Conquering Mt. Longonot

At the beginning of this year, one of the things I really wanted to do was travel more. When you come to the realization that life is happening every day, enjoying it becomes important. There’s no point in waiting for the day that everything will be ‘perfect’, when you’ll have everything, to finally enjoy life. Well, I didn’t know exactly how I would manage to travel more but I kept my hope up. And God has this amazing way of fulfilling our desires. This year I’ve managed to visit Cape Town, Maasai Mara, Mount Suswa and thanks to Nature Kenya, I’ve gone for nature walks in numerous places. 🙂

Hurlaub’s turaco in tree.
I came across one of the most beautiful birds at my first Nature Kenya birdwalk. Read about it here.

I was still a newbie at Nature Kenya when I learnt they had organised a hike to Mount Longonot. I was considerably broke after my trip to Mara so I had my doubts about going. After much thinking I decided to go anyway. Have fun when you still can, right? And so on that Saturday morning, I forsook my extended sleep for the hike.

Views at Mt. Longonot.
Views worth forsaking sleep for.

The driver was kind enough to pick me along the way so I didn’t have to go all the way to the Museum (yaay!) which gave me an advantage over the others. The last time I went to Longonot was almost a decade ago, so I was curious to see how it would be this time. It was a bit chilly in the morning but I was well prepared for the heat and dust that awaited us on the mountain.

Sunny Longonot region.
Sunny skies are perfect for a day out.

Fast forward to our arrival and the sun was already blazing. We were divided into groups depending on walking pace. In other instances I wouldn’t have chosen the ‘slow’ group but this time it worked to my advantage, as you will see shortly. And so we began the ascent. The mountain doesn’t look intimidating from the base- until you begin to climb it.

Hikers at the base of Mt. Longonot.
Starting out at the base.

My trick was to walk at a comfortable pace, keep hydrating and taking short stops when I felt my body overworking. Since I had carried my camera, stopping to take shots of the landscape allowed me to take breaks every so often. Hiking is like a marathon: the best way to tackle it is to focus on the step directly ahead of you. Although I didn’t want to rush, at some point it was inevitable so as to get away from a lady who wouldn’t stop talking. I mean, she just went on and on. So I made sure I was well ahead of her the whole hike.

Views at Mt. Longonot.
With views like these, you just have to stop and shoot.

The views as you climb are quite amazing. I would have filled my memory card with images from that day. The volcanic soil and rocks provide interesting textures for the keen eye. One interesting tip I got from our guides is the importance of eating well before a hike. It’s not just about large amounts, but consuming enough carbohydrates. They call this ‘carbohydrate packing’. On the eve of a hike, you should eat as much carbs as possible which your body will store for use when doing the tough work (hiking). I got to see the importance of this, when one lady was overwhelmed during the climb. She got very weak and had to sit down for quite some time. She admitted that she hadn’t eaten well before the trip, and hadn’t been taking water as she climbed.

Textures on volcanic rock.
Textures on the volcanic rock.
Hikers going up Mt. Longonot.
Going up…

Well, I was very surprised when we got to the top. I thought we had at least another half hour of climbing! I was far less tired than expected. Somehow, I felt cheated. From my previous two hikes up this mountain, getting to the crater was accompanied by fatigue. Despite having decided not to go round the crater when we began, I decided to do it since I was still energetic. Again, the views were simply breathtaking- you can see even Lake Naivasha in the distance.

Views from the top of Mt. Longonot.
More delicious views. Lk. Naivasha to the far left.

After a short breather and taking in the views, a small group of us began the crater walk. 7.2 Km in circumference. Someone should have warned me how hard it is…but then I was determined to make it. Spotting the Nyanza swift and Rock martin birds was interesting. What do they eat, and more so, drink? It’s very dry up there but somehow the birds know how to thrive. As the wind blew, it was a tough balancing act holding on to my hat while navigating the narrow path, and sometimes taking photos.

Lush forest at the base of Mt. Longonot crater.
Lush forest at the base of the crater.

After a while, the two ladies I was with decided to turn back before we got to the steepest part. If you’ve been reading my posts for some time, you know I ain’t no quitter. I was going round the crater come what may. My shoes felt like ovens due to the heat. Still, I walked on accompanied by John and Martin (two of our guides).

