I’ll never forget May-July 2017. It was one of the most stressful seasons of my life. But also very eye-opening. I had earnestly prayed about something and God answered…though not in the way I expected. Being thankful and trusting Him despite that was quite a challenge, but He showed me that I’m stronger than I think. So after that rough patch, an opportunity to go camping was a welcome relief.
Nature Kenya had organised an overnight camping trip to Aberdares. I’m not a fan of extreme cold but I was ready to try it out. A few days after learning of this trip I received an about a trip to Elementaita for Photomagic School alumni. On the same weekend as the Aberdares one. Which to choose? I was skeptical about the latter after what happened last time. But looking at the money I had, Aberdares would leave me broke. So I took a chance and enquired whether people were serious about Elementaita. Thank goodness they were. [Edit: I recently learnt that the Aberdares trip flopped so I didn’t miss anything after all!]
So on 29th July I beat the sun at starting the day. Still I had a feeling that I’d be late due to the challenges of using public transport. I was right. The day I’ll buy my first car… wacha tu. Anyway, after a few phone calls I linked up with Kate who was to pick me up. That 30-minute wait felt like forever, especially since the cold wasn’t joking around. My fingers went numb and I searched for freshly made chapatti near the UoN hostels. Soon Kate arrived and I was glad to be away from the chill at last.
We rushed along the Nairobi-Naivasha highway and thankfully the traffic was light. More cold awaited us at Rift Valley View Point, with the mist engulfing the landscape in an ethereal fashion. We had made a quick stop here apparently to take photos but it was too chilly for me, I rushed back to the car. Kate, Anne, Alexis and I chatted as we went on with the journey but at some point I dozed off (busy week). I woke to the warm rays that indicated we were entering the Rift Valley. Soon we reached the turn off to Lake Elementaita.
We were being hosted at Pink Lake Man Treehouse. The track leading there is quite dusty and bumpy. After a few metres there appeared one of the most magnificent views I’ve ever seen. Lake Elementaita in all its glory, against the backdrop of amazing landforms. Flamingos at the shores provided a breathtaking pink outline. As you know by now I keep saying Kenya is such a beautiful country. And I’ll keep repeating because it’s true. Maybe that should be my blog’s tagline? Haha. But really, you need to go out and see these attractions for yourself.
As we alighted from the car a Red-chested Cuckoo welcomed us with its loud call. Hard as I searched, I couldn’t see it. This secretive bird teased me for the whole of our stay- always nearby but never visible. We set down our bags and headed to the lake for our first shoot. Nature/ landscape photography being my favourite, I looked forward to a great time. The sun however had other plans. It was blazing as if on a revenge mission. I knew I had to take as many shots as I could before the heat got to me. After that I took refuge under a tree that happened to have a Grey-backed Camaroptera’s nest. It was interesting watching it chase away ‘intruding’ birds.
A herd of sheep passed near me chewing grass furiously. Hunger had by now struck in full force and lunch time seemed to be so far away. I got up to take some few more photos then headed to the Treehouse where lunch was ready. We all dug in to replenish that much-needed energy. Since our lead trainer Stephen hadn’t arrived yet, we decided to carry out portraiture sessions in the meantime. It was drizzling and cold had set in so this was done indoors. We got some interesting results with different light settings.
After a while Stephen finally arrived and we had a mini photo review session as we revisited some photography principles. We headed outside when the rain stopped for some more portraiture, then to the lake where we hoped to catch the sunset. Sadly the clouds denied us the light show we had hoped for. Back to the Treehouse we went looking forward to supper and hot tea. I never thought this part of the Rift Valley gets cold but it turns out I was wrong!
I must commend the staff at the Treehouse for their culinary skills- the meals are on another level. If not careful you could end up overeating. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. After that heavy supper it was time to review the day’s photos. I wondered if anyone would concentrate considering we were full and seated in front of a warm fire. Stephen spared no one in his critiques and challenged us to give our best whenever we shot. As the hours wore on people went off to sleep one by one, weighed down by fatigue. We closed the session by visiting a certain wildlife photographer’s website that left our jaws on the floor. Her photos are mind-blowing! It was simultaneously inspiring and discouraging to think about the day I’ll manage to reach such a level.
It was a struggle getting up in the morning since we’d slept at 1 am but I hauled myself out of bed, determined to catch that sunrise. And the flamingos. The cold reminded us again who’s boss. My eyes were tearing and fingers numb. But I had to get those shots. As I was immersed in shooting I realised my battery was running low. How embarrassing! Of all the times how could I be that photographer? Thankfully I found someone to help me with her spare. Elementaita’s landscape is so beautiful with so much to see. My memory card filled up yet we still had another session in the afternoon!
Another feast had been laid out for breakfast and we packed up energy for the coming hike. By now the heat was sweltering. Our guide took us through a gorge with a stream and the most magnificent sights. At some point we had to remove our shoes to walk through the nippy water! Again there was so much to photograph, we could have spent all day here. But we had to get back to the cabin and prepare for the journey home.
Lunch was another mouthwatering affair. After that we had our last photo review and my friends had such amazing images! Alexis with her little point-and-shoot challenged us all that you don’t always need fancy equipment to get great results. Soon it was time to leave and this time Dan offered to give me a lift since he was using my route. We got one last view of the lake and flamingos as we drove out.
That was such a refreshing weekend! I’m so glad I took the trip though my wallet thinks otherwise (haha). If you’d like to know more about Pink Lake Man Treehouse please contact the owner Macharia on +254 703 943 199. He’s a friendly and helpful host so you can rest easy. For your next short trip, consider going to Elementaita and staying at the Treehouse! 🙂