A Mackinder Valley Day Hike

by Monicah Wangari
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You leave Nairobi at 4:20am. You meet your guide Jose Safaris at Nanyuki Mall. You begin the hike by 9:30am.

It starts off as an easy ascent. You will run out of breath mostly due to the altitude and not the difficulty of the mountain. You will walk slowly listening to your body and giving it the necessary pep talk and treatment. You will acclimate and begin enjoying the hike. Keeping in mind the three rules.

Stop if your heart wants to leave its cage, breath in three times through your nose and out through your mouth and sip water often. You will pass through parts of Mt Kenya which were seriously burnt earlier on in the year. It is a sight for sore eyes.

There is dust since it has not rained on the mountain for sometime. You will come across streams of water. Be sure to squat and drink some. It’s refreshing and makes you feel one with the mountain. Apparently these streams of water are usually large rivers but seeing as there has been no rain, they are now merely streams.

You will encounter two wooden bridges. Take pictures there. The toughest part of the climb is right before getting to Mackinder Valley Viewpoint. It’s steeper than the rest of the points. You will have gotten used to the environment and will take it a step at a time all the way. You will finish the hike earlier than expected. So you will ask the guide what else is there to see. He will take you to the bird caves.

You will hear lots of bird sounds. And even encounter what you call mountain chicken.  They are edible, these mountain chickens. You will encounter fat little birds throughout the hike. They are too heavy to fly high.

At the bird caves, you will have your lunch and take photos. The peaks were visible the moment you arrived at Viewpoint but they are now covered by clouds. It’s a glorious feeling. Seeing the peaks. It’s humbling how large they are. It’s exciting knowing people have conquered them all. They look like they are from one of those Game of Thrones themed movies. You feel them tell you ‘I dare you’ and you can only salivate at the thought of doing it again. Someday, you say.

It gets cold and you decide to start the descent. You’ve come to love descents – you once dreaded them. When your knees would shake all the way down. When you’d be scared stiff that you’d fall and topple over. When falling for you was an embarrassing thing. You’ve learnt the art of descent now. It no longer takes a toll on your knees. One of your best achievements. You are proud of yourself. Halfway into the descent by the bridge, the clouds look mean.

You all put on your raingear. And you continue the walk back. After all, how many times have you been rained on on the mountains and lived to tell the story. You are quiet. Focused on every step to avoid falling over the rocks. You pass by the met station where they record weather predictions. You sit out there for a minute and you almost fall asleep. The peace on the mountain is heavenly. You resume walking and now walk slowly seeing as you are almost at the Old Moses where you’d begun the hike. You want to take it all in. Feel one with the mountain. Thank the mountain for loving you. You are happy you don’t have a headache – something which happens to you on almost all high altitude hikes.

You are happy you’ve re-experienced part of your Mt Kenya day 4. You tell your friends how sick you were last year March and hardly noticed the beauty around. You feel fulfilled and happy. In two hours you are done with the descent.

You bid the mountain goodbye. You bid your guide Jose Safaris goodbye. It was an epic day.

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