HIKING MT. KENYA- THIS IS MY SUMMIT STORY

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. Sir Edmund Hillary

I grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. I went away for school and later got my first job on the slopes of Mt. Kenya so I have seen this mountain almost everyday of my entire existence. Here comes the interesting part… despite all the above I had never set foot in Mt. Kenya forest until 13/2/2021 when my friends took me for a pre-birthday hike. Although short, the day hike was such a beautiful experience I promised myself I would go back and hike all the way to the summit later that year.

I then went on a mission to find the best package that would fit my budget and accomodate the fact that I had not taken a similar challenge before. After months of searching, I finally got a package that worked for me in October 2021. My guide and I agreed to do it in December which meant I only had 2 months to prepare.

Day 1: 30/12/2021 (Old Moses to Shipton’s camp 14KM)

Myself, the guide and a group of 10 people met in Nanyuki. It was a diverse group that included 2 pre-teens, 3 highschool girls and 5 adults.

We drove up to old Moses camp where our hike began. It wasn’t a hard walk perse but it had rained quite a bit which made it uncomfortable. We also had to stop for long periods to wait for everybody in the group to catch up & it was also extremely cold. All these factors slowed us down so much that the first group made it to Shipton at 8PM others at 10PM while others never made it. I had carried all the appropriate warm gear but still I can’t put to words how cold I felt that night…So cold I wanted to cry but I didn’t have the energy to. The team that arrived at 10 tried to wake me up for dinner but I had just started getting warm so there is no way I was going to get out of my sleeping bag.

I only took a few photos on this day since all my energy was focused on walking and keeping warm.

A glimpse of the peaks

Day 2: 31/12/2021 (Shipton’s to point Lenana & back to Old Moses 28KM)

We woke up at around 2.30AM so as to leave camp at 3.00AM. This is the point I was informed that the rest of my group would not be going to the summit therefore I had no one to guide me. The circumstances leading to this situation is a long story.

I was determined to summit and after what felt like forever, I found a solution (read guide). We started the trek at 4.20AM and within the first 20 minutes I knew it wasnt going to be a walk in the park.

My new guide, Karuku, was very patient with me. At some point my body stopped cooperating with me but he kept encouraging me. Catching the sunrise gave me a glimpse of the beauty that lay ahead. This is the point I said a very short prayer that went something like this… “Dear God, thank you for bringing me this far. Please give me the strength to keep going to appreciate the beauty of your creation and please keep me from getting sick”. I said the prayer loudly because weuh… situation was tough. I pushed through thanks to Karuku and other hikers who had already made it to the summit gassing me up. It took me 4 hours and when I finally got to the summit at 8.20 AM, instead of a sense of accomplishment for what I had just survived, I felt relieved that it was over.

It is really beautiful up there but I only stayed for 20 minutes. I couldn’t help thinking about the long walk back to old Moses. After all, it was the last day of the year and I couldn’t agree to another night in the cold.

Harris Tarn

Karuku and I walked back to Shipton where we had breakfast and he handed me over to my Porter who would be my company back to Old Moses.

This day tested my gangsta in more ways than I can ever put to words. It is the hardest thing I have done but you know what, I would totally recommend it. That whole experience gave me a chance to reflect, be in silence while appreciating the mountain landscape and test my limits while having moments of introspection that I will forever cherish.

If Mt Kenya is on your bucket list, here are some tips based on my experience.

1. Prepare for the hike mentally and physically. The Aberdares and Mt Kenya day hikes are a good way to help your body acclimatize.

2. Listen to your body during the hike. Altitude sickness is serious and can kill. Some of the symptoms are nausea, headache, shortness of breath and feeling lightheaded. If you feel any of these please talk to your guide.

3. I can’t emphasize enough on proper gear. Here is a basic checklist from my guide.

(waterproof hiking boots, rain jacket and trouser, warm jacket, warm trousers, warm socks for the night & light socks for trekking, warm beanie, warm gloves, light shoes, sleeping bag and walking sticks (not mandatory). This list may vary depending on the number of days you intend to be in the mountain and the weather patterns at the time. PS…this is a very basic list but it worked well for me.

4. I have said this here before but I will say it again… You conquer in the mind so no matter how hard it gets listen to your mind but also know your limits.

If you have been to Mt Kenya and have more tips please share them in the comment section. If you are interested in a Mt. Kenya day hike or summit check out proudly Laikipian Travels Instagram for a customized package.

Thank you for reading.

May we have the best year yet full adventures and things that set our souls on fire.

Love always,

Kuhi.

TAKING STOCK

Mt Ololokwe summit -Namunyak, 2021

Life is short and the world is wide. ~unknown

I have spent 2021 somewhere between big wins and big losses. As we draw closer to the end, how about an edition of my first ever taking stock series.


