Day 2 - Monday 6th April 2009

Hells Gate and Naivasha

Kimatia picked us up at 7 and we left the wet streets of Nairobi on the A104 highway - the main road from Mombasa to Uganda and the interior of Africa. Ahead of the rush-hour traffic, and heading out, we had a reasonably easy journey. There were people everywhere though, walking, cycling or driving to work.

We headed along the "new" road which stays above the rift valley for longer. Ironically this road is not suitable for the big trucks (weight limit on a bridge) so it's an easier drive, apart from a succession of police checks. We stopped at a view point (about 8,000 feet asl) to look out over the rift valley. Centre left on the horizon is Mount Longonot, the volcano I climbed in May 2008.

Meld and Kimatia survey the view. Note the land nearest the top is extensively cultivated - fertile and (at the cool temperatures at this altitude) good for crops like potatoes.

Near Naivasha town we stopped at a farm shop (owned by the Delamere's) where we had breakfast and watched the birds...

...before buying food for lunch and heading south, through the flower farms that line the shores of the lake (using the water for irrigation). The flower farms are very controversial - they provide local employment and earn foreign exchange, but the profit goes to the (overseas) owners, and they are said to be changing the environment here.

Past the flower farms, we turned left towards Hells Gate (so-called because of the underground heat, likened to the gates of the underworld).

Checked into the National Park, and lightened of a few thousand shillings, we proceeded. There were a surprising number of animals close to the road - note the eagle in the foreground, who shortly afterwards flew up carrying a snake.

We stopped by Fishers Tower - an old volcanic plug (lava left when the softer rock around eroded). We were rewarded by a visit by a giraffe.

Meld showing the scale of Fishers Tower.

A rock hyrax below the tower.

Amazing rock formations in the cliffs.

A little bird does a dance.

A young buffalo.


Wart Hog

The Central Tower (another plug) with steam escaping from the ground behind. There is lots of accessible geothermal energy here, but they have to release the pressure first, and there is a continuous whooshing sound (like a steam loco letting of steam).

We acquired a guide, Josphat, who would take us on the hike into the gorge.

Prepare for some climbing, using hands and feet, and for getting wet he said.

The gorge is pretty impressive.

Turning off into a dry side gorge was almost like road walking...

...until we had to scale the first obstruction.

The central tower from below - you can just about see the vertical line of lava in the cliff face below.

Heat and pressure have strange effects on the rocks - the black stuff is effectively glass (used for arrow heads in days gone by)

The end of the hike up this branch - a dry waterfall - but you can tell how much water once flowed by the wear on the rock face.

A vervet monkey fancied Kimatia's apple.

A siskin in the main gorge.

You can tell by the algae - this is a hot spring.

On down the main gorge - with water!

There's no way round this soaking - but it's hot as a domestic shower. Tilley hat performs well.

We followed the stream.

Then climbed up the side of the gorge again, taking the view over the land beyond.

Meld and Josphat relax at the top.

Back at the car park we had a picnic lunch. No knife to cut the mango, but an Atkins staff card works!

On round the park loop, past one of the geothermal stations (using the heat of the earth to heat steam to generate electricity for "free")

Seeking the road to the "Lake View Point" we met some zebras in the road.

Near the viewpoint we met a duiker (little antelope).

From the viewpoint - a view of the lake. Having been pleasantly cool so far (even drops of rain on our hike) it was now getting hot in the sunshine.


Meld in the sunshine

Fruits on the thorn bushes - the giraffe are able to use their long tongues to extract them round the thorns. (A thorn went through the sole of my shoe and I can confirm it was sharp!)

I love the way wart hogs' tail stand erect as they run.

Serious plumbing - piping steam across the ground from extraction point to the power station.

We left the park and drove to Lake Naivasha. This is the south lake which is saltier, which attracts the flamingoes. From afar the lake looks like it has a pink fringe. You can see the pink shoreline beyond the lake here. Lots of flamingoes, in almost perpetual motion, though the group appears still until they take flight.

Out for a stroll across the lake.

A hippo surfaces - the flamingoes stay clear!

Meld's trophies.

We then followed the North Lake Road which runs up the west and north of the lake back to the highway. This was a mistake as it is not only gravel but bad gravel - rocky and uneven. It took ages, and the car overheated. We stopped at a clinic to beg water for the radiator. Several stops up the rough road to refill, but we made it to a garage where they jetwashed the radiator and the journey home was OK (despite the ascent of the side of the rift valley - 2000 feet or more). As we approached the ascent, with the setting sun shining on the escarpment, we saw a number of camps for IDPs (internally displaced persons, affected by the post-election violence n January 2008) who've not yet moved home.

And so, on into Nairobi, in the dark, only one crash that we saw (a tanker in the central reservation). A shower, supper, and bed.

Map of today's activities.