When everything feels like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top.
Albert Einstein once said, “Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better.”
Even though I sometimes lack the jargon to explain my weird relationship with nature, I seek to lose my mind and find my soul when I am in nature. So yes, a simple walk in nature for some of us really does walk the soul back home.
Hence, when CS of Education announced that we were expected to report back to work on the 28th of this month, I knew I was screwed. Essentially because I have enjoyed so much peace of mind the last six corona months, I honestly was not ready to go back to my overwhelming work environment. Even so, a girl needs to eat, so a girl needs to work! 😊
I needed to hike to burn off the crazy. I felt like life was giving me mountains, and I needed to put on my boots and start hiking. I didn’t need to make an appointment with my therapist; I needed to go hiking. But first! I needed to go back to Gilgil.
My Little Paradise
There is something about Malewa Bush Ventures that stuck with me. Maybe it’s where I feel most awake, most present, and in the moment.
Down this valley was the first place where I truly experienced every sense of nature, converging into a single energetic joy.
Down this valley, one feels as though there is a feeling passing between every living thing, a strong bond that is tangible and blended, a melody beyond the range of the ears but available for the heart. Or maybe it’s because this is where I accepted a side of me I was trying to bury so deep, where I realized that happiness could be found in that which our society so strongly forbids. Or maybe it’s because here every leaf, thorn, butterfly, bird, monkey, move amidst the wind, and a part of me does too.
Here is where I fully understood that togetherness is what holds the universe together like glue. I needed to remind myself once again that I am part of a more extraordinary course, that there is no oneness here, just togetherness.
Sometimes you just need to get away from the city because, on those streets, you are only a consumer, a walking wallet, a citizen. You are expected to follow rules of conduct to the letter to avoid brushing shoulders with the system. You are expected to wait in line at a store, cross the street at the lights on commands, and be careful not to offend the society by behaving contrary to what is written in the book.
But in nature, I feel like just another organism, another animal, albeit one with fancy clothes and a smartphone in my pocket. This is something that liberates me. Here I can shout my lungs out, be wild and silly, and there is not a soul that will cast a disapproving glance or whisper doubts about my sanity.
Fixing Broken Roads
And so, I packed my bags with enough food and drinks so that I needn’t return until sundown. Though I love camping, this time, I wanted a nice soft bed in a lovely little cottage by the river surrounded by the wonders of nature.
Readying myself for what was coming required me to stand upon a hill as still as the trees, but not totally frozen, for just as the budded twigs move, so does my locs. I could feel the fresh air blow on my face as I took several deep breaths each time I was enjoying the view.
Like being in the arms of a blessed mother, nature does our bidding gloriously and lets us soak her in like a drug. The cottage overlooks a gem-brown river seeping and dribbling as it swerves deep down into the valley. Malewa river acts as the Malewa region’s arteries, sparkling like tinsel, and fluttering white butterflies drifting over it lazily. The aroma and sound of the river could keep you up all night because there is so much beauty there to just ignore.
In Gilgil, I can be who I am, just a person. The trees don’t expect me to be selfless and kind. The wind only blesses me and doesn’t ask for my counsel or words. The soil doesn’t shy away or rise to meet my boots. I am simply the person who walks on these virgin lands and sees from these eyes.
I was able to release the labels and emotions I was receiving from worrying about work and home. I was able to leave judgment and expectation in the car and just be present. I was able to fix roads once broken by religion and society’s claws and walk them once more with pride. And I was able to gather the courage to hike Rurimeria – Aberdare Ranges.
Bad Knee, Bullying Cow, and a Failed Full Summit
According to Brooke Hamptons, “Life sucks a lot less when you add mountain air (in my case fresh river air), a campfire, incredible, loving company and some peace and quiet” and well, some good love. I think this is true because those two nights at the camp topped as the best laidback time I have ever had.
I wanted some feel-good time to get off all the stress, and I got exactly that. I stayed in that bubble till Saturday morning was here, and I had to do rurimeria.
My knee has been giving me trouble for a few weeks now, and I seem to have aggravated it by deciding to hike one of the most challenging summits. I have had people tell tales of how they are scared of that mountain, how even the pros suffer on that mountain, and how it is tougher than Elephant Hill.
Having done Elephant Hill, I definitely didn’t doubt that. But I doubted if my knee would make it all the way in the first place. Yet, I still decided to honor my blind courage. The day started sketchy from the beginning, with the bus being late, getting emotional on the bus, and the already steep starting point of the already “famous, difficult” hike.
Yes, you heard that, right! The hike starts steep and stays steep (while until to where I got). To make it worse, we started the hike real late. Considering how far rurimeria is from Nairobi, for a day hike, then y’all should start the hike at 8 am or before if you can hack. We, on the other hand, were starting the hike at 10 am, quite late!
The Starting Point
You get Ndunyu Njeru, where you pick your guide and proceed to the starting point, Geta Bush, and go on a steep start over the fence and into the hill. The climb doesn’t get easier. The first 3.5 km up are pretty steep, and acclimatization kicks in with each step (for those who have a problem with altitude). Here is where you start to question why you make such decisions in the first place. Ha!
Did I tell you I had a bad knee? And it got worse the higher I climbed. Rurimeria is considered the 3rd highest peak of Aberdares after Mt. Satima and Kinangop, standing at 3860 m. I imagined going up the hill would be fun and close to Elephant Hill’s trek, but that wasn’t the case for people who don’t have working out lifestyle and those with bad knees. So, imagine realizing that I have to get back down! How do you suppose the downhill would surpass?
To be honest, this was a challenging and eventually painful hike for me, and I genuinely couldn’t enjoy it. Though I very much enjoyed the chats with the group as I was hiking with. However, I kept feeling that I was pushing my knee way too much, and I needed to go back.
