Travel, just like birding, is addictive. Once you love it you’ll never go back. And so after realising that I hadn’t taken a trip the whole of August, I resolved to do so in September. That’s how I ended up going for my first Nature Kenya Youth Committee trip to Kinangop Highlands.
On the week leading to the trip I caught a cold. How convenient. Just before travelling to a chilly place! I wondered if it was a good idea to go ahead with the trip plan in that state. I took some flu medication and hoped for the best. Thankfully by Friday (the day of departure) I was much better. I recently realised all my trips have a dose of drama. On this day it was about our transport. For some unknown reasons, the driver who was to take us delayed. For four and a half hours. FOUR AND A HALF! That’s a new lateness record. I wasn’t impressed at all. Ruined my mood even before the trip began.
The driver finally arrived at 4.30 pm and we left. A few minutes later, one of us realised he’d left his phone at the Nature Kenya office yet the money we needed for food was in his mobile money account. So he alights from the vehicle, takes a bike ride to the office and back. I was even less impressed now. After that interruption we resumed the journey.
It was mostly uneventful until we got near the destination where the roads become really rough. We arrived at around 7 pm, welcomed by the frigid wind. The compound was dark and it was tricky making our way through tall grass to the cabins where we’d be sleeping. We set our luggage down and began supper preparations. The kitchen is set in a small colonial-era bungalow that points to life in earlier times. The house has no electricity so we used candles and flashlights. Cooking was at a firewood hearth which produced way too much smoke.
The combination of smoke and no electricity made time drag. Supper was finally ready and when we finished eating I went to sleep while others stayed up late playing games. Two trousers, three tops, a hoodie, a pair of socks, a scarf and hot water bottle were my defence against the biting cold. In the morning I woke up feeling slightly unwell. Not sure if it was the flu or change in altitude, but I felt lousy. On my way to the kitchen for breakfast I was greeted by the beautiful views of the campsite. My phone was running low on charge but I just had to take some pics. Speke’s Weavers called excitedly in the nearby tree.
After breakfast it was time to go hiking. It was to be a ‘short’ hike, we were told, which turned out to be untrue. The hike was combined with bird watching. We recorded species such as Malachite Sunbird and Northern Ant-eater Chat as we went along. Mzee Waweru (our guide) was instrumental in pointing them out. He’s an experienced birder with more than a decade under his belt.
We reached an open grazing field and stopped to take in panoramic views of Mt. Longonot, Lk Naivasha, Mt Eburu ans some of the Aberdare Ranges peaks. My phone battery died shortly after so most of the photos on this post are from fellow campers. We then descended through a farm then up a hill again. We walked and walked then walked some more. At some point we spotted the nest of an African Crowned Eagle with a young one inside. We walked again through thorny bushes and when I thought we were done, through more prickly plants.
After what seemed like eternity we got to the peak of one hill. We stopped for a well- deserved break. And photos. An Augur Buzzard showed off its hovering skills, riding on the upward air currents. We rested a while then began the descent- another long journey. By now the sun was blazing. I thought the hike so far had been tough, but I hadn’t seen anything yet.
We passed through stinging nettles while being assaulted by safari ants. After surviving this assault we passed by a small wetland. A Grey Heron was hunting fish as a Cape Wagtail marched along the shore. Cows ruminated silently, minding their own business. We walked some more until we got to camp. I was wiped out after walking almost nonstop for 4 hours, yet Waweru didn’t even break a sweat. He made us feel old!
The plan for the next day was to visit some caves. It was to be a shorter walk than the previous day, and not through tough terrain, they said. Again, not true. Getting to the caves themselves took more than an hour of walking. These man-made caves are used for harvesting sand for construction. It’s quite cold and dark in there. Next stop was the Friends of Kinangop’s land set aside for the conservation of Sharpe’s Longclaw bird. Downhill, through prickly bushes (again) and uphill. I didn’t know we were filming a Survivor Africa episode!
A short break to energise came in handy. We had our snacks then proceeded to search for Sharpe’s Longclaw. The birds were elusive though, wouldn’t let us get close. Following them across the large grassy field proved too much for me especially now that the sun was scorching. I sat under a shade to rest. After the others were satisfied with the birds we began our walk back to camp. Downhill, across a river (again!) then uphill. More walking.
Fatigue got the better of me. I began to lag behind until everyone passed me. Not one person offered to keep me company. I wouldn’t have minded if I wasn’t exhausted and walking through a new place. At some point my legs were numb, right hip joint in great pain. I was at the point of tears. The clouds grew menacingly darker, I had to reach camp before the rain. When I finally got there, I was informed that I had to prepare lunch. By the same people who left me behind when I almost couldn’t walk. How considerate!
I refused. I was angry and hadn’t even rested. After evaluating the situation I decided to just do it since people were catching feelings. And you know what? After being rushed to make lunch, we left the place at 7 pm! Yet we were ready to go by 4 pm. The level of time mismanagement was incredible. Again it was due to the driver being late.
Would I take another trip with Youth Committee? Hard to say yes because I don’t like being kept waiting. Would I go back to Kinangop? Definitely. The views are to die for, the air is fresh, it’s great for stargazing, has beautiful birds and the dogs, cows and sheep are the cutest you’ll ever come across. So clean and fuzzy. You just have to go see for yourself. 🙂