A while back, Nature Kenya had organised an overnight camping trip to Aberdares. I’m not a fan of extreme cold but I was ready to try it out. A few days after learning about this trip, I heard about another trip to Elementaita organized by for my Photography School alumni on the same weekend. Which to choose? I was skeptical about the latter after what happened last time. Looking at the money I had though, Aberdares would leave me broke. I took a chance and enquired whether people were serious about Elementaita. Thank goodness they were. (I recently learnt that the Aberdares trip flopped so I didn’t miss anything after all.)
On 29th July I beat the sun at starting the day. I had a feeling that I’d be late – the challenges of using public transport. I was right. The day I’ll buy my first car… wacha tu. After a few phone calls I linked up with my buddy Kate who was to pick me up. That 30-minute wait felt like forever, especially since the cold wasn’t joking around. My fingers went numb. I went searching for freshly made chapati near the UoN hostels until Kate arrived and I was glad to be away from the chill at last.
We rushed along the Nairobi-Naivasha highway and thankfully the traffic was light. More cold awaited us at Rift Valley View Point, with the mist engulfing the landscape in an ethereal fashion. We had made a quick stop here apparently to take photos but it was too chilly for me so I rushed back to the car. Kate, Anne, Alexis and I chatted as we journeyed along but at some point I dozed off (busy week). I awoke to the warm rays that indicated we were entering the Rift Valley. Soon, we reached the turn to Lake Elementaita.
We had the pleasure of putting up at Pink Lake Man Treehouse. The track leading there is dusty and bumpy but a few metres into it, one of the most magnificent views I’ve ever seen appeared. Lake Elementaita in all its glory, against the backdrop of the most scenic landforms. Flamingoes at the shores provided a breathtaking pink outline. You need to go out and see these attractions for yourself.
As we alighted, a Red-chested Cuckoo welcomed us with its loud call. Hard as I searched, I couldn’t see it. This secretive bird teased me the whole of our stay – always closeby but never visible. We set down our bags and headed to the lake for our first shoot. Nature/ landscape photography being my favourite, I looked forward to a great time. The sun, however, had other plans. It was blazing as if on a revenge mission. I knew I had to take as many shots as I could before the heat got to me. After that I took refuge under a tree that happened to have a Grey-backed Camaroptera’s nest. It was interesting watching it chase away ‘intruding’ birds.
A herd of sheep passed by chewing grass furiously. By now, hunger had struck me full force and lunch time seemed to be too far away. I got up to take a few more photos then headed to the Treehouse where lunch was ready. We all dug in to replenish that much-needed energy. Since our lead trainer, Stephen, hadn’t arrived yet, we decided to carry out portraiture sessions in the meantime. It was chilly and drizzling so we did it indoors and got some interesting results with different light settings.
When Stephen finally arrived, we had a mini photo review session as we revisited some photography principles. We went back outside when the rain stopped for more portraiture, then to the lake where we hoped to catch the sunset. The clouds denied us the light show we had hoped for so we went back to the Treehouse looking forward to supper and hot tea. I never thought this part of the Rift Valley gets cold but it turns out I was wrong.
I must commend the staff at the Treehouse for their culinary skills – the meals are on another level. You could end up overeating – don’t say I didn’t warn you. After a heavy supper, it was time to review the day’s photos. I wondered if anyone would concentrate considering we were full and seated in front of a warm fire. Stephen spared no one in his critiques and challenged us to give our best whenever we shot. As the hours wore on, people went off to sleep one by one, weighed down by fatigue.
It was a struggle getting up in the morning since we’d slept at 1 AM but I hauled myself out of bed, determined to catch that sunrise and the flamingoes. The cold reminded us again who’s boss. My eyes were tearing up but I had to get those shots. As I was immersed in shooting, I realised my battery was running low. How embarrassing! Of all the times how could I be that photographer? Thankfully I found someone who lent me her spare. Elementaita’s landscape is beautiful; there’s so much to see. My memory card filled up yet we still had another session in the afternoon.
Lunch was another mouthwatering affair. We had our last photo review and my friends had such great images. Alexis with her little point-and-shoot challenged us all. You don’t always need fancy equipment to get great results. Soon it was time to leave and this time another friend, Dan, offered to give me a lift since he was using my route. We got one last view of the lake and flamingoes as we drove out.2