Together with a group of 10 or so hikers, we leave Nairobi City at around 7.00AM for Table Mountain, a stand-alone hill located along the scarps of the Great Rift Valley in a small portion of forest called Maji moto. The weather on this particular day doesn’t look promising but nevertheless, everyone is determined to get to the top of this hill. We pass through Westlands and get to the Nairobi-Nakuru highway. Weather keeps changing from one KM to another, from moderate warm to extremely cold. It also rained along the way. Soon we find ourselves at the Delameres place where we have our first stop. We get few snacks to re-energize ahead of our Today’s task. We are already getting late so we get back to the van and end straight to our today’s destination, the foot of Table Mountain at lake Elementaita.
Table Mountain Hike
Table mountain is a standalone hill located 1 hr 20 minutes away from the city of Nairobi along Nairobi Nakuru Highway. Its close proximity to Nairobi makes it an ideal place for visitors who want to spend a day outside the city. Also being an average hill its ideal for first time hikers and average hikers. It can also serve as a good test as you prepare for other more serious hikes like Longonot and Mt Kenya.
The Hike starts at the base of Elementaita at the main gate and ascends eastwards towards some gentle slopes. Along the way you get chances to catch beautiful views of escarpments, Lake Elementaita and a series of other mountains like The Sleeping Warriors and Ugali Hills lying on the west.
The gentle slopes turn into some stip slopes where you are required to use all your energies to conquer. We descent through a section of Maji moto forests. What’s follows next is a series of ups and downs as we navigate the sections of this forest on our way to the table mountain. Few meters to the top you get to catch amazing photos of the table like Standalone Mountain. Surprisingly there is only one entry to the top of the table and again your power is required to surge you up to the top.
From the top the table mountain is amazing. Beautiful sceneries of the Valleys escarpments await you. You can see the whole of Lake Elememntaita and a series of other mountains like the Ugali, and sleeping Warriors. Not forgetting the Aberdares ranges. From the top it’s the perfect time to test the strength of your cameras and know if you really got the value for your money or it’s just the right time to start sourcing for a better one! From the top of the table we also take our snacks as we prepare to descend down.
It takes about two hours down the hill through some water springs and finally to the diatomite company right at the foot where the hike ends. You can request an optional visit to Kariadusi pre historic site and learn a few things about the revolution of man.
Mt Longonot is an extinct volcano mountain in Nakuru County, 1 hr., 45 minutes’ drive away from Nairobi. Due to its close proximity to the city it has become one of the popular destinations for weekend’s getaways and day trips. The mountain stands tall at about 570 meters off the rift valley and 2700 meters above sea level. During our last visit from Nairobi CBD it took us close to 1 hr. 45 minutes via the Langata Rd then to southern bypass and eventually via Mahi Mahiu. Along the way there are several viewpoints where motorists stop to catch the beautiful views of this Mountain.
About 14 KM from Mahi Mahiu on the left is a board directing you to Mt Longonot National Park. The driver diverts from the main highway and drive towards the gate. The road to the gate is a rough one but just okay for any type of vehicle to maneuver. Ahead of us is the Longonot Mountain. The entire Mountain is a National Park. It takes approximately 10 minutes to the gate of the park. And once we are there we change and put on our hiking gear.
One of the shapeliest peaks in all the Rift Valley, Mt Longonot (2776m) and its serrated crater rim offer fabulous views. The dormant volcano rises 1000m above the baking-hot valley floor and was formed 400,000 years ago; it last erupted in the 1860s. The park itself covers only 52 sq km, and was set up to protect the volcano’s ecosystem and little else. The name ‘Longonot’ comes from the Maasai name Olo Nongot, which means ‘Mountain of Many Summits’. The trail is clear and easy to follow and taking along a ranger is not necessary, although a good one will certainly enhance your trek; rangers can be arranged at the main gate as you enter.
There is no time to waste. Remember some of us in our group are seeing this mountain for the first time, others have been here several times. Others have never hiked any form of mountain or hill for that matter. For the benefit of the first timers, our team leader doesn’t take anything to chance so she heads straight to the gate for payments and other formalities. We are left behind taking photos around the gate as we speculate about how the hike is going to be. You should notice from the photos how every photographer is keen on capturing the gates and the peak of the mountain. At times it became possible other times it was a miss. This is the only way for the world to believe that you were here. The photos may not be as great but they are here anyway. There is little you can do about it. Blame the Chinese phone makers for poor cameras. Anyway now it’s time to hike Mt Longonot. We are told that the hike takes about two hours for those of us interested in making it to the rim and about 6 hrs. For the more enthusiastic ones in the group, those willing to go round the rim, that is 2 hours to the rim and 4 hours round the rim.
Just past the gate is a big camping ground for those interested in camping. Ours is just a single day hike but I took note of the beautiful camping ground well equipped with basic facilities required for any camp. From the camp, you can see the mountain views clearly. I was imagining of how beautiful it can be capturing the sunrise from such a position early in the morning.
From a distance we could notice some herds of Zebras grazing. This is a national park popular for hiking but expect some wild animals too. Although there are no dangerous animals like the big cats there is zebras, grants gazelles, giraffes and buffaloes who reside in the thick forest inside the crater. Along the way we came across fresh dung from Buffalo meaning the soldier was around. Personally I did not see one. Seeing this animal here is not guaranteed.
About one hour and we are at the first resting point. We have already divided into three groups. The first climbers, intermediate and the slow but sure ones. I happen to be in the last one not because I am slow but to help a friend! We keep moving to the top which takes us like 50 minutes. We all make it to the top where the entire groups unite for a group photo.
And after a short rest some of us decide this is their goal. Others driven by enthusiasm decide come what we may must make it round the rim. One can see the highest peak of the rim from a distance which motivates one to keep rising. From along the rim beautiful sceneries of the Rift Valley can be seen. Lake Naivasha can bee seen in the background. It takes us like 1 hr to be at the peak, Kilele Ngamia Peak, Standing at 2750 metres above sea level, this is the highest point of Mt Longonot. Here again we take a rest and wait for the rest of us to arrive for a group photo. This time round we are few in numbers. Majority of us are men but notice the presence of our team leader Charity. She seems line she just woke up here. No signs of tear and wear. The other two ladies are Yvonne and Felister. Others surrendered.
From here we take the last part of the hike. It’s mostly going down so it’s expected that it will be an easier task ahead, but wait here comes a big challenge. Most of us rocking on wrong shoes are now starting to pay for the wrong choice of shoes. I am not exceptional. Mt Longonot terrain is made of loose soils and loose gravel which made doing down the terrain a little bit more difficult. One has to be more careful.
In about 2 hours we complete the rim and we are ready to descend. By now everyone is tired but driven by one thing. We all want to get to the car, dust off take off the hiking boots and at least have lunch so we can keep moving to achieve this. It doesn’t take us much time and in a few minutes, less than 30 minutes I suppose we are all back into the van which marks the end of Longonot Hike May 2017 Edition.