Reading– Love in colour by Bolu Babalola. Ever since I fell in love with African literature last year I have never looked back. Let’s see where this story takes us.


Proud of: How gracefully I have navigated this year considering all the curveballs I have had to endure. Have you ever felt like you are doing everything right but it’s never enough and this makes you question your entire existence? Don’t let that ever make you shrink or stop being awesome… Keep doing your best. Okay?


Craving- A beach holiday. The last time I was on a beach was January 2020 just before Covid-19 hit. I had the most magical experience in Mbundya Island, Dar es Salaam. All I want right now is to go back and experience that scary boat ride to Kunduchi and sunset all over again.

Mbundya Island, Dar es Salaam. January 2020


Enjoying –Big small wins. This year, inspired by my love for travel and gift of planning, I registered a travel agency, Proudly Laikipian Travels. I have since hosted 6 successful day trips and 1 overnight trip. Every trip has been a learning experience and an opportunity to meet different people. Have you ever planned a group trip?

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary-Namunyak, May 2021

Ps- I am currently working on the 2022 calendar can’t wait to see where it takes us.


Excited and nervous– About changing my career trajectory…


Looking forward to– Summit Mt. Kenya before the end of the year. For someone who has lived at the slopes of Mt. Kenya all her life I really do take this mountain for granted.

The closest I have gotten to the peaks,March 2021


Planning -My first ever photo exhibition…both nervous and excited about this but determined to see it come to fruition.

Black-backed Jackal, Olpejeta, February 2021


Knowing -That everything will be okay no matter how crazy and messy things get.

Thank you for tagging along for all my adventures this year. I didn’t write much here but I shared all my travel highlights on my instagram.

Until next time… Happy holidays
Love and love
Kuhi.

AMBOSELI- THE LAND OF WHITE DUST

Once a year go some place you’ve never been before.

~Dalai Lama

What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Amboseli national park? For me it has to be the elephants and the view of Mount Kilimanjaro. If you are on Twitter you probably have come across the debate of who owns Kilimanjaro… Apparently Tanzania owns it and Kenya owns the view.
A few weeks back, 14 of us got together to celebrate one of our friend’s birthday and off to Amboseli we went. Amboseli is a Maasai word that means the land of white dust. You don’t need to drive far into the park to see ‘the land of white dust’ literally come to life.
ARRIVAL
We left Nairobi at 6AM and arrived at Iremito gate at 10.30 AM. We had two stop-over’s, one at a convenient store in Salama and another at a curio shop that I didn’t particularly like because nothing had a price tag… I guess it’s a marketing strategy but I hate it because it’s basically a dm for price scenario. The guys there look at you and decide this one looks like they have money and name the price to go with that perception.
At Iremito gate there is a group of women selling all kinds of beaded accessories at super friendly prices. If you are here please support them.


THE GAME DRIVE
Our guide Peter knew the park quite well as well as the wildlife species, their life span behavior etc etc… The welcoming committee was a lone bull elephant and after that a series of everything. By everything I mean I have never seen so many wildlife species in one day. We saw elephants, a pride of lions, spotted hyenas, wildbeest, plain zebras, waterbucks, more elephants and over 30 bird species.
The landscape varies from dry semi-arid to swampy areas. Whether you want to go to Amboseli as a daytrip or an overnight stay here is everything you need to know…
1. Amboseli is classified as one of KWS premium parks so it will cost you a little more than other parks (860 ksh per person). The mode of payment as usual is cashless so have your money on MPESA or card.
2. The park is quite vast so I recommend having a guide who knows their way around.
3. Don’t spend your whole game drive chasing the big cats. Enjoy the landscape and the often overlooked animals… I mean have the whole experience.
4. The network connection is intermittent for both Airtel and Safariom. What is more disturbing is they both roam to Airtel TZ and Vodacom so if you don’t want to incur roaming charges please don’t answer your phone or put on your data.


That said, here are my favorite photos from that day. It was a cloudy day so unfortunately we didn’t get a glimpse of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The highlight of this trip for me was on our way out when we passed through a road in the middle of a swamp where there were all kinds animals and birds. It was a moment of overwhelming beauty.
Enjoy the photos and as always thank you for stopping by.
Leave a comment and remember to share.
Love and light
Kuhi.

Spotted hyena
Elephants
Eastern great egret
Black-winged stilt
Saddle-billed stork
Bohor reedbuck
Eastern great egret
Greater flamingo
African bush elephant
Northern giraffe
A plain zebra and resident wildbeest in the background
Grey crowned cranes-always in pairs

RETETI ELEPHANT SANCTUARY

When in doubt – choose adventure!~Thor F. Jensen

This story has been 3 years in the making probably because when I first went to RETETI elephant sanctuary in 2018, I didn’t feel like I learnt enough to tell it’s story. The sanctuary was two years old and the first batch of rescues were about to be released back to the wild.

