When you think of Nyeri, the picture of the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya come to mind. That and the surrounding wildlife conservancies. The mountain which for years has been viewed as sacred has glaciers, endangered species of animals, lakes and tarns.
Mt Kenya, the tallest mountain in Kenya, only second to Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, has offered a thrilling experience for mountain climbers.
Hundreds of hikers, if not thousands have dared to scale its three peaks; Nelion, Lenana and Batian, the latter being the highest.
It is this mountaineering spirit that gave birth to Naro Moru River Lodge. Set amidst a small forest with a variety of trees and a river cutting cross it, the lodge has since the pre-colonial period offered the best starting point for mountain climbers. The hotel is full of colonial charm from the dining rooms, to the furniture and the cottages.
But it is the t-shirts and colourful flags pinned on the wooden walls and some hangings on the ceiling that stand out.
The lodge situated at the foot of Mt Kenya was built in the 1940s after the famous explorer discovered the shortest route to Lenana, a peak on the second highest mountain in Africa.
This is the drill. Once you conquer the mountain and return to the lodge, you inscribe on either a t-shirt or your country flag your experience hiking the mountain. It could be how you felt trekking, the feeling at the peak and soul searching moments.
Edward Wangeci, the hotel’s general manager, says this has inspired guests who had no intention to climb the mountain to sign up for the adventurous and inspiring journey.
“We have had guest who admire the writings on the wall and desire a similar experience. We do not want people to climb the mountain and their presence here is forgotten, it should be preserved,” he says.
Sitting on the comfy wooden chairs outside, you will see monkeys swinging on trees and others scurrying past the beautiful lawns. You can pick a spot near the river and unwind while enjoying a good read or simply listening to music.
For birdwatchers, the natural habit attracts various species crowned hornbill, Abyssinian ground thrush, Tacazze Sunbird, Montane White-eye, Black and White Manikin, silvery-cheeked hornbill, and the red-fronted parrot.
Nature walks, cycling, and fishing from the riverbank are some of the activities, guests can engage in during their stay. The outdoor swimming pool offers a spectacular view of Mt Kenya.
The hotel has blended modern and traditional elements, to give guests a home feeling. The unique rustic furniture in the rooms blends well with the natural environment.
The hotel has several cottages, standard and deluxe rooms, country home and bunkhouse. Colourful Kenyan paintings form part of the décor in the rooms. Guests at the country home and bunkhouse can private barbecue and parking space.
The cottages also have a private parking with a garden that has a picnic table and benches overlooking the stream.
If one wants to enjoy a night at the famous Mackinders camp, which is located at 4,200 metres on your way to Mt Kenya’s Lenana Point, the hotel is your surest bet.
Charity organisations have raised funds to fight various diseases among them cancer by rallying adventure lovers to explore the mountain itself.
These adventures have been preserved at the hotel in form of t-shirts. Mr Wangeci notes that the t-shirts are a testimony of the many people who have conquered the mountain
“We have the best team of potters and guides that can take you to point Lenana. We have reported 90 per cent success rate in taking individuals and groups to the peaks,” he brags.
Notable guests who have pinned their t-shirts on the wall include veteran politician Kenneth Matiba who also happens to have a stake in the ownership of the lodge. He has conquered the mountain at least 18 times and even made an unsuccessful attempt to climb Mt Everest.
The youngest mountaineer that the hotel has interacted with was a nine-year-old while 84-year-old Naigzy Gebremedhin has been the oldest.
Gebremedhin, a hiking and mountaineering enthusiast recently completed a 35km hike earlier this year in honour of his long-time, friend Matiba.
Mr Wangeci who has climbed the mountain twice says that the notion that only physically fit people can climb the Mt Kenya is false.
“It is really not about your body fitness though it plays part but is about your mental well-being. If you are excited about the hike and positive about the hurdles to you will not give up,” he says.