Hiking Mount Longonot
The most phenomenal part of the hike is seeing lake Naivasha on your right side, from where you came, and seeing the volcano crater expanding out on your left. It’s like you’re on a tightrope between two magnificent views, and you often can’t choose which way to look.
You wake up at 5 AM (yikes) to catch a bodaboda to the base of the trailhead. You’re joined by Ottilia, Elizabeth, and Sasha. Although you’re groggy when you pack your hiking bag, your face lights up when you see the boda boda light up. The driver, wearing a full-on winter jacket, pimped his ride with flashing pink, green, and yellow lights. It’s the only thing you see as you hit the dirt path towards Mount Longmont because it’s still dark out, apart from those lights.
One thing about bodaboda drivers that will probably never cease to amaze you is how they know the shortcuts through fields, under fences, and over railroad tracks to get to where they want to go. Since Sasha is more nervous about motorbikes than you are, she sits between you and Daniel, the bodaboda-ista, which means you have the luxury of sitting on the metal grates behind her. Nice.
40 minutes later, you’re at the gate and ready to start your hike. On the way there you were worried it might not be open on Sundays, because of course you didn’t check yesterday when it would have been appropriate, but it’s open and you’re golden. You pay the international conservation fee of $27 ($3 for Kenyans) before heading up. The sun is rising as you walk, and the pink clouds give a nice rosy hue to the trees on either side.
You and Elizabeth are both avid hikers. Sasha and Ottilia are not. Although part of you feels like you should wait up, you are physically uncomfortable doing so because as soon as you stop moving your legs, your sweat attracts a chilly breeze that makes your teeth chatter. You continue, slowly but surely. Sasha and Ottilia think you’ve already reached the top after thirty minutes. You roll your eyes, informing them you’re maybe a third of the way up. At this point you look back and the view is already impressive. The rolling hills seem like they’ve been carved in place, like an ocean wave suddenly congealed to capture the impressive interface of slow movement. It’s a snapshot of geology. You can’t imagine what lies ahead.
The hike probably ranks in the middle-difficulty range of hikes you’ve done, considering the flat breaks between steep climbs, and the relatively mid-gain in altitude. The hike to the crater’s edge is uphill, of course, but only takes an hour to reach, so you assume most people could handle it. You work up a sweat, but you always work up a sweat, so that doesn’t mean much.
You’re welcomed to the top by thick fog. You are in a cloud, and can’t see into the crater. You hope the fog clears soon. Although you’re ready to continue right away, you all sit down for a snack. Sasha and Ottilia eat their sandwiches they packed for lunch. It is 7:30 AM. Oh boy.
When the fog does clear, what you see legitimately makes you gasp. The crater is so much deeper than you expected, and lined with a carpet of vivid green trees. It looks quite similar to Ecuador’s Quilotoa Lake, which is another crater-volcano-hike you did a few years ago. The difference is that Quilotoa is filled with a brilliant blue lake in the crater, and Longonot is full of trees. They’re different, and both magnificent.
The most phenomenal part of the hike is seeing lake Naivasha on your right side, from where you came, and seeing the volcano crater expanding out on your left. It’s like you’re on a tightrope between two magnificent views, and you often can’t choose which way to look. You’re glad that Elizabeth is able to see this before she has to head back down the mountain. Since she has to catch a bus in Nairobi at 1 PM to get back to the Maasai Mara on the only bus heading there, she has to skedaddle before making it all the way around.
You eat lunch at the highest point, next to the summit sign. You take great pleasure reflecting on the fact that you’re here to eat lunch. It seems wrong to eat unrefrigerated-two-day-old cheese slices when the view is so magnificent. You’re so happy Sasha and Ottilia are here to share the moment with you. Adventures are more fun when they can be shared.
You’re sad to see plastic water bottles and glucose wrappers strewn along the path every so often. It’s not hard to take back what you brought with you. You think about how difficult it would be to implement a garbage education program here, considering litter is strewn all over the streets. The trash on this natural hiking path is definitely not as bad as on the streets in the towns outside the park, of course. And nothing compared to roads you drove past in Bolivia. But still, the few water bottles are frustrating, especially considering the clear signs on the way up which say “no littering!” To be fair, Kenya did ban plastic bags recently, so that’s more than what can be said for Canada or the United States. You remember that Canada and the United States ship their garbage and recycling to countries like Kenya. Out of sight, out of mind? You decide you’re not in a place to judge the hikers who left the ten bottles you see on the route, considering the majority of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is produced by the countries you have passports from.
The hike takes 5 hours in its entirety. If it weren’t for Elizabeth having to leave early, you would not have left the house as early as you did, but now you are eternally grateful she came. On the final stretch down the ridge, you feel the sun’s rays burning your skin. It would have taken far longer to climb up and around in the heat.
You take a boda boda back to the house. You eat your avocado-tomato sandwich you prepared last night with an apple. Yum. The water is not running at all, so Morris (the guard?) brings you a bucket of water from his house. You heat it on the stove and it feels delightful to wash your body. Apart from the fact Sasha walks in on you completely naked, your shower is relaxing. You drink an instant coffee, and you, Sasha, and Ottilia basically eat the entirety of a peanut butter jar with a spoon.
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