Rains dampen recreation jobs

Hikers Afrique members during a recent rainy trek up Mount Kenya Forest.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

Over the years, outdoor recreation has become a money-spinner for many young entrepreneurs. Hikes. Group cycling. Exercise boot camps in arboretums.

All these activities are planned for at the beginning of the year and some thrill lovers pay well in advance. But the ongoing heavy rains now threaten to render the organisers jobless as customers postpone.

A die-hard hiker may have said that hiking in the rain is "like a heartbreak, it will make you yearn and ache and grow. It will make you feel. It reminds us that we're alive", but not everyone loves the thrill.

Cyrus Ogaro of Hikers Afrique, who has trekked in all seasons, says this time the rain has hampered their activities. "It has become very risky, we had to postpone our April and May calendar hiking activities while we assess the weather for us to resume in some areas," he told the BDLife.

He gives an example of a Mt. Suswa hike. "During rainy seasons, the road is impassable," he says.

Mr Ogaro says in rainy periods, their bookings usually drop by almost half.

"New hikers are put off, some cancel at the last minute when the weather is bad. They may have bookings for a hike on Saturday, but if it rains that morning, they call to transfer their payments to the next hike because we only give refunds three days before the hike," he says.

"Our numbers have dropped from 32 compared to now where our slots range within 8. There are bad days when we don't fill our minimum quota of 8 people, so we cancel the trek," he adds.

During good weather season, they hit the bookings of their daily 32-pack capacity, with participants paying from Sh800 to Sh4,600 depending on the location of the hike.


But diehards say except for the disastrous floods, there is nothing like bad weather in trekking. The challenge would only be if you were wearing inappropriate clothing but provided you have the right equipment the experience will be just as interesting.

"A prepared hiker should be equipped with a fleece jacket, hiking boots with a good sole to keep a firm grip on slippery ground, a thermal base layer, trekking trousers with extra warmth, a puffed jacket, a walking stick for balance, a thermal jacket, warm hiking socks, a windproof balaclava, a hiking bag, waterproof warm gloves and gaiters," asserts Mr Ogaro.

He advises a change of clothes after a rainy walk to avoid catching a cold.

From Sh150,000 to Sh30,000

Jogging trails are also seeing fewer runners, and so are personal trainers who have been earning from clients staying in shape in the comfort of their homes.

Isaac Musungu, a private fitness trainer and owner of Afro Zulu Fitness, says the rains have made outdoor exercise almost impossible.

They have had to cancel sessions because when it rains there is mud, and the grass is wet.

"If you cancel a paid session with a client, you have to reschedule activities that aren't as promising because of the weather," he says.

In a good month, when he has full outdoor bookings of up to 30 people, Mr Musungu says he does not earn less than Sh150,000.

Now he is down to Sh30,000 or sometimes even less.

"I have had to cancel two outdoor trails so far. One was at Karura Forest and the other was at Elephant Hill because of rain and also because of the low turnout of people which makes the trail less significant," he says.

The slowest season for the fitness industry is December.

"But the rainy season is the worst,'' Mr Musungu says, adding, "When it's raining, it also affects gym attendance. You find that the normal attendance is 200 people a day, but it has reduced to sometimes less than 20 people. There are other times when you walk into an empty gym.''

Cycling groups

Cycling has also attracted a huge fan base recently as city dwellers spend their weekends on bicycles, riding on roads and nature trails.

Willy Maingi, a cyclist and ride organiser, says the rains have cut short their adventures after some of the routes were flooded.

Even on days when it is not raining, cyclists decide not to go out because of the muddy roads that destroy their bikes.

Photo credit: Photo | Shutterstock

The owner of Pedalling Powerhouse says up to 75 percent of their planned weekend rides nowadays do not see the light of day because of the heavy downpours.

"Last week we were supposed to do a two-day ride to Mombasa but it was cancelled because of the floods. We used to have about 30 riders on weekends, but now there are only 5 willing riders, if lucky," Mr Maingi says.

Even on days when it is not raining, cyclists decide not to go out because of the muddy roads that destroy their bikes.

"Also, most cyclists use their bikes to get to work, but they have been forced to use alternatives for convenience," he says and adds, "bikers do not have much protective gear to keep them out of the rain. Their biggest risk is catching pneumonia. Sometimes when the weather is bad, it affects the visibility of drivers on the road, which can make them victims of road accidents."

"The last time we tried to cycle in this wet weather, one of us lost control while braking due to the slippery terrain and suffered minor injuries. In another incident, a cyclist was knocked off the road by a car because of the slippery roads and also because most bikes don't have enough lights to be seen," he says.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.