Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Long Walk

After an early rise and a substantial breakfast, we repack and set out again on the Sirimon Trail for, Guide Benson tells us, a "long day." He is not wrong. But the longest day is still to come.

We start our journey in a circle, with prayer. It is great to be united in faith in our common Savior. Or two guides, Benson and Joshua, are volunteer pastors in their congregations in Nairobi. This is how they support themselves and their families.

Today's hike is 17km, mainly up. We trudge through a boggy marshland shrouded in mist. It seems endless as we slosh and splash through mud and peat and rocky streams. Drizzle comes and goes with the clouds that kiss the mountain continuously. We long for it to clear so we can see this mountain we have traveled so far to see.

Finally, after about four hours, the veil is lifted. The mountain is magnificent, stretching in all directions. But this is still the base of the mountain; the peaks are hidden from us by the valley we are in.

We start to notice more around us. The Alpine vegetation is unique, the valley cliffs, majestic.

On the path we spy some hyena scat. Josh, who has trekked this mountain for 30+ years, explains that the hyenas like to follow hikers. To them, swinging arms look like loose pieces of flesh about to fall off. Hyenas are very hard to spot, however; when they see you turn to look, they quickly disappear behind a bush.

On a roll, Josh explains how to evade other animals that live in the mountain. If attacked by a buffalo (the most dangerous of all animals), you are to run as fast as possible. If unable to escape, you are to lay down and pretend to sleep. Then the buffalo will lick you, trying to wake you up to stomp on you or gore you. Remain asleep until the buffalo goes away.

Elephants have sensitive trunks that do not like the feel of human skin. If you are clothed, they will pick you up, throw you and stomp on you. Take off all your clothes, and you will be fine, if a little self-conscious.

After absorbing this very practical jungle lore, we make our final climb to Shipton Camp. Above us, in the clouds, is Mount Kenya's Lenana peak. A little drier and warmer than the previous evening, we go to bed early in preparation for our 2am rise for the final accent.