Day 17 – August 14
I wake up around 3:00 and can’t get back to sleep. I lay in my tent for a little over an hour, and then finally get up to pack. Close to 5:00, I wake up Michael and Steve letting them know it’s time to get ready. Today is the last day of Proper Walk ’06. It’s hard to believe, it has gone so quickly and has been such an incredible trek. We break camp and head out a little after 6:00. Tommie reports he saw several hippos in the pond above the dam, a nice start to the wildlife spotting today.
One of the great aspects of following the Ewaso Nyiro has been the incredible trees. Huge fig trees, massive acacia trees, and dum palms have been a constant companion on our hikes and at our camps. I take a number of tree photos as we move up the river. We see a significant number of acacias with cylinder type bee hives. In one tree we count nearly 20 hives. The acacia honey is reputed to be the best honey in Kenya.
The private ranch land we are hiking on is a stark reminder of how ravaged many of the areas we hiked through have become due to over grazing. The ranches are how most of this land should look with long stemmed grasses covering the ground, large shrubs dotting the landscape with acacia and other trees sprinkled about. Obviously, the Samburu are not allowed to graze their herds on the private ranch lands if the owners can prevent it.
We can see Mount Kenya in the distance on this crystal clear morning. I hope a picture turns out as it is such an incredible site from this distance. We are over 60 miles away. I will always have a special place in my memory of that mountain after climbing it in ’79. On that hike I got altitude sickness to the point my party considered carrying me down the mountain. Fortunately, just as quickly as I got sick I began feeling well again and we finished the hike climbing just below the volcanic peaks. What a climb that was and how beautiful is the sight of that wondrous mountain in the distance.
We begin to see more animals than we have seen anywhere on our hike. We have seen multiple herds of impala, gazelle, Grevy’s zebra, giraffes, huge African owls, gerenuk, kudu, fish eagles, and a number of hammarkop. Hammarkop are large raptors that build the largest nests I have ever seen – they even build a roof. I asked Roger if the nest I was seeing was a blind used by hunters, it is so big. He told me about those birds and the amazing nests they build. It makes one wonder what evolutionary reason caused these birds to develop this nest making behavior. Multiple lizards, small mammals, and other birds take up residence in the nests as well, making them seem like a condo complex in the wild.
As we are walking along marveling at all the animals we have seen, a good sized adolescent male elephant came out of the bush directly ahead of us. It stopped in the road and looked at us, probably as surprised to see us as we were to see him. I quickly pulled out my camera and took a photo. I hear Amanda yell, “Michael stop!” as Michael was continuing to walk behind me towards the elephant. The young males are the most dangerous elephants as they are still proving themselves, finding out how strong they are, and that makes them very unpredictable. After eyeing us for what seemed like a long time he turned and went back into the bush from where he came. My heart was pounding and a big smile spread across my face. Tommy followed the elephant with the video camera at a safe distance to capture a nice bit of footage.
We had one final river crossing but now the Ewaso Nyiro is a slow lazy river. It is only 20 yards across and a little over knee deep. I didn’t feel like hiking in wet shorts so I rolled up my pants and tried to keep them as dry as possible, my hiking shoes and socks slung over my shoulder. As I crossed I am thinking of Phil’s encounter with an acacia thorn and hope I don’t end up with anything in the bottom of my foot. After crossing, Michael, Steve, and I sat on a log on the far side of the river drying our feet and taking our time before putting our shoes back on.
The morning is gone and the miles are really adding up. It is getting hot and we are beginning to tire. We could see the rock formation that is the end of our hike in the distance. We take a break for water and snacks, the final rest stop of Proper Walk ’06. We complete the final miles and pull into our camp under a huge rock monolith with a waterfall at its base. What a beautiful site and a great place to wrap up our hike. We can see part of a lodge being built on top of the rock formation to the left of the river. Amanda says it is being built by a man named Ivan and has been in progress for a number of years.
We set up camp, have tea, and break out the Tuskers. We toast the Proper Walk ’06, “Amazing Amanda” for taking such good care of us, and BGR (Big Game Roger) for helping us see so much wildlife. I was snapping photos of Amanda but she kept turning away just as I would snap a shot. Finally, she looked at me and told me to stop taking her picture. I got a decent picture of her while she is telling me to stop taking her photo. I think at times I tried Amanda’s patience, in fact, she nicknamed me “Cheeky”. I think it was a compliment but you would have to ask her.
I went for a hike to the top of the waterfalls. It was a fun short hike but had a couple of tricky spots such as slender logs placed over a pool of water about a dozen feet in the air. The logs would bend a good amount under my feet making me think this might not be such a good idea. I cross it and head up to the top of the rocks. It’s really hot, I am sweating a great deal. I plop down and take some photos of this amazing place. I lie back briefly and almost nod off before heading back to camp.
In the evening, baboons come out on the monolith and are climbing across a crevice over a hundred feet in the air. It’s awesome to watch them through binoculars seeing how they can move with such complete confidence on such a narrow crack in the rocks. We also spot a large clipspringer, a small gazelle like animal that lives on rocky hills and mountains, a rare sight today.
We are joined in the evening by Jasper, the famous patriarch of Ol Maisor. He brings a sack full of adult beverages to celebrate the completion of the hike. Michael sits by Jasper and they talk about the hike, the past hikes and related subjects. It is a great pleasure to meet him after reading about him in Tim Cahill’s article and hearing about him from Michael. The drinks flow freely and soon the Proper Walk walkers one by one retire. I move over by Jasper and think I should continue matching him drink for drink of Hunters Choice. I share with him some trail stories such as the Cuban Havanas I bought in Dubai and brought on the hike, and how amazing his daughter Amanda was on the hike. He shares his own expedition stories of old Africa and about Ol Maisor in the early years. I realize the next morning this was not a prudent decision trying to stay with such an experienced man as Jasper. Man, was I hung over.