I awoke on Day 2 of the trek at first light. Normally I would not consider myself an early riser, but I had gone to sleep the night before at around 8 in the evening. There was no electricity, it was cold, I was tired, and my body was becoming accustomed to the altitude. I had awakened at 4 in the morning feeling a little cold but refreshed and ready to go. But it was dark outside and the early morning is when the most dangerous animals such as the buffalo are out grazing. I simply had to wait in my sleeping bag in the darkness, alone with my thoughts, for first light.
Finally it came. I could see the yellow orange glow entering the windows of the cabin. It was 6:15 in the morning. I put on my clothes along with a jacket, tubular scarf called a Turtle Fur, and a wonderful knit cap made by my friend Lisa Healy. I opened the door of the cabin, looked around, no buffalo. I then walked the perimeter of Chogoria Camp being careful to note any sign of an elephant or buffalo. Nope, none of the dangerous animals were anywhere to be seen. I did see a group of skittish Water Buck on the other side of the meadow, but they scattered within minutes of seeing me.
The Orange Morning Light of Chogoria Camp
As I walked around one thought that came to mind is, wow, this looks a lot like Tucson. I came all the way around the world to a place that looks like Tucson. The one big difference is that it was quite cold, not unlike Tucson on a winter morning. So, actually that was a similarity too. I looked up at one of the cabins and a man was waving at me. I approached. It was Charles, the handsome guide for the Spanish group. “Did you tell the ladies about the elephant?” asked Charles. “Yes, Charles, I thought they might want to know about the elephant attack yesterday. You all will be walking down to where it happened,” I said. “They are scared, really scared,” said Charles.” “Sorry, Charles, I did not mean to scare them, but I thought they might want to know.”
I headed back to the cabin and tea, coffee, and breakfast was ready. I sat down with David in the warm cabin to enjoy oatmeal and an egg omelette. After breakfast I went outside and the Spanish group was getting ready to go. They had come up with a compromise where the group would walk one hour down the road and a vehicle would drive 5 kilometers up the road to meet them before the site of the elephant attack. The normal vehicle fees would be waived because of the heightened danger. The Spaniards were happy because the risk would be much lower, and they would be off to their next adventure at Lake Nakuru National Park that much sooner. I said so long to my new acquaintances as they headed down the mountain.
I had to turn my attention to the task at hand. It was time to get my pack ready for the first day of hiking. My pack was filled with one moderately warm sleeping bag, one light sleeping bag, clothing, a rain jacket, water bottles, head lamp, and toiletry items. I estimate my pack to have been about 14 kilograms, or 31 pounds. The porters would carry the food, water, tents, and cooking utensils. I am used to backpacking in Southern Arizona and California with family or friends, where we carry everything needed for the time away from home. It was quite a luxury to have someone else carrying the heavy stuff, and not exactly what I would have opted for given the choice, but that was the way things were done with Kenya Treks.
I had found Kenya Treks through a Trip Advisor review in the Mt. Kenya section of the website. Lucy Booth, out of London England, had set up the trip and dealt with the logistics and financial aspects. John Karumba would be our main guide and James would be the apprentice guide.
Packs on, David, James, and I started across the meadow toward Mt. Kenya. It could not have been more beautiful, with clear blue skies, a chill to the air, with warm intense sunlight. Several times we were reminded to go pole pole, which means slow in Swahili.
As we walked we came across a group that was doing raptor preservation work in the national park, at least that’s what the emblem stated on the side of the Land Rover. We walked about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) and dropped our our packs at a junction. One of the porters would stay with the packs while we took some water and a pack lunch prepared ahead of time, and headed toward the Nithi waterfalls.
We hiked a kilometer or two down a pristine stream, with several small waterfalls, then stopped at the “father of the waterfalls” as John put it. There were a couple spots where James reminded me to lean right to avoid a plunge down the cliff. I enjoyed a picnic lunch of two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, an egg, an apple, and a boxed juice. After a short rest, we headed back up the stream to the junction. My body was not used to the increased effort, and I felt heavy and winded, even without a pack. As we climbed up the cliff and walked narrow trails with 20 meter drops, I turned to James and said, “I should lean right, correct?” “No, lean left, lean left!” James yelled, and I laughed. I thought to myself it might take him a couple days to learn to appreciate my humor.
Campsite at Lake Ellis
It was another 4 km to Lake Ellis, elevation 3405 meters (11,170 feet). When we arrived our tents were set up already, and tea was served.
Soup after tea.
Once finished with dinner, we gathered around a campfire. We had radio reception and James was a fan of the Arsenal soccer club. I was tired. It was only 7 in the evening and I headed to bed. I could hear the guys laughing and talking until after midnight. It would be another cold night of periods of sleep then wakefulness, waiting for the glow of first morning light.