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