May your dreams be larger than mountains, and may you have the courage to scale their summits – Harley King.
It is the one peak I can clearly see from my house – Oldonyo Sabuk, commonly referred to as Kilima Mbogo. Ten months since I moved to Thika town and I have never given that mountain a chance. The mountain is located in Kyanzavi Division, Machakos County, near Thika Town.
It was given its name by Maasai pastoralists, and coined Kilima Mbogo because It has two parts. The hill(Kilima) and the buffaloes (Mbogo). The peak stands at 2,145 metres (7,037 ft), which makes it perfect for an easy hike.
The problem with those of us who are into mountaineering is that we yearn for the big, tasking, daunting mountains and rarely will we give the easy hikes a chance. This time around, coming off a bad knee, I needed an easy hike.
I didn’t do much but walk in the entire month of October. I needed to stop being such a hard knuckle and give my knee and body time to heal and recover. I didn’t run or hike; I only did easy walks. I couldn’t move much without knee support, and even though that really sucked in the first few weeks, you slowly get to understand the importance of backing off once you start listening to your body.
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters and teach some of us more than what we could learn from books – John Lubbock.
One thing is always true with mountaineering and hiking: the mountain decides whether you climb it or not. The art of mountaineering is knowing when to go, when to stay and when to retreat. With Rurimeria, I knew I had to retreat, and during this period, I had to keep off my knee for some time.
My biggest fear has always been paralysis. The thought of not being able to walk, run, climb mountains, or just be on my feet gives me the hibbie jibbies. Being unable to do the thing I love the most during this period made that fear so real that taking care of these beautiful features has become apparent especially if I want to keep testing the traditional romantic imagination I gain from hiking.
I didn’t need to pay for a group hike for this. In fact, I did the whole trip using public transportation. I started the journey at 7am EAT, and by 9am, I was at the park ready to hike Kilima Mbogo for the first time ever.
I never quite paid attention to it because everyone kept saying that it is such an easy hike. Some even claiming it was easier than Ngong Hills. It was the first “easy” hike I did, but it wasn’t that easy, considering I had been sedentary for more than a month. There was a lot of panting and struggling involved. It actually felt almost as though I had just started my hiking career.
A murram road is paved throughout the mountain to the peak like a python spiraling around its meal. There is an option to use two footpaths at the onset of the hike, but then you get to a point, and you have to use the road all the way to the top.
Never measure the height of a mountain until you reach the top. Then you will see how low it was – Dag Hammarskjold
Before we even started the hike, I heard a woman say how she’ll have gotten to the summit in one hour. It made me wonder if this was just a hill and nothing close to a mountain. It also gave me false confidence because it took nearly 3 and a half hours to get to the peak for me, nothing close to the assumed one hour.
Climbing to the top demands strength, whether it is to the top of Mount Everest or to the top of your career – Abdul Kalam
Though there aren’t many views on this mountain, you are surrounded by hightop trees that have such a powerful effect on you if you pay a little attention. It can be hard to miss the essence of Oldonyo Sabuk if you are used to mountain views, but it had a way of making me feel connected to the world around me.
I found myself more focused on the trees than the trail. The trees along the path were gloriously different, each leaving some kind of a mark where it stood. The barks of these trees had a way of making my problems at the time seem insignificant. I enjoyed the air these trees provided, and during those hours, my mind wasn’t in a state of constant rebellion like it always is.
I loved that there were stone pillars after every kilometer to show how far you were from the summit. With every notification, one feels like they can keep moving until they get to the top. The beauty of it is that there were so many people hiking that day, and so you would come across people motivating and applauding you to keep pushing.
It never matters how big or small a mountain is; every mountain has its soul. A friend once told me that mountains can destroy you if they don’t accept you or if you don’t submit to their will. Submitting to the will of mountains requires mental preparedness however big or small the mountain is. All in all, climbing is never a useless and dangerous activity, you will always come down to new treasures.
Everybody wants to reach the peak, but there is no growth on the top of a mountain. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak – Andy Andrews.
When we neared the summit, I started to see base transmitter stations. And that seemed like the end of the road. I remember I kept asking the guys I was with, “Is this it?” “Please don’t tell me this is it!” “Where is the summit?” and well, apparently, that was the summit.