Back story

RETETI elephant sanctuary is an elephant orphanage in Namunyak wildlife conservancy in Samburu county. It was  established in 2016. Before this, there was only one establishment of this kind in the country that is, David Sheldrick’s wildlife trust in Nairobi National park. Previously, any rescued elephant calf from any part of the country would be taken to Sheldrick’s however, it didn’t make much sense that elephants rescued in northern Kenya would later be re-integrated back into the wild in Tsavo National Park, a completely different landscape with a different climate than where they were first rescued. I prefer not to get into the politics of conservation but the story goes that Sheldrick’s was opposed to the establishment of RETETI. Eventually both parties agreed that all calves rescued north of the equator would go to RETETI while the others would go to Sheldrick’s.

Getting there

Reteti elephant sanctuary is located approximately 200km north of Nanyuki town. The road is pretty straight forward…you stick to the A2 all through towards Marsabit. A few meters after Sereolipi town, there is a left turn onto a 21 km dirt road that leads to the sanctuary. There are clear route markers so its not easy to get lost.

The elephants- Conservation story

In collaboration with local community scouts, KWS and conservation areas in the region RESCUE identifies elephant calves in distress. Here are some of the reasons this happens.

  1. Falling into a well. In this case RESCUE tries to reunite the calf with the mother within a 72-hour period. Although this is the preferred outcome, sometimes they are unsuccessful therefore the calf has to be moved to the sanctuary.
  2. Human wildlife conflict– the landscape in Northern Kenya is quite vast. Here, a lot of elephants’ roam outside protected areas and share space with human. Sometimes there are conflicts between the two resulting in unfortunate death of ‘mother elephant’. Since the calf cannot survive in the wild alone it must be moved to the sanctuary.
  3. Poaching– Although rare in this region, sometimes the mother maybe poached for their tusks leaving their young without a support system.
  4. Abandonment– this is also rare but sometimes mothers have abandoned their calves or gotten separated during migration.

There is a board at the reception area that captures each calves name, date rescued, place rescued and the reason for the rescue. If the calf has been released back to the wild, the release date is indicated on the board as well. In most cases calves are named after the conservancy or area where they were rescued but sadly not all make it.

The most outstanding character during my 2018 visit was Shaba and in 2021 it was Long’uro.

Shaba-2018 (now a wild elephant)
Long’uro -2021

You can read Longuro’s story here as told by Chancellor David, a renowned national geographic photographer.

One of my highlight of this trip was when someone asked why ‘father elephant’ wasn’t featuring anywhere in the calve’s stories and I guess y’all now understand why fathers day is not celebrated as loudly as mothers day. Seriously though elephants are a matriarchal unit so without a mother a calf would definitely not survive in the wild.

Back to the wild

The elephants stay in the sanctuary under the watchful eyes of the keepers until the age of 3. They are then moved to Sera wildlife conservancy where they start the journey back to the wild. By this time, they can fend for themselves but they are monitored through collars as they make the transition. So far a number of elephants have been successfully raised and released back to the wild.

What to expect

On your visit here you will not only get a briefing about everything I have captured above but also witness the feeding ceremony. This is the highlight of the trip. It’s you want the whole show please keep time. After feeding, the elephants enjoy a mud bath, playing around with the water and bonding with each other before they go out again. You can stick around for this as well.

Snap shot

  1. RETETI elephant sanctuary is open to visitors within specific time frames 8.30 AM-10.00Am and 11.30 AM- 1.00 PM. These timelines are strict since the elphants are on a schedule
  2. There is no volunteer program. The reason behind this is the sanctuary has employees and volunteers from the local community; at the same time  the sanctuary  tries to limit human-wildlife contact as much as possible because the goal is to keep them wild.
  3. The cost per person is Ksh.150.00 for Kenyans and 20 USD for foreigners.
  4. You can make your booking by contacting the sanctuary manager directly, NRT tourism or simply send an email to the address on the website.
  5. You need a 4WD for the 21KM stretch from the highway
  6. There is a giant rock art just around the corner from the sanctuary that is worth checking out.
  7. Although RETETI is majorly an elephant Sanctuary, the doors are open to other species. Currently there are 3 reticulated giraffes and a plain zebra.

This trip marked the first official trip for proudly laikipian travels and I would like to thank all 15 of you that made it happen.

For more highlights on this trip check out my Instagram @kuhiwanjohi and @proudly_laikipian

Thank you for reading and I hope to see more of you out here exploring with me. Here are some of the photos from the sanctuary.

Until next time, Asante & Love always. Kuhi

This one had a bottle in the mouth and tried to steal another.
Spa moments after feeding.
Little Long’uro
The tall neighbor
The dream team… Asanteni sana

HIKING MOUNT KENYA & MY 6 YEAR BLOGVESSARY

The mountains are calling and I must go.

