03 September 2009

“Tumbled over rim in roundy wells / Stones ring”

Hopkins seemed to find his way into my thoughts as I finally made it to the top of of Mt. Longonot.  The extinct volcano ran round in a way that could only be summed up within Hopkins “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.”  Not really his intent for the lines, but the fact that they came to mind first made them right for my experience.

Setting off at 7:30, we drove from the retreat center in Karen to Mt. Longonot.  Set amidst the Rift Valley and just south of Lake Naivasha, the two hour ride was enjoyable as we drove along the hills next to the valley and finally into the valley itself to the volcano.  A short drive off the paved road brought us to the park entrance.  With a little bit of deliberation over our residency permits, we were permitted access at the resident rate (which is about $6 vs. $20 for non-residents).

The first few steps yielded immediate rewards as we spotted a group of zebras standing twenty or so yards in front of us and directly next to the path.  With some pictures recorded the hike continued.  Having not even reached the first hill, we were forced to stop again to look at the giraffes in the distance.  Michael, with his super-zoom telescopic Hubble lens, allowed for us to move from hundreds of yards away to within twenty feet in a matter of seconds.  With memory cards filled with images of wild animals, we began the first ascent in good spirits.

As with any hike, the beginning is filled with energy and excitement for what is to come.  Thoughts of the top filled our minds.  The promise of a volcano with a view of the Rift Valley was impossible to forget.  Steps upward moved us closer to our goal.  We scrambled up the first hill, fatigue no real factor when so concerned with the top.  A bit of flat some rest to the legs before the second climb.  Not particularly long, the climb seemed to be an easy one at this point.

Then we hit the sand.  As if someone had just filled the slope with cat litter, we walked upwards with little progress made on each step.  A full step was reduced at least 50% by the loose sand beneath.  What could have been a moderate hill became twice as hard as more energy was needed to climb.  Resorting to all fours was useless as there was nothing for hands to grip.  As we struggled up the incline of sand, we were watched by a second group of Zebras.  As if they were judging us with their incessant looks, we decided that they did not like us.

With the hill working against us and Zebras filled with scorn, we enjoyed a second flat section before the final push to the top.  Do not worry, there were more Zebras to watch.  Climbing resumed and hateful eyes persisted.  Two more groups stared at the silly trio trying to make it to the top.  Finally making it to the top, we relaxed.

Although the top was nice, the descent was most fun.  With sliding sand, I dashed ahead back to the bottom.  Michael and Sue saw no reason to rush, but I could not resist using the soft surface as a reason to dash down.  The hardest part on the way up became my playground as I leapt downward with great bounds towards the bottom.  Happy and covered in dust, I washed up and had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.

Back in the car we set off for Hell’s Gate National Park.  It was here that the day became fare more fun and we managed to be stranded for two hours. . .