Trip to the gates of Hell

Zebras seen during the drive around the park

Some of the zebras we saw during the drive around the park

With its breathtaking landscape, fabulous camping sites and beautiful gorges, Hells Gate is one of those places which after a visit a promise is usually made to come back. I was delighted to learn that Satima had organized an overnight excursion to the Devil’s doorstep, and I was not disappointed.

We left last Saturday with a contingent of 16 men. Among us was Julian, an Uruguayan university student who is in Kenya for a Work Camp organized by the Strathmore University’s Community Outreach Program. Before embarking on our journey he gave a few of us a crash course on how to take good photographs (you might have noticed the exceptional quality of the photos accompanying this article – eheem).

Indeed we have a beautiful country, and I am always in awe when beholding the massive expanse of the Rift-Valley. It is always a breath of fresh air to leave our congested and polluted city to see the gorgeous landscape and I think the more I travel to the Rift, the more enchanting it becomes.

Julian 'poses' for a photo

Julian “poses” for a photo with a piece of Obsidian he picked up as Kevin looks on

Upon entry into the Hells Gate National Park, we were greeted by an array of grass eaters, from gazelles and zebras to warthogs. Some of us claimed to have spotted buffalos from a distance but others were of the view that they were Maasai cattle (I still think they were buffalos).

On arrival at the camping site we quickly pitched tent as the light of the sun was quickly being veiled by the dark of the night. A team of chefs was appointed with the mandate of making sure no one slept hungry, the Chief of them being Paul Mwiti. To my pleasant surprise, their work was not only edible, but the meal was quite sumptuous.

While having dinner cum get-together, we heard a roar from the pitch darkness, which made us freeze in shock. “It’s a lion”, was the verdict that was quickly passed as Oscar’s attempt to calm fears by reminding us that there were no lions in the park run futile. I think the imagination was the biggest lion out there that night, but that is subject to debate. Guys went to sleep with a small sense of security in the fact that the chance of being ‘hammered’ by a lion was 1 in 16.

A peep into the 'devil's bedroom'

A peep into the “Devil’s bedroom” as Luke signs on the wall: “I was here”

The dawn was as beautiful as the dusk had been, and we all woke up in excitement, eager to see the Devil’s bedroom. A witty remark was made before we embarked that the Devil had left early to go to work. Indeed he had, but the gorge was still treacherous without him.

The gorge was made by water flowing down to Lake Naivasha and it deepens every year with the rains. It is scaringly steep at some points and this makes it very easy for one to be swept away by water when it rains. The good news is that at some intervals there are escape routes up the steep walls in case of an emergency.

The earth yellow rocks through which the gorge passes make a walk through it very pleasant and the steep walls conspire with numerous trees to give much needed shade. We met a number of tourists visiting the place, but sadly all of them were foreigners. Kenyans don’t know the value of what they have and if you have never been there I am talking about you.

The "Devil's bedroom"

Within the confines of the imposing “Devil’s bedroom”

After about an hour’s walk we got to Hells Shower, and I assure you it is nothing less than a Jacuzzi. Steaming waters percolate through the rock on the sides of the gorge, trickling gently to the floor and flowing quietly away. Green algae have formed on the rock following the path that the hot water takes on its way down. Beautiful.

A little after this point there is a fork in the gorge, and one of the routes leads to a dead end. This is the Devil’s Bedroom. The floor keeps on being eroded by rainfall and the depth has grown by almost 2 meters in the last 2 years. A few years back the route continued on but now it’s a dead end because of 2 things: the continuous erosion which makes the walls steeper and a boulder in the middle of the gorge which doesn’t seem to get eroded. This has created a cave like structure at the end of that route.

Hells gate is also home to the Olkaria Power Station and we saw many geysers on our ride through the park. There seems to be a lot of volcanic activity in the Rift and this particular area is good for geothermal power generation.

Eliphas does a jig after a sumptuous lunch as Brian looks on in amusement

Eliphas does a jig after a sumptuous lunch as Brian looks on in amusement

We had lunch at the Lake Naivasha viewpoint. It is on a hill next to the Lake and from this point one can see the whole lake. Mt. Longonot was also visible before us (perhaps this should be the next excursion). We could see two floating objects from a distance on the lake which seemed to be fighting. Moses Mwangi was convinced they were hippos but some thought they were just logs floating on the water.

Crescent Island is also visible from this point. It forms a crescent on the lake in the shape of a boomerang and one of its edges connects with the mainland. On the main land below we could see humongous flower farms, the trade mark of Naivasha.

Lunch quickly passed and it was time to go home. Fatigued? Extremely. Fun? In plenty. Company? Enjoyed it? Mission? Accomplished.

by Peter Maina

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