John Muir

I think it’s safe to say that 2020 took quite a lot from us but also opened our eyes and hearts to appreciate the seemingly small freedoms we previously took for granted.

I did not go for a single hike in 2020 but in January 2021, I was ready to rectify that situation. I planned a hike to Kamweti, one of the many hiking trails on Mt. Kenya but that was not to be again because of reasons beyond me. Then on a random Friday evening hang out with my friends, another hiking plan was born; this time to a different hiking trail still on Mt. Kenya National park via sirimon route.

We drove up to the Sirimon gate which is about 17 km off the Nanyuki-Meru highway.

At the gate, there was a quick registration process, temperature checks and payment process. One of the rangers asked to see my camera because apparently you have to pay for some cameras before taking them into the park. We then drove up to Old Moses camp where our hike would begin.

Old Moses- The beginning

Old Moses-the end

Our plan was to get to a point known as the view point but one of us got altitude sickness along the way so we had to find a spot to rest the head back. We got to experience a bit of the views and vegetation on our path as well as meet other hikers along the way.

I didn’t get the full hiking experience I hoped to get but I left with lessons… For instance I know that this is the easiest route to summit Mt Kenya up to point Lenana. You can start your hike from Sirimon gate to old Moses, Old Moses to Shipton camp and finally Shipton to Point Lenana. I hope to do it later this year and will be sending an invite out for anyone that would like to join.

I also had the most amazing photoshoot at our picnic spot and came home with a bunch of beautiful photos that will always remind me of that experience. Did I mention I changed into a dress mid hike for the photoshoot?

Here is what you need to know about hiking Mt. Kenya via Sirimon route

1. You can only pay via MPESA or card. No cash allowed.

2. Currently the cost is Ksh. 250 for Kenyans, $30 for non-resident and Ksh. 600 for the vehicle.

3. KWS does not provide a guide unless you have made prior arrangement. My advise is get your own guide in Nanyuki. They are more reliable. (happy to recommend one)

4. Even if it is sunny, it gets really really cold. Dress appropriately

Me trying not to freeze

Let us make 2021 a year for more outdoor activities and a year to appreciate our beautiful country.

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment or question and remember to share.

A special thank you for following and engaging with me on this platform for the last six years.

Love & light

Mukuhi.

NANYUKI- THE AMAZING LITTLE TOWN

I will always approach life from a small-town vibe. It makes experiences more fantastical. Landon Liboiron.

At face value, Nanyuki is a small town but you will be amazed by the number of things you can do here. I always found it interesting pre-covid when my friends would drive all the way from Nairobi only go to the one hype night club similar to the ones in Nairobi (nothing wrong with that) then go back home and talk about their road trip to Nanyuki having barely experienced Nanyuki at it’s full potential.

Here is a list of unique things you can do in Nanyuki and it’s environs that will gurantee you come back.

1. A stop over for a photo-op at the equator sign… Nanyuki is one of the 3 towns in Kenya at the equator. I know I should have a photo of this but you know what they say…a prophet is never celebrated in their town.

2. A game drive at Olpejeta conservancy because we’re you even here if you didn’t go to see all the big five and the chimpanzees at olpej? I could write a book about this destination but today I will let the photos speak for me.

3. Go for a hike to either Old moses in Mt Kenya National park via Sirimon gate or the famous Ngarendare forest for the canopy walk and a swim at the natural blue pools. I haven’t been to old Moses (the things we take for granted) but I have been to Ngarendare twice.

One of the waterfalls…if you ever go to Ngarendare insist on this waterfall the other one is not blue & is usually overcrowded
The canopy walk

4. If you are the amusement park kind, Bantu lodge is your go to place. I can’t promise it will wow you but it has some unique activities such as a boat ride at the dam, a sky walk over an old Italian war dam and so much space for kids to run around.

5. This one is for the adrenaline junkies like myself…Mt.Kenya climbing gym. It looks like a simple climbing tower but believe me you have to really work for it. My first ever attempt took me 50 minutes of pain to get to the top and my life has never been the same.

6. Go for a swim at what I think is the best swimming pool that has ever been made at he luxurious Maiyan resort. There is host of other activities at Maiyan such as fine dining, horse riding but the pool is my favorite because it is heated, has incredible views of Mt. Kenya, loldaiga hills and I can only leave you to find out what happens at sunset.

I have been looking for an excuse to post this photo for 2 years!!

7. Let me let you in on a secret… A drive to Laikipia North is a free game drive. On this road I have seen rhinos, lots of elephants, dikdiks, gerenuks, reticulated giraffes, the endangered grevy zebras and a host of other wild animals all for free! In addition to this I have interacted with wonderful people from the Maasai community and been treated to unique rock formations as well as picture perfect landscape. Take this drive early in the morning and thank me later.

