Category Archives: Travelogue

Travelling is a good thing; an expensive hobby, but an exciting one. My travelogue describes places I have visited, in East Africa. I travel on a shoestring budget most of the time; financial inability has never dowsed the sparks of adventure that burn in me.

Frugal travel is for brave hearts, for souls that don’t mind sharing a minibus with 25 other souls, or taking a 10 hour road trip because a flight is triple the cost of a bus ride. Frugality means walking in-between attractions, bed and breakfast in budget but clean establishments, and carrying a pocket guide because a tour guide would cost a whole lot more. Nonetheless, frugality brings with it great conversations with locals, and unrivalled access to the inner parts of the city where most B&Bs thrive.

I have experienced the ills of solo travel too, and encountered the intricacies of group travel. But, the sheer joy of discovering East Africa’s gems and the excitement of exploring these lands with friends surpass any problems experienced during my travels. Travelling solo dishes dinner for one, endless beach walks alone waiting for sundown, stares from locals and long boring bus rides unless a person in the adjacent seat feels like engaging in talks about the weather, or politics. But, solo travel rewards you with the region’s serenity to enjoy in solitude and the all-so-unexpected detours.

Explore my travel journal to discover places you can visit in East Africa, and get firsthand information about how to get there, the weather, the people, and each destination’s places of interest. My travelogue also explains a few ways to save when exploring East Africa.

William Hill Hike: Day Tour of Kikuyu Escarpment

Some people like a night out to relax and think. Others like solitude, watching television or listening to music. For me, I take a walk, a long walk. Hills excite me. One moment a hill is towering over you and hours later, you summit.  Kikuyu Escarpment has most of the thrilling climbs for amateur hikers. William Hill in Naivasha is one of them.

William Hill is located in the South Western side of Kikuyu Escarpment, about 75 km from Nairobi. It is about an hour and a half’s drive from Nairobi.  This side of Kikuyu Escarpment is generally flat with views all the way to the highway, and the vegetation is fragmented on either side of the road. However, the vegetation thickens near the foot of William Hill. Dominant plant species include Tarchonanthus camphoratus, which is locally known as leleshwa, mature acacia trees and candelabra trees.

From the summit of William Hill, at about 2300m, you see Kedong Valley, the Longonot Earth Station, Osotua Camp and hills of the Great Rift Valley. It is cold at the summit, but warm and humid as you ascend the hill.

Walk, Climb, Enjoy, Descend

Most of the time, there is light traffic on the city streets over the weekend so it takes less than 10 minutes to join Waiyaki Way heading out of town.

Like most travellers heading to the Rift Valley, we stopped at the Italian Catholic Church for a tour of the 1950s church. Traffic along the Mai-Mahiu- Naivasha/Narok Highway was almost standstill, with a mile-long snarl-up stretching from the Great Rift Valley Viewpoint. We parked off the highway, and crossed to the Italian Church for a five minute tour of the historic church.

We could have driven to Osotua Camp and began the hike there, but we wanted to experience the 10 km walk to the foot of William Hill. So, our hike started on a dirt road off the highway, alongside Riba Springs Lodge. This lodge is opposite the Italian Church along the Mai-Mahiu- Naivasha/Narok Highway.

We warmed up for about 15 minutes before the hike. We did them all from quad stretches to torso twists and hip flexors.

The winding road ran deeper into the floor of the Great Rift Valley, with Mount Longonot, Mount Margaret and William Hill in the horizon.  It was almost like a leisurely walk with the silhouette of William Hill reminding us there was more adventure ahead. Trucks and boda bodas zipped past us leaving a yellow cloud of dust, often making us walk off the road.

We had lunch as we caught our breath beside a stream that is adjacent to the only shopping centre along the way. This one shop-one-and-hotel centre is remote but lively. Those who had ran out of edibles for the hike bought mandazi, chapati and chai.

Fully charged for the steep climb to the foot of the hill, we embarked on a torturous hike that felt almost like a rock climbing excursion. Hearts beat, we panted and took water breaks every few seconds. However, the steep climb was worth the sweeping panorama of the escarpment awaiting us.  After taking a few pictures, we trudged through short shrubs to an open terrain and plunged into the floor of the escarpment again heading towards Osotua Camp.

At Osotua Camp, we relaxed for a while, took a bathroom break and re-energised, then proceeded up the hill.  We took breaks to enjoy the scenery before continuing to the summit. The ascent to the summit was a rocky affair. The rocks, weathered beautifully, jutted out of the hill. We went around the almost non-existent trails, meeting young herders with a couple of goats grazing in the pockets of vegetation growing between the rocks. It took a maximum of 4 hours for the slowest hiker to summit.

