- During this pandemic period, many of us have acquired a new skill or activity to keep us busy.
During this pandemic period, many of us have acquired a new skill or activity to keep us busy. Mine has been mountain hiking.
I used to admire pictures of friends doing hikes and decided I would try one hike this year (Mt Kenya was what was in my mind). In September, a plan of hiking Elephant Hill in Aberdares came up and I thought this was a good opportunity to test my readiness for Mt Kenya.
So, I did Elephant Hill and to say I struggled is an understatement — it was traumatic. It was the most challenging thing I have ever done. When I got back, I moved my gym workout session from one to two hours every day.
I only came to realise that hiking is not really about your fitness but mental strength. How resilient and determined you are is when your body is shocked by the high altitude.
So, on Mashujaa Day, I finally summitted Mt Kenya Lenana Peak. It was challenging but manageable. I did not curse why I opted for hiking like I did Elephant Hill.
Now, on the Mt Kenya hiking trip I came across an amazing story of breakthrough worth sharing. A few years ago, there was this slim porter who heavily loaded bags on his back and would move swiftly through the mountains. He was so good that he was nicknamed ‘Temboh’, meaning an Elephant. His skill made him quite popular and he later started getting requests from hikers, including foreigners, to organise their Mt Kenya hiking trips.
So he went out and established his own company that handles hiking trips and he moved from a porter to an employer. He took most of the fellow porters to work with him.
Today he organises hiking trips across the country and also around the region, including Mt Kilimanjaro and Rwenzori mountains. His real name is Chris, and he was the organiser and lead guide on our Mt Kenya hike. Many hikers know him as ‘Temboh’. The name seems to have stuck with him so much that he runs a shop that sells and hires hiking gear named ‘Temboh’.
We got to know Chris' story during the trip, and I found it an inspiration — one among the many amazing stories of the real hustlers silently breaking doors of breath through.
Now, I cannot go without talking about the Mt Kenya hiking trip.
The Chogoria route is quite scenic, with beautiful lakes, rivers — including rivers with underground outlets — waterfalls and caves. But I was stuck at the naming, like who exactly is Ellis that Lake Ellis is named after, or Michaelson that Lake Michaelson is named after?
One can't miss the heavy European presence in the expedition, so many European names all over the place that one would be forgiven for mistaking the park to be in Europe. Don't we have Kenyans whom we can name these places after?
Aside from that, I chatted with other hikers comparing Mt Kenya expedition with that of Mt Kilimanjaro. Even though Mt Kilimanjaro is higher than Mt Kenya, many who have done the two said Mt Kenya is tougher — steeper elevation. There are many foreign hikers who would want to do Mt Kenya but services inside the national park are poor compared to those in Kilimanjaro.
For example, available toilets at designated camping areas are very poorly maintained. In Kilimanjaro, they have built well-conditioned sleeping cabins, so hikers don't sleep in tents where there is a lot of cold. This should be easy for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to implement — they can simply lease the places to operators who can run good sleeping cabins.
Though KWS has leased Shipton camp, it’s quite underwhelming to be considered and hikers prefer sleeping in tents. So, KWS needs to look at how to improve services inside the national park and make the expedition much better.