Osoit oitashe rocks -Musul
Munishoi rock- Ilpolei
Tumaren
Just a random elephant by the road.
Doldol town
Somewhere in Naibunga community conservancy

8. I cannot in good conscience end this post without telling you the best sunset spot in Nanyuki… The peaks hotel rooftop. You can enjoy a meal and a sundowner drink here. What makes it more special is the flowers and the Mt. Kenya view.

Please note

~This list is a mere highlight of Nanyuki experiences and it is mostly based on my experience so I am definitely biased. More to come later.

~ All the places I have listed are within a 50 KM radius from Nanyuki.

~ The costs are as follows…Olpejeta-1400pp 700kids (Check the rate card for the festive season), Mt. Kenya Climbing -600pp, and Old Moses-430pp. The rates for the other places vary depending on what you would like to do.

~Accomodation options in Nanyuki range from budget B&Bs, homestays, Airbnbs, to 5 star hotels. Check out Ivy’s post on Airbnbs in Nanyuki.

~ In other news commercial passenger train services return to Nanyuki this Friday…Do what you must with that info.

Remember you can always reach out to me for more detailed information. Thank you for reading.

Keep safe always

Happy holidays

Love and light

Mukuhi.

KOIJA COMMUNITY STARBEDS-LAIKIPIA’S BEST KEPT SECRET

There is no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this.
Matt Hogan


I first saw the Koija community starbeds in 2016 while on a game drive at Loisaba conservancy. They were ran down and abandoned at the time at the time but I remember making a mental note that I would really like to come there someday. Enter 2020 with all its shenanigans and my friend R casually mentions that the Koija community starbeds have been renovated and open for business. Very quickly we came up with a plan and reached out to a few of our friends for what will go down as my most memorable weekend this year.

A photo of the Koija starbeds 2016


Background
The Koija community starbeds are located in Naibunga lower community conservancy in Laikipia North, Laikipia county. The larger Naibunga conservancy comprises of 9 group ranches koija, munishoi,Ilpolei, Ilmotiok, Kijabe , Nkiloriti, Musul, Tiemamut and Moropusi… you can easily guess in which of the ranches the koija community starbeds are located (hint…the name betrays them).
Getting there
This is a hard one not even google maps /offline maps can help but I will try my best to break it down. From Nanyuki town, turn left onto the C76 (Nanyuki-Rumuruti road). Drive for about 8 kilometers and turn right on the Doldol road. There are many signs so you can’t miss it. After approximately 13 kilometers you will get to Naibor town where the tarmac ends. Continue straight towards Mpala ranch where there is a well graded murram road that cuts through to a small town called Il motiok. From here there is no landmark to refer to which means you need to have someone that knows the area to guide you. Lucky for us we had Patrick, an excellent driver who was familiar with the road and was an excellent guide. He knew all the wildlife we came across and would sometimes backup to allow us to get the best shots. He also gave us an excellent African massage… only the occupants of his Landcruiser would understand this. I would recommend getting the big north to give you a guide if you are not familiar with the area.
I have said before on this blog that a drive through Laikipia north is always a free game drive and this wasn’t any different. We spotted the endangered grevy zebras, the plain zebras, a lone elephant bull, leopard tortoise, dikdiks, impalas, reticulated giraffes, vulturine guinea fowls and the best sighting was the black-backed jackals. On the way back we added a hartebeest and gerenuk to our list.

Reticulated giraffe
Black-backed jackals
Leopard tortoise
Hartbeest (left) Impala (right)

Hello Koija
After 3 hours on the road, we arrived to a warm welcome by Elijah and his team. After a brief introduction & the waiver form signing ceremony, we were shown to our bandas. I had a lot of pinch me moments because that is what you do when something you have wanted for so long comes to fruition.
There are a total of 4 bandas. Banda 1 and 2 are en-suite while banda 3 and 4 are connected and share a bathroom and washroom. Each banda can accommodate two people but you can request an extra bed especially for the family banda. All the bandas are on the banks of river Ewaso ng’iro with friendly neighbors such as the rock hyrax. Across the river is Loisaba conservancy where on a good day you may have wildlife sightings. I only spotted 2 giraffes and a tawny eagle which is good enough. The best way to describe the bandas is a partially covered structure with a thatch roof and no doors. The bed looks like a wooden cart (quite literally) and can be wheeled outside onto the deck should you wish to sleep under the stars. Sadly it rained for the better part of our stay here we only managed to wheel the bed outside on the last morning.

The view from the bed
Banda 2 from the back


At the restaurant there is a sundown deck where we spent the better parts of our days chatting away and listening to the best of Beethoven thanks to yours truly. Thinking about the teasing and laughter makes me smile as I type this. My friend from Loisaba conservancy told me how there is a leopard that sleeps on the tree next to my banda and I decided I wasn’t going to be scared alone so I told the rest of the group at the bonfire.

