A Hiker’s Heaven: Namanga
April 13, 2017
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As I said in my last post, I’m increasingly getting addicted to travel. If you’ve had the chance to travel a few times, you know what I mean. Going to new places is always exciting, more so when it’s out in the wild – nature is therapeutic to the mind and soul. Don’t believe it? Try for yourself and see. Recently I went for a hike in Namanga and what a time it was! 

Landscape at Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain, Namanga.
Nature therapy.

On the morning of the hike I woke up groggy. Not just because I’d slept for very few hours, but also mosquitoes had decided I should have as little sleep as possible. This is despite using two insecticides. It’s like my bedroom walls were producing the pesky insects! When I get to heaven one of the first questions to ask God is why He created mosquitoes. In addition to the unpleasant night, our cooking gas ran out as I was making breakfast. This was going to be a long day.

Forested landscape at Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain, Namanga.
Imagine hiking such a steep incline without breakfast!

The thought of going for a hike without taking breakfast wasn’t pleasing at all. I remembered a certain kibanda near the National Museum where they sell food. I just hoped that they open early and that I’d have enough time to eat and rush to the Museum. Thankfully I arrived half an hour to the departure time, gulped down some chai and chapati and got to the meeting point in time. Actually, they were making the final call for those taking the trip to board the truck. Talk about a miracle! A few more minutes and I would surely have been left behind.

Mountain ranges and forest at Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain, Namanga.
I can’t imagine missing out on such amazing sights.

Soon we were on Mombasa Road heading to Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain. I chose to sit alone as it would allow me to quietly take in the sights. I also needed to catch up on sleep after my ordeal the previous night. Some people chatted the whole way though. I wonder how someone can talk for two and a half hours almost nonstop – must be a special gift. Fellow introverts, you feel me? Anyway we finally arrived and what struck me was the numerous termite mounds, even within people’s compounds.

Large termite mound.
Amazing mounds. There are others much larger than this!

We stopped some distance away from the mountain as the truck couldn’t pass through some rough parts of the road. The weather reminded me of Samburu. We were sweating profusely yet we hadn’t even began the hike properly. It was hot and humid with no breeze. If this was the situation at 10 AM, what would the afternoon would be like? As we walked, we took breaks for short ‘lessons’ on termites and other interesting features in the place. Did you know that the height of termite mounds depends on climate? The hotter a place, the taller the mounds whose channels act as chimneys to expel heat. Of course, the birders among us stopped whenever we spotted our feathered friends. Clearly this was a hike with a difference.

Hikers at Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain, Namanga.
Walking to the base of the mountain…

The climb up the rock-littered incline began. I thought the sweat when we arrived was too much, but I hadn’t seen anything yet. The stuff was literally dripping from our faces. Thank God for the intermittent cloud cover because we would have suffered, otherwise. Once in a while our Maasai guide would pause to educate us on different plants and their uses. Two caught my attention: one whose leaves are used for sunscreen and another whose bark produces chewing gum. Yes! These short breaks also allowed the slow walkers to catch up. Waiting for each other is key since there are no marked hiking trails.

Hikers at Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain, Namanga.
Tough ascent featuring lots of rocks…and goats.

Of course I had my camera (would be crazy not to) and made use of the breaks to shoot the landscape. You may have gotten tired of me saying this, but I’ll do it again: Kenya is beautiful. Seriously. There’s so much to be seen and experienced, and it’s diverse. When you hear foreigners praising our wealth of resources it really hits you. So if you haven’t yet, go out and have a taste for yourself.

Mountain ranges and forest at Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain, Namanga

The beauty of being a photographer – I get to experience the views and take them home with me as well

Two hours later, we arrived at the summit. My back and bag straps were sweat-soaked. The climb had been tough, fighting with dry, prickly vegetation and steep sections. For our efforts, we were rewarded with a breathtaking view. Even if you’re an atheist, there are things that make you believe there is a God – like amazing land forms. I was filled with awe and spontaneously began to worship. Indeed, He is great.

Landscape at Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain, Namanga.
Check out that landscape. How cool! And the cloud cover that came to our rescue.
Author at the summit of Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain, Namanga.
Amazed, and taking it all in…(Photo by Lina)

It was time to reward the stomach with some food. We had lunch while enjoying the most epic view: undulating landscape and lush forests. I imagine being up there at sunrise/ sunset must be quite exciting (fellow photographers take note!). After regaining our energy and a few photos later, it was time for the descent.

Mountain ranges and forest at Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain, Namanga.
Talk about lunch with a view!

If you’ve gone for hikes you’ll know going down is unpleasant, especially if it is steep. Your leg muscles strain as you have to stop yourself from running too fast. Thankfully the forest provided visual interest and cover from the sun so it wasn’t that bad. One lady fell ill though. I pitied her because aside from feeling lousy, she couldn’t really enjoy the hike. Oh, and for Crowned Eagle enthusiasts, you’ll be happy to know we saw one there.

Mountain ranges and forest at Ol Doinyo Orok Mountain, Namanga.
Little humans, goats and large mountains.

When we finally got to the base of the mountain, my shoes felt like ovens. I was worn out and my face covered in salty residue from sweat. What a hike! Compared to Longonot, this climb was harder (especially because of the heat) but the descent was easier. Longonot descent was crazy due to the tough crater walk we did. As a birder I was happy to see new species such as Black-headed Oriole and D’Arnaud’s Barbet.

Mountains at Namanga.
May not look like much, but going up is no joke.

That was truly an amazing day. Being in nature, meeting new people, going to new places all while having a workout (hike) is one of my best ways to spend time. One of us commented that we should come back and do camping. There’s another summit that takes 6 hours to tackle, so camping is recommended. Given the beauty of Ol Doinyo Orok, I’m tempted to take the chance if that camp is planned!

Hikers near large termite mounds.
I’ll be back soon for more of these amazing sights!

About author

Michelle Ajema

Michelle Ajema is an artlover who is deeply fascinated by the exciting world of DSLR photography. She loves shooting nature, and can often be found stalking monkeys and birds in her backyard.

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