Sure, I was a little disappointed because there is absolutely nothing to marvel at unless you have a thing for bts, ha! But this was because this was the first experience I had with such a mountain. I later learned from my friend Ness who did it the following day that I should have climbed one of the bts to see the view.
However, mountains have taught me that going to the top of a mountain just to conquer it is such a primitive thought. And so, I paid more attention to touching Sabuk, understanding her, feeling what she’s going through, and seeing what she sees as I descended down mostly in silence.
The nature in Sabuk has a virgin sort of symbiosis. Flora and fauna seem to coexist as though hatched from the same womb. Luckily, we didn’t come across any buffaloes, considering her name is coined from the existence of these animals on the mountain.
Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb – Greg Child.
The heart of climbing Sabuk was its path. Set out of blood, sweat, and tears. And its restrictions beyond the tracks felt like God. It still gave me a chance to briefly free myself of the small concerns of my everyday life, strip off nonessentials, and come down to the core of my life. I will be back and experience her more, next time I will set camp there and watch how the sunrises from her campsite.
The 14 Falls
My plan was to combine Oldonyo Sabuk, and the 14 falls because they are not so far apart from each other. I took a boda boda from the park gate to the falls. It took less than five minutes and only cost 100 KSH.
“It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things.” – Nicholas Sparks.
I am obsessed with rivers and waterfalls. Though I am hydrophobic, I enjoy the sound of a river and the gloriousness of a waterfall. However, I have never experienced more than one waterfall at the same time.
On reaching here, my mind was blown. I was literally jumping up with joy at the sight of this magnificent paradise. For the longest time, I believed that it was called the 14 falls because the falls are 14. Ha! You can barely count the falls, I don’t even know how they came up with the name, but it doesn’t matter because these falls sounded better than listening to music.
This magical attraction is on the second longest river in the Kenya- the Athi River. It is located just 15km from the town and is definitely a must-visit scenery in Thika. There is more to do than just watching and listening to the fall including boating, fishing, photography, plant identification, and bird watching among other activities.
The place is a statue of many rocks and a continuous flow of water. A clear outline of why waterfalls wouldn’t sound so musical if there were no rocks in their way. Standing here made me realize that water indeed was the driver of nature. It is the most perfect traveler because when it travels, it becomes the path itself.
The most immense satisfaction was hearing the waterfalls, birds, and winds sing to help you interpret the rocks and learn the language of the flood and storms. I felt near the heart of the world like never before. Listening to the waterfalls was like encrypting a hidden message in each waterfall. It was like every waterfall said, “If you are flexible, falling cannot hurt you.”
A waterfall cannot be silent, just as wisdom when they speak, the voice of power speaks – Mehmet Murat Ildan.
When I started this trip that morning, a lot was going on in my mind and heart. But by being here, I just let go – and I let all my worries and concerns fall like the falls. I wanted to adopt the pace of nature because there seemed to be hope even at the bottom of the biggest waterfall.
I needed waves. I needed waterfalls. I wanted rushing currents, and the 14 falls gave me precisely that. For a split second, there was a holy greatness because, for a little bit, I was out of my brain, and it had nothing to do with me. The sounds and the power of the pounding water scattered through the river promising great things over every fall and around every bend.
While you can’t deny the falls’ beauty, you can not look past all the trash disposed of inside the river. The rocks harbor so much junk, the still water stuck between the stones only have algae. Makes you wonder why man feels the need to litter? And why no one has set out to collect the trash off the river. Even so, there isn’t enough trash that can steal the glory of this place.
Being in a place like this will make you realize how tiny you and your problems are. As I watched the waterfalls roar, I felt like mourning, but unlike before, I discovered that I would just be one more person crying. I got the most important lesson from this place – to keep moving, and you will eventually get over it.
Combining Oldonyo Sabuk hike with a trip to the 14 falls made the trip worth it. It was also the cheapest trip I have had so far. Transportation to and fro, including the motorbikes, was 550Ksh, Park entry fee 250Ksh, and Waterfall entry fee 100Ksh totaling up to 900Ksh. Yap! Less than a 1000Ksh, for locals, if you are coming from Thika, that is. If you do give a go, do let me know how your experience was.