The bonfire pit
The sundowner deck


Koija cultural Manyatta
After the best morning of breakfast and lots of banter, Ellie came to get us for a wonderful afternoon at the koija cultural manyatta which is a short drive from the lodge. The women welcomed us with a dance, then a lesson in cleaning a gourd with special acacia tree which can be used to store milk for up to three days. Then there was a fire lighting ceremony and a dance by the morans. A few of us got the ladies of the Manyatta together for a little chat on medical and financial issues before going for some beaded items retail therapy. Every item on sale here is handmade by women from this community with support from beadworks Kenya under the northern rangeland trust.

Isn’t she lovely? Photo by R
Fire lighting ceremony
Cleaning the gourd
The Moran dance
Beadworks


Until next time koija
Our last afternoon at koija community starbeds was spent in bed taking in the view one last time and chatting away. This trip was truly memorable and I cannot wait to go back.

Bonus pic… Lots of fireflies by the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro

Snapshot
1. The cost is Ksh.4,000.00 per person per day. The lodge is owned by the local community so a stay here is a chance to give back to them.
2. The lodge is on self catering basis but there is a chef on site so it is upto you to come up with a meal plan and buy your groceries.
3. Nanyuki is your last shopping stop so make sure you get all your supplies there.
4. There is little to no cellular network coverage making this the best place to disconnect from the world.
5. A 4WD is highly recommended. There are a number of luggas (dry sand riverbeds) that can only be navigated by a serious 4WD vehicle.

6. The area is generally hot during the day but it gets quite chilly in the evening so remember to pack accordingly.
7. You can make your booking directly through the big north here or you can contact me to make the transport and meal plan for you. (yes I have a little practice)

If anyone asks me if I have ever slept outside I would say yes proudly and go ahead to tell them how much I loved it. I hope you are inspired to add the koija community starbeds to your bucketlist.
Until the next destination, thank you for stopping by. Normalize sleeping under the stars.


Love and light
Mukuhi.

Kendi’s cottage, Nyeri – It’s a friendship affair

A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles. Tim Cahill.

Sometimes you meet people in the most unexpected ways. They become your friends. Their friends also become your friends and such is life. Such kind of friendship is what led us to Kendi’s cottage in Giakanja on the Nyeri-Othaya road to celebrate one of us.

Getting there was pretty straight forward but we still needed Francis, the caretaker to show us the way once we got off the main road. He had this huge smile and enthusiasm that assured me that nothing could possibly go wrong.

He made sure we were all settled in then left us. The cottage feels like home and it’s all warm and cozy. It has 3 bedrooms, 5 beds which is ideal for families or a group of friends. It has an open kitchen plan with an island and most of the kitchen basics are provided. If you like reading, there is quite the book collection for both adults and kids.

Natural lighting in the lounge
The Jacuzzi in the master
The fire place

The outdoors are equally beautiful especially on a sunny day.

The bonfire pit

There is a dam a few meters from the property that is perfect for maybe a hangout, a photo op or both.

This was mostly a relaxing weekend so we didn’t explore much of Nyeri. I can however tell you that Kendi’s cottage would be a good base camp for all Nyeri and environs adventures. The ones that come to mind are Zaina falls, Abadare national park, Mt. Kenya National Park, chinga dam and many others.

2 things that didn’t sit well with me… Showering in lukewarm water because the hot water situation was not happening and the caretaker being all over our space 2 hours before check out. Other than those two issues, Gathoni weekend was truly amazing and memorable. Cheers to friendship and travel.

Have fun tembea Kenya but remember to stay safe, sanitize and wear your mask.

Ps. To book Kendi’s cottage call Henry on 0722524360

Thank you for reading.

Leave a comment & share

Love and light

Kuhi

COLORS OF DAR ES SALAAM

At it’s best, travel should challenge our preconceptions and most cherished views, cause us to rethink our assumptions, shake us a bit, make us broader minded and more understanding. ~Arthur Frommer

Dar Es Salaam, A coastal city in Tanzania that holds a special place in my heart. It has been my go to place when things get rough and I am happy I got a chance to visit again in January after a very tough end of 2019. I have captured my experience which could also serve as a travel guide if you ever want to take this trip.

GETTING THERE

ROAD TRIP! My friend and I took a Dar lux bus from Nairobi- Dar Es Salaam which cost us KSh.3, 500.00 (Tsh.75, 250.00) each. The bus leaves Nairobi very early so I did not see much on the road but I remember catching the sunrise somewhere in Kitengela.

Landscape somewhere between Namanga &Arusha

CURRENCY EXCHANGE

We changed our money through a guy who came into the bus just before we got to Namanga. He gave us a rate of 21.5 (Ksh.1=Tsh.21.5).

While on the other side we changed currency through my bank which luckily for me has branches in Tanzania.

