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A walk through hell

Wiser men than myself have said that travelling opens our eyes to things bigger than oneself, and even a higher appreciation for God’s handiwork. If that’s your need, then you’re spoiled for choice for the world is full of natural phenomena to make you question your understanding of life and appreciate the little things it has to offer. But you need not go far.

Kenya is one of the most blessed countries with some of the best attractions, one being the Hell’s Gate National Park. Located in Naivasha, about 100 kilometres from Nairobi, Hell’s Gate is a breath-taking gorge in the Great Rift Valley, which according to geologists, carved out of the earth over 200 years ago. As our ever-smiling guide, James Kibet explained, a lava eruption caused deaths of countless people, mostly from the Maa community, who thereafter named the area Elmenger, loosely translated to mean hell.

Over the years, rainwater has carved into the earth a grand 20-kilometre long gorge. A hike at this marvelling piece of creation is best attempted in the morning hours, just before it gets hot as hell.

You have an option of attempting the full 20-kilometre walk in the gorge, or more wisely still, the more practical and most popular six-kilometre walk that ends in the ‘Devil’s Bedroom’, a spot used in a scene of popular Hollywood action film, Tomb Raider, which starred Angelina Jolie. Before that though, you start off with a game drive.

Hell’s Gate is home to the buffalo, warthog, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle, impala and even supremely majestic giraffe. The only large cat is the nocturnal leopard, so all the best trying to get a glimpse of one.

Our first stop was the Fischer’s Peak, a rock formation jutting out from the earth that doubles up as a challenge obstacle for rock climbers. This allows a wonderful photo opportunity with the gorge escarpments beautifying the background.

There were two more scenic rock-climbing spots before we got to the main gorge. At some points as we walked in, it felt like the navel of the earth, with hot water gushing out of the rock sides. You can wash your face of the accumulated dust, but don’t drink it. The hot steam is captured upstream at the Olkaria Geothermal plant to produce power and a bathing spa if you want to take a dip after the walk.

The bus, parked next to a small curio market, was conveniently waiting for us at the end of the final steep and dusty ascent up the sides of the gorge, from where we could make out the ‘Pride Rock’.

Apparently the producers of the animated Hollywood movie, Lion King, came to Africa scouting for some inspiration, and Pride Rock was the highlight that made it into the movie.

I was stolen away when Kibet told me of a spot where I could take a closer view of the famous photogenic rock. Unfortunately, my shutterbug skills didn’t do it justice. To access the park, adults have to pay Sh350 and Sh250 for children, with the best part being that it’s a world-class attraction site just an hour and half’s drive from the capital.

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