I traveled 13 plus hours a day, on various modes of sketchy transport, to a country that has questionable political unrest, is on the US State Department’s highest travel warning list, has “high” incidences of violent crime and possible threat from terrorists, and my dad writes…
“You forgot toothbrush on check list.”
Sleep deprived, sore, weary of riding matatus for long stretches, two(one unnecessary) visas later, and lot’s of marriage proposals we made it back home safe!
Keisha and I woke Saturday morning at six, grabbed a Boda Boda into town’s taxi park, and caught a Matatu into Bucia. Getting accurate information to plan travel here is pretty impossible. You have to go to the source, ask questions, and wait for the next mode of transport to get where you’re going, generally meaning killing several hours while simultaneously being harassed. Harmless harassment, albeit exhausting.
Matatu’s are 10 passenger vans used for taxing locals pretty much everywhere. They are barely held together and maintained according to our standards. Every taxi park has Matatu’s going every which direction, and they don’t leave until the vans are full. Translation- minimal, 20 people along with luggage, chickens, dead fish etc. I quickly realized that instead of waiting an hour or more for the last two seats to fill up, i could offer to pay for them and insist “WE GO!” After hours of this, I found my thinning patience overriding the obnoxiousness of buying off seats. Oh well.
We quickly learned that there is no such thing as accurate time frames for Ugandans, or Kenyans for that matter. If we were told a trip took 2 hours, it took 4 or 5. (actual drive time) After we arrived at the taxi park in Bucia, we found our way several miles over to a bus that was leaving for Kenya. We waited 2 hours, and started our 8+ hour journey to Nakuru.
Knowing absolutely nothing about Nakuru, we were pleasantly surprised it was a bit more industrialized than Mbale. Sadly, we did not do our research before arriving and did not realize Lake Nakuru is famous for the millions of flamingos that line the lake front. The algae filled lake attracts warthogs, baboons, and black and white rhinos, among many other creatures. When we arrived we realized we were an hour and a half from Hell’s Gate, our final destination. Our room was pleasant, had a semi-hot shower and the staff was very welcoming. We woke at 7am and found a Matatu to take us to Navasha, into Hell’s Gate National Park.
A full days travel and we have 8 hours to explore before making the trek back. GO!
We rented bicycles in town and rode a couple of miles into the park. The backdrop is an illustration out of Serendipity books. Clearly, a place where unicorns live. Warthogs, gazelle, baboons, zebra, and giraffe coexist with bikers. There are no elephants, rhinos, or lions due to the borders being blocked, hence the bike riding allowed.
Home of geological formations, soaring red cliffs, volcanic landforms, endless deep green grasslands against cerulean blue skies- it’s beauty is overwhelmingly divine. We biked through extinct volcanos where geothermal geysers spews steam-creating an echo that pulsates through the canyon. We gleeeeeeeefully made our way down to the gorge. Here is where we met our guide, Robert. He kept us laughing as we exchanged stories about his country and life. He wove us through the gorge for hours. All I could think about was how much I want to come back and camp here for days, explore, wake and sleep to the rhythm of these walls.
After our hike back up I asked Robert to take us off the National Park over to a Masai village. We quickly walked through as its’ nearing 6pm, and at this point Robert has promised to help us get a ride out of the park- we won’t make it on bikes. Despite asking permission to photo, the chief is not happy with my camera. Later Robert tells me he was drunk. Drunk or not, I deleted his photo out of respect. Too bad, it was a good one.
We hitched a ride out with a family from Singapore, who spoke no English. Made our way back to Nakuru. We woke early in the morning to start the journey back home.
This time we traveled to Malaba instead of Bucia as we hoped it would be a quicker route. Despite it actually taking longer, the Malaba road winded through multiple Kenyan villages that were bustling and full of life. If only I had my own car. Same story alllllll the way home.
We arrived home at 10pm, STARVING, yet content.
Ps Dad, I remembered my tooth brush:)