IMMIGRATION

 If you do not have a Kenyan passport, you need to fill for your temporary pass on ecitizen, take note of all the required documents and present them to the immigration officer at the border. That will cost you Ksh. 350.00. The pass is valid for 1 year and can be used to access any East African country and South Sudan.

You will also need to have your yellow fever card with you.  If you don’t, you can get the vaccination at the health facility at the border. The card is valid for 10 years.

Here are a few places you can get vaccinated. (please note the cost varies depending on the  facility).

  • Port health clinics (all Kenya border entry points)
  • Seaports and airports
  • Nairobi city hall
  • Private hospitals (Nairobi hospital, Aga khan, Mater hospital, MP shah among others)

The immigration process was really smooth unlike my experience in 2015. The two governments have since implemented (OSBP) one stop border post where there is a Kenyan immigration officer and their Tanzanian counterparts in the same place to make the process more efficient.

THE REAL JOURNEY BEGINS

We had a chance to purchase local simcards at Namanga but declined.  Turns out we should have because roaming charges are ridiculous! For 450 Kenya shillings you get 50 mbs on Airtel!  Let us not even talk about safaricom.

I described the scenery on my post road trip. The drive was more beautiful than I remember but sadly I didn’t get to see Mt. Kilimanjaro because of the cloud cover. We stopped briefly in Moshi and again in Korogwe.

Mt. Meru
Korogwe stop over

BEACHES AND MORE BEACHES

Mbezi beach

We spent half the first day resting in the house and the other half chilling in Mbezi beach, a public beach in Kinondoni district.  We just sat there and enjoyed the sunset although it was on the opposite side of the ocean.  It was not so crowded but there were the occasional beach boys intruding.

Views from Mbezi Beach
Girls just want to have fun

Coco beach

This is a public beach in the Oyster Bay area. It is not the cleanest or safest of beaches but we had such a good time here we went twice. It is a perfect spot to chill while looking at the ocean front sipping some cold pepsi or whatever and speaking maritime. From the beach you can see a queue of ships waiting to be allowed entry into the Tanzanian port. It is even more pretty at night when the lights are on.

I didn’t take any photo here

Mbudya Island

From the moment I decided to take this trip to Dar, I knew that even if I didn’t do anything else, I would have to go to Mbudya Island. This marked the second day of our trip and the highlight of my trip.

We had a few logistics issues that morning but we made it to Mbezi beach by midday. Since there was only two of us we paid Tsh. 30,000.00 (Ksh.1, 935.00) for a return trip on a boat from the beach to the island. The charges vary depending on the size of the group. I have a phobia for open waters so I sat in my corner holding on for dear life the entire boat ride while young bestie was having the time of her life.

Here is a breakdown of all the costs for the island based on our experience.

  • Boat ride to and from the island Tsh. 10,000.00 (Ksh. 470.00) per person
  • Park entrance fee (it is a marine park) Tsh. 27,400 (Ksh.1, 275.00) per person for East Africans
  • Shed/sitting area: Tsh. 15,000 (Ksh. 700.00)
  • Lunch cost us Tsh. 25,000 (Ksh.1, 165.00). We had fries and fish. Ps you can bring your own food and drinks.

We spent our day chilling in and out of the ocean.  Other activities at the island include forest walk, snorkeling and water sports.

Watching the sunset in Mbundya island was pure magic and a dream come true.

The island is beautiful and well taken care of. The photos below will give you an idea of what to expect.

SHOPPING

Kariakor market comes highly recommended but the reviews on trip advisor were not very encouraging…leave your valuables at home they say, if you are a foreigner the price doubles or triples and the thing about Tanzania is you can’t hide the fact that you are a foreigner. Your Swahili betrays you so you will be asked a lot if you are Kenyan or Ugandan.

We settled for mwenge market opposite Mlimani city mall which was close to where we were staying. It is quite pricy but I got some really cool stuff to remind me of Tanzania. My friend Ru taught me the easiest item to buy that will remind you of a place /country is a fridge magnet and so I have a little piece of Tanzania on my fridge.

HOW TO GET AROUND

Dar Es Salaam is a vibrant city. There is both Uber and Bolt to get you around. In most cases we settled for bolt bajaj (tuk tuk). The cab drivers in this city are quite something though…one left us in the middle of a street and we were not sure where we were supposed to go. He didn’t give us a chance to locate our exact destination which turns out wasn’t very far.  Another one tried to steal from us by saying the cost was Tsh. 4,000 instead of Tsh.3, 000 because he knew we didn’t have internet to check the app. Another one started the trip before he got to the pickup point. Tanzanians can smell out foreigners just from the way you speak and sadly some few bad ones will try to take advantage of this…be alert.

Another option for getting around is public transport (dala dala), Matatu in Kenyan context. We never used this because we most probably would have gotten lost and had to start a now life somewhere in Tanzania! Next time we will ask though.

