Nerding in Nairobi

A few months travelling, living and hacking in Kenya

Biking with giraffe (and more!)

I made it a quiet night on Friday to get an early start on a weekend trip up to Lake Naivasha. I hopped a matatu to the Central Business District and quickly caught another headed for Naivasha. We stopped briefly to have the police search us for weapons and then headed straight out of town. I lucked out – our driver took the Old Naivasha Road and had no trouble dropping me on the side of the highway just a few kilometers from the entrance to Mt. Longonot park.

Mt. Longonot

Buying bread from a roadside stand, it became pretty clear that not a lot of Mzungu’s wander around here. On the walk through farmland to the park gate I met a lot of children shouting “Hello!”, “How are you?” or “Give me money”. I started up the path not long after 10AM and made the crater rim after an hour or so of steep climb. Make sure to look at the panorama in the images below – the view of the crater with the Rift Valley behind was stunning. I hiked the heavily eroded trail around the crater and up the summit to be greeted by clouds.

On the way around I met Agatha, a Filipino woman who fell in love with Nairobi 11 years ago and hasn’t left since. She kindly offered to give me a ride back to the highway. From there I got a lift on a piki piki (motorbike) back to Longonot town and caught a matatu to the lake. I hitched a ride with a nice Kenyan guy who runs a construction business and was happy to talk about the Naivasha area on the way to Fisherman’s camp. The camp itself was only decent but I wasn’t in a position to refuse a warm shower and cold beer before bed.

  • Looking up at Longonot from the farmland
  • Ok…
  • People wanted pictures with the crazy lone Mzungu.
  • Standing at the crater rim
  • Click for a panorama of the top (drag to scroll).
  • Not much of a view from the summit
  • The bar and restaurant at camp after a long day
View from Longonot crater

Hell’s Gate

I caught the sunrise and first breakfast to get an early start on Hell’s Gate. Against Morgan’s sensible advice, I rented a bike for the trip and rode mostly righty for the day. I was the first one at the park and for a couple hours I had the place to myself. The ride began beautifully but I didn’t see much wildlife and found myself thinking, “ah well I imagine the game has been a bit overstated.” Then I rounded the bend right into a herd of gazelle with wildebeest grazing farther afield! I continued along past more gazelle, rounded another bend and thought “those look a little like horses.” No, I was biking next to zebras!

I shared the road only with animals until I passed near the KenGen geothermal power stations and out to the top of the gorge. From there I hired a Masai kid to guide me on foot through the deep limestone gorges. We spent an hour climbing through narrow water-worn passageways and past hot springs before climbing back out for a view over the park.

I asked a park ranger if there was a more interesting route back to the gate and took off on the buffalo circuit at his suggestion. Skirting past the “Road Closed” sign and around the gaping pits eroded in the road I started to question his (and my) wisdom. I was quickly rewarded with the sight of a giraffe grazing at the edge of the treeline alongside some zebras! From there the road climbed, dipped, crossed the paved KenGen road and then started a very steep climb. Stubborn as I am, I pushed my bike one handed several kilometers up the steep hill in the noon heat for a somewhat obscured view of Lake Naivasha. Going downhill on a bike over dirt roads without fully using both hands turns out to be pretty difficult and I was cursing myself a bit towards the bottom. It was looking like a rough end to the day until I saw a black herd in the distance and found myself riding by dozens of buffalo. I cleared out quickly when they started to gather and head TOWARDS me. Not far after, I came across three more giraffe standing near the road. As I biked along, they paced a few hundred yards ahead of me with their beautifully strange strides. I passed out of the park and figured I was done for the day until about 50 baboons stopped by to see me off!

It was an easy ride back to camp for a very welcome shower and beer. The matatu ride home got a little dicey trying to skirt an accident but I finally made it just as darkness was falling. I slept like a rock after a throughly amazing and exhausting weekend.

  • Sunrise from Fisherman’s camp
  • My (reasonably) reliable bike
  • Descending into the gorge
  • Apparently a scene from Tomb Raider was filmed here.
  • My guide leading the way.
  • Standing above the gorge
  • Buffalo after a tough ride
  • Chasing giraffes on a bike!
  • Baboons saying goodbye