When to Hike William Hill Naivasha

The cold months are probably the best time to hike this hill. I hiked in November and it was excruciating. The sun baked our backs from Osotua Camp to the summit. The next time, I hiked in May it was cool with heavy cloud cover.

What to carry

  • At least 3 litres of water
  • Glucose/ energy drinks
  • Hiking/ walking shoes
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Ragia Forest Hike: The Magnificence of the Aberdare Ranges

Ragia Forest is in the verdant 160 km long Aberdare Range situated on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley. This range is one of the largest mountain ranges in Kenya, soaring over the central region of Kenya, sometimes plunging into deep valleys with waterfalls and dense indigenous forests.

Ragia Forest hike starts from one of the most important sections of the Aberdare, the Sasumua Dam, which supplies water to Nairobi and its environs.  The trail leads to several waterfalls that are kilometres apart making it a great hiking destination.

There are caves too. Shrouded by a cascading waterfall, these caves hide in a valley.  During the struggle for independence, Mau Mau fighters hid in these caves. British soldiers attempted to smoke them out, but the dense forest was impenetrable.

The descent to the caves and waterfall was along a narrow, slippery trail. The gaping holes beside the trail gave the worst adrenaline kick, reminding us that every step had to be calculated, and anything we held onto had to be firm or we would plunge to death. Stinging nettle sprouted along the trail ready to sting those who slipped and sat on them. I lost count of the many times I was stung.

About half of the hikers in our group chose to view the waterfall from the top of the valley (they would make excellent antagonists in a Dettol Mum ad). The ones who didn’t mind the mud, the intrepidity, the stinging nettle, and the cold descended to the caves and were treated to views of the most beautiful waterfall in the forest.

After a few minutes of a selfies beside the waterfall and views of the caves, the precarious climb out of the valley wasn’t as scary as the descent. It was worth it!

To sum up the day’s adventures, we stopped beside Sasamua Dam for some pictures.

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Karura Forest

A Day in Karura Forest

Karura Forest is enchanting even during the dry season when its lake is a shallow green swamp and its butterfly pond looks like a large whole dug in the middle of a forest. As one of the largest forests in Nairobi, this forest is like the last cookie in the jar. Everyone wants a piece, or crumbs, of the over 1000 ha conservation area. Luckily, the late Wangari Maathai dealt with the lot of land grabbers who eyed this scenic forest.

Therefore, now, only cyclists, trekkers, joggers and conservationists have the legal right to explore the exotic forest, Karura caves & waterfalls. Event planners are welcome too, for both formal and informal events and celebrations in a lush secluded venue within the forest.

As you leave the Limuru Road Gate behind, chirps, the wind and the tranquility of the forest swallows the sound of vehicles zipping past the diplomatic neighbourhood. The only sign that you are still within Kenya’s capital city is the electric poles that punctuate the forest as they cross the dirt road, into the K.F.E.E.T Centre.

Things to do in Karura Forest

  • Explore Karura caves & waterfalls

The waterfall and caves are along Karura River. During the dry season, the waterfall dwindles to a dribble down the rocks.

  • Cycling

The biking trail is on the northern side of the forest. Use Gate A, D or C to reach the biking trail.

  • Nature Walk

Karura’s nature trails traverse the exotic forest down to a waterfall and bat-nesting caves. You could do a 5, 10 or 15 km walk. In addition to the breathtaking serenity of the forest, watch out for little animals like monkeys, duikers and mongooses. You could walk your dog too, though you have to keep a leash on in some sections of the forest.

  • Jogging

Karura is the perfect, affordable venue for an outdoor workout just a few minutes from the city centre.  The 5 – 15 km nature trails have the obstacles you need. The trail runs down a waterfall and up a steep set of stairs.

  • A picnic on a sunny day

You don’t need much for a fun picnic in Karura. Carry snacks, a picnic blanket and a book perhaps if you are having a picnic alone. However, with family and friends, all you need is food and drinks for a merry afternoon in the forest. You could use the picnic tables in designated areas.

 

  • Playing tennis

The tennis courts are situated at the K.F.E.E.T Centre within the forest.

How to Get There

This scenic forest has several access gates. Pedestrians use:

Gate A (Limuru Road) – matatus number 11B, 106, 107, 114…

Gate C (Sharks Gate on Kiambu Road) – matatu number 100…

Karura Forest Entrance Fee

Tennis – KSh 200 per hour adults, KSh 100 child

Bike hire – KSh 500 for two hours

Entrance fee – Citizens: KSh 100 adult, KSh 40 child

Residents: KSh 200 adult, KSh 100 child

Non-residents: KSh 600 adult, KSh 300 child

So, when will you explore this city forest?

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