A Hiking and Camping Trip to Ngare Ndare Forest, Waterfall and Canopy
As African’s, our biggest weakness is the art of timekeeping. When you’re told to be somewhere by 6:00 am, your mind understands it as 8:00 am. Anticipating this, I dragged my feet in the morning, taking my sweet time to arrive at 7:00 am. To no surprise whatsoever, the bus was empty. Brian was nowhere in sight. He was leading the expedition to the Ngare Ndare forest with Great Escapes Adventures. Cozying up to the seat, I decided to catch up on a bit of shut-eye. Awaking, it was 8:30 am, the bus was full of life, conversations buzzing about the air. Brian had suddenly emerged from nowhere and was growing impatient; he ran a tight ship and decided to leave the latecomers. As the wheels began to roll, Brian began to blare gospel music. It’s not the kind of vibe you expect to create on a road trip. This was the lullaby that tranquilized most of us into a dream world.
Confused and unaware of my surroundings, my neck was stiff, and it felt like we’d been on the road for hours. Deryl’s voice was the first that I heard post-slumber, it’s deep like a rugby player and he has the build to match it; he’s a fitness fanatic. Brian began to play his djembe bringing all of our attention to him. He asked us to switch partners to play a “Get to know you game” where each person socializes with someone they’ve never spoken to. This was the first time I met Sonnie. She was a petite girl who was very shy. I later found out that she’s a lover of languages, South Korean culture, and anime. Talking about your passion has a way of igniting the fire within. The journey seemed like it would never end. After another half hour, we got onto a dirt road where our limbs began to sway to and fro. At the mercy of the road, our bodies lifelessly flopping around. It was very uncomfortable because your body gets unwillingly up-close and personal to a stranger.
The landscape was divine; the grass was in fields of yellow grass that stretched as far as the eye could see. There was a vivacious valley that merged with cattle in the countryside and Mount Kenya was only a short distance away. There were few huts in a meadow of green grass. The land looked dry yet fertile. As we continued, the fields looked purer. The grass an evergreen, the promise of life. The forest line was visible resembling the Amazon rainforest; never-ending trees were thick and luscious. I was ensorcelled. We began to grapple with the shallow ponds that had emerged from previous pools of rain, making our journey treacherous; leading us all to get out of the bus so that it could maneuver through the mud. Without any means of transport, we had to walk up to the camp.
The tents were already pitched by the time we got there. Sonnie and I were roomies for the night. The theme was Native American, but nobody paid any attention to the dress code. I wore a cow onesie which kept me warm. This broke into light-hearted jokes about “Having beef with me” and “Being lactose intolerant”. Getting to bond more with people over face painting and storytelling as the sun began to set. A goat was being slaughtered for nyama choma in the evening. I couldn’t watch because I found this too inhumane; imagine if another human would suffer the same fate of getting skinned alive? How would they feel?
The darker it got, the more everybody was drawn to the flames of the bonfire, singing songs and telling jokes. The ambiance was light-hearted and warm. There was a session for everybody to speak about their passions and inform us of what they’d learned about their partners. Deryl was in his element explaining the benefits of fitness and having a balanced nutrition. Sonnie described the fundamentals of K-Pop. I got the nickname ‘baby cow’. It didn’t help to have my face painted with black and white spots with one black eye and another white eye. I didn’t mind because we all belonged to the forest and we were one with nature. Brian had anger issues the whole trip and stormed off which was very unprofessional. He spent the rest of the evening in self-inflicted isolation.
The night was getting darker, the yummy food was settling in our bellies. This called for an exploration of the woods with torches and a sense of adventure. Burdened with fatigue, games like hiding and seek had a short lifespan. The campfire was a spell that compelled you to tell your truth to a group of strangers. One by one, people started revealing their deepest darkest fears. Some said that they had been abused as children, others confided of drug addictions in the past, and others revealed their fear of failure. This wasn’t a space of judgment but instead was a space of love and light. People from all walks of life gave the heavy-hearted admirable advice on how to deal with their problems. The night was not as cold as I had expected. It was cool; the full moon was out in the open. One by one, people started retiring to their tents like a stack of dominos falling; one after the other.
I was tossing and turning, waking to the sudden noise of a crackle in the wilderness, a breaking twig in the distance and the murmur of voices. Awaking to the pitter-patter of raindrops that burst our little glass bubble, the night seemed to have flown by. The rain we had been evading the previous night had finally caught up with us. After breakfast, we were led by a warden, John. He worked for the Ngare Ndare Forest service. He held a riffle and instructed us to keep close on our trek because we were going into elephant territory. The heavens were finally on our side and the raindrops faded away. The forest was even more mesmerizing while walking inside. The forest cover was so thick that only small sprouts of light pushed themselves into sight. The path meandered up valleys and hills. Our only sight of elephants that excursion were three giant droppings. I was enchanted by how majestic it all was, how nature could remain so undisturbed and how dense the vegetation was.
We had been walking for forty-five minutes before we reached the first waterfall. It looked like a sight from a movie. Large rocks were going up a cliff that resembled clay cave rocks. The pool was clear turquoise water. From the fall, the water was completely clear. It came from the mountain ranges of Mount Kenya and was as cold as ice. Without a second thought, I proceeded to swim in icy waters, awaiting hypothermia to hit. Regardless, it was a once in a lifetime experience. The rest followed suit. We stayed in the lagoon with alluring vines dangling below, basking in the sun and enjoying the waterfall. There were trees in the surrounding environment that made it seem like a little world of its own. There was a huge tree that had fallen and became a bridge to cross over. On top of this natural pathway, we saw how the lagoon stretched down below into recurring waterfalls. It was the life source of all living things in the forest. The second waterfall was smaller than the other but surrounded by huge roots and vines that entwined themselves around each other accompanied by a marshy swamp. We proceeded to the last waterfall which was another lagoon in isolated paradise. Time was scarce, we were all afraid of the potentiality of rain.
It was time for the Canopy Walk, a swinging bridge in the heart of the forest. The bridge was made with wire mesh and was five kilometers long up in the air. Only six could go at a time. I was the resident videographer so holding my camera and balancing was difficult but proved itself easier with every step. It was so stunning from up here. You can experience life from up above the trees like a bird perched upon a branch. It’s the definition of an aerial view. You can see streams from afar and touch the top of tree branches which were more than a hundred years old. If you have a fear of heights, it is advisable not to look down. I lived for such things, a lover of adrenaline and adventure. The walk felt like we were all dancing in a daydream, up in the clouds and a world of our own. As soon as the walk started, it ended like the blink of an eye. It is up to us to go past our comfort zone and into the unknown to truly experience the taste of the wilderness.
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