Thursday, 15 June 2017

HIKING THE LONGONOT & S'thing about Overcoming Theft, Cramps & Hailstones

Isn’t it stunningly breathtaking?
’I don’t get why people claim hiking this rim is torturous.’  Until the 29th January 2017, those, like everyone else, were my thoughts.
My day at the Longonot was more than an eventful one…

By as early as 0630 hours on this Sunday morning, I was already in town, hurriedly walking along Moi Avenue to Jeevanjee Gardens (my group's meet-up point).  As I neared The Bazaar, I decide to take out my phone and call Kev* to give me the number-plates of the vehicle we’re to travel in.  Before I could I hear what letters came after the K and B, a stinky shabbily dressed chokora ‘slapped’ my phone off my cheek, grabbed it and ran!  Man, I have never been so mad in my life…I ran so fast after him with my teeth, nails, fist and blood craving for his flesh.  I’m so done with thieves!  The guy mustn’t have expected this from such a small lady.  On an unnamed lane after Sanford’s, he vanished, and I, fell on the pavement, hurting my knee so bad my trouser completely ripped off; at the knee area, as thick red blood started ooozing out.  On getting back on my feet, some other chokoras (note at this time of the morning, and on a weekend, the streets are under the governorship of these homeless guys)try apologizing on behalf of their ‘brother’ and tell me that ‘yule madam ndiye ako na simu yako.’

Turned out to be a G4S security lady.  To cut the long story short, I took my phone, said thank you (which was barely sincere considering the lady must have been in cahoots with the thief) and proceeded to Jeevanjee Gardens.

While everyone else is excited to begin the journey, I am busy inspecting my wound and attempting to dress it (too bad the vehicle’s First Aid Kit was dirty, the wet towels dry and no bandages or Elastoplast).

On arriving at the Longonot, I could barely walk (partly because of the injury and, happened to my special day of the month).

At the reception area, we see these walking sticks being rented out for KSh. 100.  We laugh at the idea.  How old do they think we are?  If only we knew what lay ahead!

PLEASE, if you are planning on hiking the Longonot, don’t be like us.  Get yourself one of those, or two.

The distance from the gate to Mount Longonot RIM is only 3.1km with three sheds on the way (for resting and snacking).  I barely noticed the first coz well, I was hyped.  Real torture begun from the first to the second.  Slopes get stepper and sharper with the concrete stairs on the way making it even harder.  They must have been the equivalent of taking stairs from the ground floor of Times Tower to the roof - four times.

So drained was I that I stopped walking like a Homosapien and adopted grandma Dryopithecus walking style.  With the sun’s heat increasing per minute, my body gave up.  I lay flat - almost lifelessly - on the Reserve’s dry clay soil.  I hated every cheerful face coming downhill, giving me hope, and lying to me that the summit is only 5 minutes up.

Shed two was heavenly.  Seeing that thing re-energized me so  much I literally ran towards it and slept.  Not actual sleep but got to catch my breath and hydrate.

From here, there was a greater motivation - the real summit.  The crater viewpoint.  Oloonongot Crater Point (a Maasai word for a mountain of steep ridges)  If I made it there, took a photo and posted it on Facebook, no one would dare question whether I hiked the rim or not.  This too was exhausting, but I’ve done enough whining for one article, so let me spare you.

Arriving at the rim, I didn’t rush to get that one photo everyone dashes for.  No.  I could barely see the signs.  And why rush, I was done with my hike, or so my body claimed.  My mind however knew better.  All she needed was a 15 minutes brake at the shed, and some real talk with the stomach - it needed food, with or without appetite.  An energy bar, milk, mango juice, apple and lots of water did the trick.

The rest of the team had already left for the rim - an hour or hour and half before, and our leader Kev* had been gracious enough to let me lag him behind.  So engaged in his 4 Pics, 1 Word game was he that he wasn’t pleased when I said I too desired to go round the rim.  Despite his resistance, I let him know that my mind was made up.    There's no way I was going to let my hard-earned cash go to waste.  I would rather have bought mitumba shoes with the money than come spectate while others, including a 12 year boy, created memories.

I gather that the rim is 7.2 km long, approximately the same distance from the CBD to T-Mall.  I’ve never walked there on foot, but it really isn’t that far.  And well, if it isn’t that far, these 7.2km are conquerable.  After some convincing, Kev* accepted to escort me up to a small summit (can’t recall the name) on the right and then, we’d be back.  Upon getting there, I declined going back, not till we made it to Kilele Ngamia (the highest summit).  Poor guy!!!

That though was no easy, especially when a load of Caucasian backpackers overtook us so fast and in less than 5 minutes, we’d see them up 3 hills ahead.  Or, when a couple of drunks overtook us with so much speed I almost ran after them and begged for a ‘drink that could make me fly like they were.’

Then the unimaginable happened.  As we’re tipping the peak of Kilele Ngamia, Kev* gets a call from the rest of our crew, saying that they can see us from below.  Right there we decide that we won’t be going back, we’ll hike the whole rim.

That was a mistake.

The weather started to change.  People started to panic.  Ever heard of flash floods?  They’re common here.  We were but halfway round the rim and it was evident it was going to rain before we could reach the other end.  People started to run.  But hey, what’s the use when rain will catch up with you anyway?  I maintained my pace.

About 15 minutes later, we started getting hit.  First time I experienced hail stones.  BEAUTIFUL was an understatement.  First because nothing feels better than when you’re rained on after being taken advantage of by the scorching sun.  Two because I was dusty and dirty someone had even commented on how wise I was to wear a gray trouser (it was actually black).  At last, my trousers would be washed.  Lastly, hailstone is awesome, especially to a first timer.

It did rain a couple of times thereafter, but the thing with such a place is, 5 minutes of shine is enough to get you dry.

5 hours later, I was back at the entrance - the car park, so happy that I did it!  I know you’ve heard this already, but, this time believe me when I say, If I made it, so can you.  That however wasn’t he case with a couple of hikers we met at the reception who upon seeing how filthy we were, got back in their car and drove back.

If planning on doing this hike, here are a few tips, from me to you:

  • Spoil that stomach - eat in advance, carry snacks & drink lots of water.
  • Buy a walking stick.  You won’t find any while hiking i.e. when you need them the most.
  • No matter how hard the trail is, DON’T sit or bend while walking.  Keep walking upright, and rest while standing.
  • Walk slow - there’s no prize at the end of the hike for the fastest hiker.
  • Shoes with a good grip are a must.  In regards to the right size, I don’t know: tight shoes will cause blisters, so does your exact size.  Bigger ones will also be very discomforting.  Maybe, shoes with good insoles are the best - but that you’ll have to tell me.
  • Bring a change of clothes.  (Our driver almost denied me entry into his vehicle).
  • Hike early, preferably before the sun comes up.  Sun+Heat+Hills=DISASTER
  • DON'T hike if you are on your periods.

1 comment:

  1. You definitely look rugged!!! Congrats on conquering Longonot Njoki. Welcome to the mountain climbing life.


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