As an adamant hiker, I wanted to get as far as I would, try and get to the summit even. Isn’t this every real hiker’s goal? It was mine! However, I also promised myself that I would go back if it got the point where my knee couldn’t sustain any more pressure.
Even though I was hiking slow, my body wasn’t acclimatizing quicker. However, altitude sickness was far less than from hiking Elephant Hill. By the first hill summit, I was already regretting making this bold decision. Rurimeria definitely prefers physical and psychological preparedness.
Even though it was beautifully sunny, the weather was starting to change. It got colder as we got up. We met some of our friends on their way back, and I wanted to go back (I wish I did). But I decided to reach hill summit 2, then turn around.
We got to the second hill, and I made it clear that it was vital for me to turn around, or I could end up fracturing my knee. At this point, my already bad knee was throbbing in pain, and my other knee was also starting to act up. You know what they say, “Better safe than sorry folks.”
The guide we were with had promised to take me back down, but we had to wait for the last hiking team to get here so that they would change roles with the guide behind. Here I ate my snacks and wore my waterproof hiking pants and jacket.
Within seconds, the fog was floating across the mountain like white smoke. It was going to rain. Guess what? When the last team got to us, the guide backed out on me because he felt like the guides were not enough.
I imagined myself having to descend this treacherous mountain, follow yellow ribbons lost in fog to get my way back to Geta Bush, ALONE, in a mountain where people have been reported to get lost countless times, and with hurt knees? I didn’t know what was worse, that the guide would even suggest this or the fact that I was going to do it.
I either keep ascending, or stay at hill summit two, and wait for them to get back or descend alone. At this point, I wanted the ground to literally open and swallow me. Considering how rapidly the weather was changing, I wasn’t going to stay there and get rained on. So, I decided to follow the goddamned yellow ribbons back to my misery.
It is during taunting descends that you always realize that for every climb, you have to come back down. It makes me question why I enjoy this rough yet beautiful torture in the first place. So little old me starts to descend back down.
At first, I could spot the ribbons. So I followed the ribbons. I was in real physical and emotional pain. Honestly, I could help but cry the entire descent. Then! It started to rain, and I couldn’t see the ribbons. I had to use my memory up to get my way down.
To make it worse, while it was raining, an angry cow came chasing down at me. I was fucked! I was trying to run my malfunctioning legs down a slippery rocky slope, praying helplessly for my life, scared off my boots, and being chased down by an angry cow. According to my friend, apparently cows don’t like the color red!!
I was falling off and sliding down those trails like I was headed to hell’s entryway. I hurt my wrist, trying to pick myself off my third fall and managed to hide in a thicket and watched the cow go down. I sat there under the rain and cried like a baby. It was almost like I took advantage of that moment to let out all the tension and stress that was slowly creeping in.
I had to keep moving. The worst thing about this horrific and painful descend was that the trail was not ending. It kept going on and on, and I kept feeling more scared and frustrated. When I got the point where I could see the village, I felt a sense of relief. Still! The trail never ends.
As I neared the starting point, I was still in my last stretches of crying. I saw my friends packed in a car, and I never felt more relieved in my life. Lucky for me, these are the type of friends who instantly laugh at you when you narrate what horrors you have just experienced while you’re struggling to come off your wet gear. They instantly lifted my spirits, and I truly needed that, or I would go back to my love drained and frustrated.
A few shots of my favorite sauce, funny stories, laughter with fantastic company, and excellent food are enough to jog a girl back to her bubbly self. I managed to score a lift back to Nairobi with a group of cool guys, which meant I didn’t have to wait for the team on the summit to head back and give me their tales of how extraordinary the summit was. Honestly, I wasn’t in the state to stomach their joy. Ha!
We wasted about an hour trying to find our way back to the highway. We were lost but managed to score a boda boda guy willing to guide us out into the highway. Again, amazing company, cans of beer, and pleasant music are enough to make a girl forget the typa day she had even for just a while. They managed to drop me off where my taxi (Little Cab) was waiting for me.
Then guess what?
We get caught by cops!
It was already past curfew hours, which meant that anyone coming from that hike was aware of the possibility of coming across cops. But of course, it had to be little old mwah !😰Such luck, huh?
The unfortunate thing about scoring a rude driver is that they aggregate the situation by offending the police. Because she was so rude, the cop was already directing her on the way to take us to the station. What was more frustrating was the fact that she felt that she wasn’t on the wrong because Little Cab drivers have a letter of service to operate past curfew hours, and even though she knew I was the one to get in trouble she was willing to wash her hands off me.
I had to step in! So I basically begged the cop to speak and reason with me instead. He already noticed I was limping when I got off the hike, so it was easy to explain that I was from a hike, and my team got back late, and to please find it in his heart to just let us go. Of course, I had to give the fella ‘pretty firm handshake’ to get this done. My pockets were bleeding! And! I still had to pay for the cab!
I must say though, it helps to have a darling pick you up, offload your weight, and let you literally break down in their arms, before a warm bath, a quick meal, and knee massage, and tuck you in. It was a miserable day, more so frustrating because I didn’t get to the fourth hill summit, and even more draining how the day had ended. I was passed out in minutes of hitting the bed.
All-in-all I did feel proud of myself that I did to a point and deciding to listen to my body and just head back. I felt like a failure because this was my first failed summit, but I was also slowly realizing and accepting that you sometimes don’t have to reach the summit, and that’s okay.
Rurimeria, like every other mountain, is not going anywhere. The next time I come back, it will still be beautifully standing there in all its beauty and majesty waiting to torture me once again joyously, only this time, I will be back with a fixed knee, the right mindset, and ready to conquer it against all the odds!
So, Rurimeria, I’ll be back! 😉