August 11, 2008
We get up as the sun begins to rise, pack up, and prepare for today’s hike. The camels arrive at our camp about 7:00 and we stage our packs for loading on the camels. We have a filling breakfast of granola cereal, sausages, pineapple, and chai. After which we fill our water supplies and secure snacks of dried fruit and biltong or jerky.
Once again we have attracted a huge crowd watching the amazing scene of 23 camels and us crazy wazungu (white people). We talk with children, take their pictures and show them their images on the digital display, which always elicits excited laughs. We are off a little after 8:00 with the camels starting slowly as they had a long day yesterday without much sleep. We head out of our campsite on a road with people lining the side.
We are hiking at over 7,500 feet making for a tough morning climb. As the temperature rises the sweat begins to flow. We are in a beautifully green-forested escarpment with many small agricultural plots dotting the landscape. Children hike with us, some stay with us for many miles.
Near Mochongoi Point we stop for an incredible vista of the Great Rift Valley below us. We see where we will descend after about a dozen miles of steep rock strewn paths. We have a final climb to the Point which gets all of our hearts pounding rapidly and the sweat covers our shirts. We see a spot on the road where three people have driven off the road in the past month and met their death at the bottom of the sheer cliff.
As we begin the descent our quads rebel and our knees take a pounding as an occasional slip on the scree sends us close to falling on the rocks. The camels have a very difficult time on this descent and slowly make progress. The Walkers are able to handle this difficult terrain better than the camels and we begin to place a significant distance between them and us.
Chris Kipruto Rerimoi with Mid Rift Trail joins us for the hike. He is publicizing our Proper Walk to look for ways to increase tourism in this part of the Great Rift Valley. He is from the area so he brings a great deal of knowledge to our hike.
Near the bottom of the descent we wait for the camels and rehydrate and snack to get some energy for the hot afternoon hike. Amanda catches up with us and directs us to a path that will head us in the right direction. The camels are well behind us so we continue on the Walk. We have several hours to go but the terrain is now not so steep and we begin to make good time.
All along the Walk we wave and shout greetings to the locals and children laugh and follow us. After covering half of our remaining distance we stop again and wait for the camels. Tugen boys hunting dik-dik (small antelope) stop by and Tommie and Emily ask to have a try with their bow and arrows. Tommie shows some good skills and Emily works on hers with a successful end to a bow and arrow lesson.
The camels catch up with us and we have some melons and refresh our water supplies for the final hot descent to our campsite near the Waseges River. We finish the hike after seeing several amazing lookouts over the valley below.
We will be waiting for the camels for some time before being able to set up camp so, we go down to the river to cool off our feet and bide our time. We look for the best campsite and select a soccer pitch at a school that will provide the size we need for our entourage.
The camels finally arrive and we learn two camels have had difficulty with the descent are behind the group. We will see how they are doing later. Again, we attract a large crowd of on lookers as we set up camp. Many of the children here and along today’s route have not seen many wazungu so, it is always fun to see their reaction to us – especially Ashley while she illustrates.
We are really beat from today’s hike. Some head to the river to wash up and try to get some of the smell from our bodies. A quick rain shower hits with everyone running to cover gear and put loose items in their tents.
The rain dissipates quickly, we eat, and finish our tasks to prepare for a nice long sleep.
August 12, 2008
We slept a bit late – 7 am – because the camels were exhausted from the long descent down the Laikipia Escarpment. We had a large audience for our morning preparations: wazungu and camels are a wildly popular attraction.
We walked to Wasegas where it was market day. All the ladies laid out their garments for sale, and we bargained for possible purchase of a goat but did not close the deal. Ashley sketched an old mzee who carried a beautiful carved staff and stool and produced a stunning portrait. Needless to say, the crowd for the market swelled with our arrival, which proved an irresistible opportunity for Dennis to work the crowd resulting in an impromptu Obama rally.
We then set out on a steep climb to the Laikipia Plateau in the heat of the day, stopping briefly for a cool Coke at a surprisingly located rest stop. We continued to the Bogoria Reserve where we were to begin our descent down the escarpment. We were awed by the view of the Rift Valley and Lake Bogoria, and even more awed by the trail that lay before us. We spent considerable time in reconnaissance and contemplation of taking 23 camels down a seemingly impassable rocky trail, while Tommy and the head camel driver, Bara Bara, checked out the terrain. With a certain amount of trepidation, we started the descent which proved extremely challenging for humans and camels alike.
The Proper Walk team had to watch their step on the rocky passage, but it took considerable prodding to convince the camels that this made any sense at all. With the help of the Reserve staff, we slowly cleared a path for the camels, both rolling stones and boulders out of the way and macheteing trees and bushes that would block their way. Miraculously, no camels lost their footing and no one turned an ankle, although Dave went down hard on the rocks but was able to walk on.
This proved extremely slow going and we only made it about half way down the mountain before evening came on. Fortunately, we found a lovely, flat campsite with fantastic views of the lake and surrounding hills. The lake was completely still, a mirror that reflected the sky and clouds above us like an Ansel Adams nature photo.
After a harrowing day, the process of making camp and having a warm meal quickly revived everyone’s’ spirits. We talked around the fire but quickly retired for the night, conscious of our 5 am start the next morning.
August 13, 2008
We rose at 5am, packed up our gear – quite an undertaking for the camel drivers and the camel train – and were on the trail again by 7 am. Again, the path down proved very challenging. While the lake lay only about 1000 feet below, it took several hours to get the camels to the bottom. Although not as steep as yesterday’s path, an attack by African bees stopped the train and nearly incapacitated one of the camels who was very badly stung. The team had gone on ahead and arrived at the bottom without further incident – but for our leader. Michael had a stomach bug that slowed him down considerably, and he fell behind the main group. When we arrived at the bottom, we waited for his arrival but he had gotten on the wrong trail and had to bushwhack his way down to us. He arrived with many scratches from the various thorn bushes that line the trails, bloody but unbowed. Having reassembled the team, we set off for our walk around Lake Bogoria.
The lake features hot springs and geysers around its edge, and is populated by thousands of flamingos. Our path ran along the lake shore and led us to Fig Tree Camp, a cool forest glen with a gurgling stream that also featured pools of water in which some of the group took a dip. The path then rose up and away from the lake before returning to the far shore. That was a gathering point for a large flock of flamingos which proved extremely skittish as we approached and took off in a cloud of pink. This was our first significant contact with wild animals on the Walk, including baboons, Grant’s gazelle, kudu, dik dik, klipspringer, monitor lizard. Along with the flamingoes, the lake features a huge number and variety of birds: horn bill (made famous by Zazu in The Lion King); the golden oriole; the gray lorry, also know as the go-away bird for its call; a fish eagle; and maribou storks.
We stopped at the hot springs and watched the water boil. Our hopes for a hot tub to remove the grime of the day were thwarted by just how hot the tub would be. We then found a campsite nearby that featured a small, muddy stream where we took our evening baths, and again settled down for a hearty camp dinner and a much needed rest.