Quick Update on Hiking Kijabe Hills and Abseiling
Location; Kijabe, Kiambu County.
Distance and duration; 70 Kms (2 hours) from Nairobi.
Cost; If one uses a tour company, the charges ,may range between Kes. 3,000 – 3,500 per person. This is inclusive of transport to and from Nairobi and park fees. The price may or may not include snacks. Seeking clarification in advance is advised.
Hike Duration; approximately 5-8 hours. A full-day hike. Abseiling takes about 4 mins per person.
We are under lockdown season 2 in Kenya, with Nairobi and neighboring counties under more strict curfew measures. Thus, any outdoor engagement is a hustle. Restaurants are operating only on a takeaway basis, clubs are closed and the cherry on top is an 8 pm curfew.
Hiking is growing as an outdoor activity in Kenya more than before. Many tour companies have embraced this by creating hiking packages. Every weekend, many hikes are being held on the hills and mountains of Kenya.
Last weekend, some ladies and I visited Kijabe Hills. And boy oh boy, never underestimate any hill. Kijabe from a distance looks like a piece of cake. A beautiful one because it has beautiful greenery.
When you start hiking Kijabe Hills, you feel like it’s a walk in the park. So serene and beautiful, and you take lots of pictures.
Then you get to the train rail, very beautiful, the one you always see guys post themselves with a hashtag or location tag saying Kijabe Hills. I mean, would you say you’ve been to Kijabe Hills if you haven’t taken that shot?
At some point, the trail gets narrower and a little bit too close to the edge. It doesn’t bother you much, but it tries some people. You and other ladies encourage them. One step at a time. One step after the other. People are starting to conquer their fears.
A notable feature is the many water pipes that seem to source water from the hills to other places.
Most of them are unstable and you are warned not to use them as guard rails.
Then you get to a tricky place. A pipe has burst and is raining loads on the only path you are to use to move on. The path is steep. You wear rain gear. A rope is attached by the guides and you pull yourselves up. It’s not easy. One girl experiences a panic attack and has to withdraw from the hike. “Safety first”, our guide Paul says. With hiking, this is very important.
You get stung by stinging nettle. It reminds you of when you were a child, living in Kinangop, when stinging nettle was the order of the day. The sensation it leaves on your skin stays for a while. But you smile while applying vaseline to ease it.
The hill keeps getting steeper and less defined. You get to the Mau Mau caves. Campers camp here. It’s warm. It is said that during British rule, Mau Mau warriors used to hide here.
You take photos.
Then you get to the most important order of the day. Abseiling. You had googled what it means but you didn’t catch the fact that you will do it so imperfectly. Until you do.
Abseiling is the act of going downhill on a rope. The body position is leaned back so that the legs can be straight and wide apart to walk on the wall.
It is your first time. And you discover that you might have a fear of heights. Because the moment your legs slipped off the wet mossy wall, you screamed, you prayed, and didn’t look down until you got down. You only looked where you were going. You didn’t open your eyes even when the rope was turning you around.
You got rained on and hit a wall at some point. By the time you were getting down, your body was wet and shaking.
You said you will never do it again. But that is subject to change.
Another lady gets a panic attack and can’t abseil. She can’t go back because remember, a pipe had burst and made that route almost impassable. The guide Paul leads her down through another trail.
You continue and the trails are at 100% mean level. You have to use ropes several times to get down some slopes. You have to sit and drag yourself down the trails on your butt. Chocolate butts. When it’s an ascent, you almost do complete 180° while using all fours. You also use your knees sometimes when 180° is impossible. You get so dirty you no longer care.
Then you get to a river that doesn’t seem to end. That’s the descent. Walking by a river. In a river actually. You wonder how you would have done it if it rained.
It’s muddy, slippery, rocky and you have to use your hands a lot.
Kijabe Hills are risky. It’s a dirty affair. Kijabe Hills is not what it seems before you hike it. Be ready to play like a child. The way they willingly slide down muddy places.
Kijabe Hills is not for those with a fear of heights unless you’ve decided to conquer them.
Carry a warm change of clothes because it gets windy in the evening.
Kindly note that there is a friendlier route. We used the tough one because we wanted to abseil.