The drive to Mbezi Beach

My parting shot… Some Tanzanians are either very Conservative or entitled people depending on how you look at it. If you are a black woman, watch out how you dress. I understand Dar is a hot city but you dont want to be caught up in an uncomfortable situation. In 2015, I was almost attacked at the Ubungo area because my dress was apparently too short (just slightly above the knees). Caucasian get a free pass but young black women will be called names and probably physically attacked.

The rules don’t apply at the beach though.

Have you been to Dar Es Salaam? What was your experience?

As always, thank you for reading & sharing.

Love & love. Mukuhi

THE SLEEPING WARRIOR

Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.

Greg Child

2019 has been a great hiking year. I found a new hiking squad that has been consistent, super fun and always coming up with new hiking destinations. We have done three hikes together and made a lot of beautiful memories along the way. The idea of hiking the sleeping warrior/ugali hills first came up from one of us during our first hike together in Ngarendare forest in May this year.

Initially we were to make all the arrangements without the help of a travel agency but thanks to a few unreliable tour operators we decided to join a group (Matembezi traveller’s club) that happened to be hiking the same place on our proposed date.

I am not a big fan of group activities due to the dynamics of getting everyone in sync. It is really hard to get everyone to respect the group dynamics and keep time. We were supposed to leave Nairobi at 6.30 AM but the bus and a few people were late. We used the Nairobi-Mai Mahiu route which is quite scenic, made a brief stop at the view point and another at Buffalo mall Naivasha for supplies.

We then had to wait for someone at the Gilgil weigh bridge so by the time we got to the starting point for the hike it was 11.00AM. It was already hot and in my head I was like here you go again Mukuhi the master of hiking in the sun!!!

The hike started at the shores of Lake Elementaita… A beautiful, blue and surreal start. I saw flamingoes for the first time in my life though from a distance.

Unlike my previous hike at Mt. Ololokwe, the terrain here was friendly because we didn’t have to go up any steep hills… Well at least not for the first 10Km. We hang out, took photos walked, watched the rich bird life in the lake, walked some more and at some point got diverted to some hot springs which turned out to be the joke of the day. Let’s just say they have nothing on Lake Bogoria.

The squad

After the short stint at the hot springs the walk started to become exhausting and the sleeping warrior hill seemed to be drifting further away instead of getting closer.

Back story… If you look closely at the hill from a distance it literally looks like a sleeping man (head, neck and torso) so someone decided he is a warrior hence the name sleeping warrior.

The sleeping warrior from a distance
Close up

By the time we got to the base we were tired and hungry so we took a short break then proceeded to conquer the hill. It was a tough and unpleasant experience for 2 reasons:

1.The sand was loose so we kept sliding or sinking in the sand.

2.The was no clear path to follow and the shrubs made it really hard to move without injuries.

I was afraid of falling and getting bruised by the shrubs. Luckily it wasn’t a long climb. (no photos were taken during the ascent)

The most fulfilling part of any hike for me is always the view from the top. This one did not disappoint. We had a few moments to take it in and socialize.

My friend Nur and I celebrating our hard work

We started our descent and were all psyched for the next hill. It drizzled a bit and for the first time in my hiking life I had fun going down the hill. When we got to the base we learnt that we had to walk for about 30 minutes to the next hill (Ugali Hills) and that is the point when I decided I had had enough.

Instead of going up Ugali hills, my friends and I decided to walk back to the bus. We met a few kids from the local village whose only sentence seemed to be “give me biscuit.”

As our hike came to an end and we were treated to a beautiful rainbow at the end of the hiking trail. It almost felt like an apology to my now aching body and to remind me to always appreciate beauty in nature.

Ugali hill

Conservation bit…

Lake Elementaita is a salt water lake in the great Rift Valley Kenya. It is home to over 400 species of birds, different fish species, insects and vegetation. The litter problem has been common in all the places I have gone hiking and this was no different. To keep hikers from throwing plastic waste in the lake and its environs, there are two very cool trash points but given the size of the lake I hope there is more. This is one of the cleanest hiking trails I have ever been to but sadly some people from our group discarded their water bottles and we had to clean up after them.

What a beautiful prayer!

Snapshot

1. The sleeping warrior/Ugali hills hike is an easy day trip from Nairobi but if you like you can set base either in Nakuru/Naivasha or one of the hotels at the shores of lake Elementaita.

2.Make sure you have proper hiking boots with a good grip to avoid falling as the sand at the hills is loose.

4. If you can, wear a long sleeved top to avoid getting pricked by shrubs or getting a rash from the plants.

5. Carry lots of water… It is a long long walk. Grapes and apples always come through for me.

If you have been on this hiking trail, feel free to add more observations.

As always thank you for reading.

Go out and experience nature and remember to share…

Love & love

Mukuhi