Travel

Road Trip to Suswa
February 13, 2017
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Before I started blogging, I hesitated a lot. I didn’t know what I’d be writing about. Being just another blogger was something I feared greatly. Going with the crowd and following trends has never been my cup of tea. As such, it took me very long before making the first post. But a good friend of mine encouraged me to just start and things would soon fall into place. So I did. And now, it’s increasingly looking like a travel blog what with all the trips I’ve been making. This week, come along with me to my day out at Suswa.

Beautiful forest inside Mt. Suswa’s crater.
Beautiful forest inside Mt. Suswa’s crater.

A few weeks ago a message was posted in a Whatsapp group I’m in, asking whether anyone was available for a day of shooting at Paradise Lost. The team was to meet mid- morning in the capital city then proceed to the shoot location. Given that I was tired from that day’s birdwalk at Oloolua Forest, I debated about whether to go. I had planned to attend a photography workshop on the day that shoot was to happen but in the end, I ditched the workshop- notes can always be collected from those who attended.

A big surprise awaited me when I arrived – actually, two surprises. The first being that instead of Paradise Lost, we’d be going to Suswa because shooting at the former location would require more than one day, and the second being that only three people from the group had come. An impromptu road trip to Suswa became a reality, which was great, because I’d never been there before.

People exploring caves.
A sneak peek of what awaits you at Suswa caves.

By the time we departed, the sun was out and bright – perfect road trip weather. Suswa is in the Great Rift Valley region of Kenya so we got to stop at the Viewpoint looking out towards Mt. Longonot. Taking in the scenery there is always refreshing. You could do it several times in a year and it never gets old. I got to notice for the first time how the road ‘cuts’ the hill in two. We tried out some landscape shots but it was too hazy that day.

Rift Valley View Point, Kenya.
See how the road cuts the hill?
Rift Valley View Point, Kenya.
Can someone say haze!

We got back to the car and drove for what seemed like forever before arriving at the turnoff to Mt. Suswa Conservancy. There should have been a sign saying ‘Road Ends Here’ because that was the roughest surface (to drive on) that I have seen so far. We picked up our guide, Jeremiah, which meant that one of us had to sit in the boot since there was no room left in the front. What followed was around 2 hours of eating dust as we navigated the stony ‘road’. It felt like an endurance test of sorts. Something like what residents of Kitengela deal with on a daily basis?

Rift Valley View Point, Kenya.
That’s Mt. Longonot at the centre…very faint at the back. The haze was real.

On the way we stopped for a few minutes for Jeremiah to show us a fossil he had discovered. It was an animal bone trapped in volcanic rock. How he even found it is amazing. That nearly barren rocky landscape looks the same all around, but then, he has 15 years’ experience working at the Conservancy. At this point the sweltering heat had begun to take its toll yet we hadn’t even arrived.

Landscape view at Suswa, Kenya.
Beautiful view of the landscape at the point where Jeremiah showed us the fossil. Mount Longonot can be seen faintly to the left, slightly off-centre.

When we did finally arrive, I was already feeling tired (and hungry) as it was late in the afternoon. I was sure I wouldn’t shoot much but that changed when we descended into the caves. Amazing patterns have formed on the cave walls due to the ancient volcanic flow. Some parts have a the ceiling very high but in others you have to go low as if doing the ‘gully creepa’ dance style. If you don’t, you are sure to get your hair torn out by the jagged rock overhead.

Textured volcanic cave wall.
Textures on cave wall.

Once inside, you’re transported to another world – cool (temperature), dark, quiet and scary, especially when you turn off your flashlight. Jeremiah informed us that leopards roam the caves, which added to the eerie feel. When you finally get to an exit it feels like you’ve just acquired a new lease of life. Seeing the light flowing from outside gives you hope. I think that’s where the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ phrase came from.

Dark cave interior with bright entrance.
Light at the end of the tunnel!

One very interesting part of the caves is a section called the Baboon Parliament. A colony of the primates lives there. Every morning and evening, they gather for ‘sessions’ where the chief male positions himself on the ‘Speaker’s Chair’. The rest of the members jump up and down, barking as they give their contributions. This happens at the base of the cave. On the walls there are ledges where the baboons sleep. This is to escape the leopards. I imagine the Parliament sessions must be very interesting to watch!

People exploring caves.
On our way to the Baboon Parliament.
Cave with large rocks.
A section of the Parliament. The ground caved in and the rock came pouring down, forming a side entrance.

After exploring the caves a bit more we went back to the car and proceeded to the crater. Hunger had taken its full toll on me and I was doubly sure I wouldn’t shoot at all, but nature has this way of rejuvenating you no matter how fatigued you are. Thankfully, the climb wasn’t steep or long. When you get to the top, the views are to die for. You could stay there all day long and not get bored, especially if you have a camera!

View from Mt. Suswa crater.
Nature shows you just how small you are.

Mt. Suswa is unique because it has a crater within a crater – how cool! Oh and Suswa means ‘great expanse of plains surrounding the mountain’. The views of lush greenery inside the crater and dry savannah scrubland on the plains are simply breathtaking. You get to experience what I believe the author of the hymn How Great Thou Art did before penning that amazing song.

View from Mt. Suswa crater.
Views!

Shortly, it was time to leave. “Too soon. Too, too soon,” I thought. You have to be there at least a week to soak in enough of that place – such a beautiful location. I wonder if those who live there realise how blessed they are. The sun had begun to set and I managed to sneak in some sundowner shots as we left.

Sunset at Suswa, Kenya.
No better way to end your day than a sundowner.

We dropped off our guide Jeremiah who expressed his joy at hosting us that day. Hopefully we’ll be back soon and tour the place with him. On our way out we got lost for a few minutes. It was freaky because it was dark, there were few people out and the track was unmarked. Thankfully a bike rider appeared seemingly out of nowhere and directed us to the main road.

Sunset at Suswa, Kenya.
Time to head home.

After such an involving day it was time to reward our tired bodies. We settled for tasty nyama choma (roast meat) at Maai Mahiu. It was 9 pm when we were done and I estimated that it would take us an hour to get home but that was not to be! We encountered a nasty traffic jam at the Escarpment. It was hardly moving, so we had to take an alternative route which was way longer.

Landscape and sunset at Suswa, Kenya.
What a beautiful country we have.

I got home at 11.40 pm totally exhausted, but it was well worth it. Skipping the photography workshop wasn’t something to regret after all. We spent only a few hours at Suswa yet left with so much. It is definitely worth a revisit and for a longer stay next time.

 

Landscape at Suswa, Kenya.
I’ll be back, Suswa!
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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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