Mt Longonot crater peak.
The peak at the centre is the highest and hardest to climb.

It wasn’t that bad when we started. But at some point it was so steep I had to use both my hands and feet to climb. I call it Four Limb- Drive. At other parts the volcanic soil was very slidy. I felt like I was moonwalking, not making any forward progress. Martin and John were very kind in helping me up and keeping the walk lively with stories.

Mt Longonot crater peak.
The menacing crater rim.

Just when you think it’s hard enough, you encounter a steeper point…oh my goodness. I asked myself several times, “Nani alinituma hapa?” (Who told me to come here?) But I couldn’t go back because we had come so far already. And we couldn’t stop either, because when you stop you feel more tired. After what seemed like years of walking, we got to the summit. 2780m above sea level. I could just have stayed there and have a chopper pick me up. But we had to keep going.

View from Mt Longonot crater peak.
The view is incredible from the top.

You would think descending would be easier, right? Think again my friend because after exerting your leg muscles like that, they feel weak as you go down. Your legs tremble a lot and you get to realise this when you stop. So you don’t stop till the end. We got to places where only one person could cross at a time because the path was too narrow. We had to engage skating mode because of the slippery soil. And did I mention the dust? It was so much and finely ground that you could make ugali out of it.

Thorny tree species.
Thorny tree species that thrives on the mountain.

We walked, walked and walked until we caught up with 3 other people from our group. A man, his wife and son. They provided good company though soon after, father and son went ahead swiftly leaving us behind. How on earth was that young boy so energetic? I felt like I had been ran over by a truck yet we still had a long way to go. Martin and John didn’t seem tired either. It’s as if they had power banks! Honestly I felt like I was dragging them behind otherwise they would already be at the finish point.

Entrance to Mt. Longonot Park.
The finish point.

How strange that the closer we got to the end, the more I felt like giving up. Just like situations in life, right? Oftentimes we quit when the finish line is just a few steps away. “Just a little further,” John kept saying. Somehow, this made me feel more tired. As we approached the end point the ‘rest hut’ disappeared from view. My legs couldn’t take it anymore and  John had to pull me by the hand. This was the most ardorous walk of my life.

Rest point at Mt. Longonot summit.
The much sought-after rest hut.

And just when it seemed I couldn’t take another step, the hut appeared! My legs were wobbling like crazy. My eyes began tearing spontaneously. Have you ever been so tired that you break down crying? I think the body has so much pent up fatigue that is looking for release and this happens through tears. The rest of the group welcomed us with applause but what I needed most was food and rest!

Views from the top of Mt. Longonot.
Indeed, Kenya is beautiful.

There wasn’t much time for this though. We had to quickly eat and make our way down for the journey back. Just that simple act of sitting down and stretching my legs felt like heaven. I was through with my snacks in no time and prepared for the walk down. I overheard so many people saying they would never do that hike again. They were too exhausted and wouldn’t recommend anyone to take the hike. I laughed because I felt the same. But I think they may return, because fatigue is a big part of the hiking fun.

Thorny tree with fruits.
You need to be tough like this plant for the hike.

By the time I got to the base of the mountain, I was coated in several layers of dust as if I’d walked through Kitengela. If it was possible to teleport home that would have been great. I wiped off as much dust as I could and sunk into the truck seat. I had made it. One and a half hours up the mountain, two hours round the crater. This is definitely making an entry into my CV.

Author’s dusty foot.
Author’s dusty foot.

If you would like to hike Mount Longonot, I encourage you to. Just be well prepared for lots of sun and dust. Be sure to carry enough sugar-packed snacks, water and resolve to finish the hike. And don’t forget the carbohydrate packing! Keep in mind that going round the crater is the hike. Going up is just a starter. What interesting/ difficult hikes have you done? Please leave a note in the comment section below and I may just be taking that hike soon. 🙂

img_5041
A bird I’m yet to identify, at the base of the mountain.

 

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11 thoughts on “Conquering Mt. Longonot

  1. I have a had time reconciling the story and the author. I my opinion, I know a fragile sentive lady who has a passion for the camera. But the tough recilliant mountain conquerer is a new person. The things passion make us do!
    Great story, I have done the same mountain, but I did not discover as much as your comers did. Same place new experience.

    Like

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