge your phone at the dining area. The convenience of the restaurant on the premises also gives you a break from street food eating.
Hell’s Gate camping is best if you are looking for a wilderness gateway while lakeside camping is best if you are looking for comfortable and fun camping with family and friends. The campsite is also safe from the hippos thanks to an electric fence.
If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere ~ Frank A. Clark.
And so, on the last day of my camping trip, I woke up early, sort out the sunrise, and sat down in the company of journal and pen to reminisce 26 and welcome 27.
While backing, hiking, and camping into 27, the days passed with the wind, the sun, the stars; movements were powered by a belly full of food and water, not a noxious tankful of fossil fuels. On this trip, I was less of a job title and more a human being. I wanted to stretch my limbs for my birthday.
I had a profound spiritual need, which this short pilgrimage seemed to satisfy, mainly because I was hardy enough to tackle the journey on foot. This backpacking trip led not merely north and south, but up to my body, mind, and soul.
It was what I needed to keep reminding myself that deep down, that at the molecular heart of life, the trees and we are essentially identical. I carried as little as possible on the trip, but I chose that little with care.
Hell’s Gate wilderness held answers to the question that I have not yet learned to ask. Hiking there helped me witness a thousand miracles. It also taught me that becoming the best person is to grow in the open air and eat and sleep with the earth.
I love being out in nature because there is always something to marvel at. Even though I had just turned 27, I still felt that even though I could see my path, I still didn’t know where it leads, but not knowing where I am going is what has been inspiring me to travel it.
Sitting outside and looking at the stars on the eve of 7/8/2020 made me want to keep living a lot differently. Its been a month and a half since this trip, and I still know deep down that if I keep wandering, I will always find a new path.
And at just Ksh. 12,800 I enjoyed 4-day backpacking, hiking, and camping trip that made me appreciate that hiking and happiness go hand in hand or foot in a boot. During the trip, I also realized that I needed to start respecting my own body’s boundaries. I needed to start drawing clear lines. Ones that were sound in my mind and therefore impermeable and would always, no matter where I walked, protect me.
Leave the road, take the trails – Pythagoras.