A hilly defiance

 NJANGE MAINA

If you believe that hiking a mountain makes a saint equal to a sinner, then try to do a 30-kilometre hilly stretch and see if your soul gets better. Those were my exact thoughts before attempting the Namuncha-Ndeiya hills stretch two weekends ago. The hills range all the way from Mai Mahiu in Nakuru county to Ndeiya in Kiambu county. With Summit Seekers, the hiking experience was quite different from what I expected.

It was my first time to hike with a professional group. I packed a light back weight with a few fruits, three litres of water, food and a few other essentials and set myself for the hike. “It’s going to be a hard hike, the difficult level is…hard,” the instructor kept on reminding me on phone, days to the hike. At 6:45 in the morning, we left Oil Libya on Waiyaki Way in Nairobi headed to Mai Mahiu.

During the morning drive, with majority of the people being total strangers, everyone retreated to their comfortable seats in the van for a nap. After an hour’s drive on the busy Mai Mahiu-Naivasha highway, we diverted onto a murram road and stopped at the feet of Namuncha hills where we alighted.

Before taking the dusty murram road, we engaged ourselves in a light warm-up exercise in readiness to tackle the daring sun and hills. Of the 15-strong fun seekers, we had three local guides distributed evenly for the fast, medium and slow pacers.

In the beginning, I had written-off the slow pacers as just a bunch of lazy jokers. But woe unto me. I was to later learn that there’s no way you can dare the hills with long strides because they will over-flex your muscles and you can get all tired out fast.

Two tiny antelopes crisscrossed our path and dived into a bush before even our swift and able photographer, Pablo, could press the snap button. Human settlement and encroachment in the Namuncha hills has greatly affected the population of wildlife around the hills, with the numbers falling drastically. At the base of the hill, green creeping plants meander their way and covered much of the soil.

The best way to beat the hills is to approach them from the slightest slope; so, we had to spiral our way around the slopes and up the hills, to save on calories. The golden sunrays gave life to the vegetation that had battled little rainfall and dry soil to stay green.

After about three hours of walk and talk, the hills suddenly became steeper than before. We decided to take the bull by its horns by undertaking a perpendicular ascension. By every altitude we gained, I got even wearier. The elevation was high, which made me somewhat meander to save some energy. High school physics lessons served me a great deal.

Walking to the top hill of Namuncha is no mere joke; luxuriant cacti (of the cactus plant family) with succulent stems dared every miss-step. At some point during the energy-sucking hike, I stepped on a loose stone that made me to lose balance, landing on a cactus plant with a thud!

The sharp pricky thorns pierced me with a dose of stability and the pain made me regain my upright posture within seconds. It was a painful experience to say the least. At noon, the sun was directly overhead and it posed as our newest threat.

I tried looking for some shade under short perennial plants that grew amongst rocks, but the heat from the sun was still a threat. After covering about two thirds of the hill, we had now subdivided into three groups with about a mile apart.

However, the distance between the groups narrowed slowly as we neared the peak of the first hill. On the hill, I felt exhausted and hungry, but glad to make it to the top; the joy of every hiker. At the top, the pygmy shrubs could not make shade out of their thin canopy.

After about an hour’s rest, we were all set for the downhill. Again, we were fewer than we had started. As we learnt, a colleague developed blisters and a guide, plus a few other people, had to be left behind to administer first aid.

We took the trail, closely following the guide, sure not to lose his track or else we bushwhack. Going off-trail in a hill can lead to great danger. As we neared the foot, relieve was all over people’s faces. We opened small conversations to share our joy.

The whole of Ndeiya was now in view. I saw goat and sheep herds, with bells hanging loosely around every leader of each group’s neck, obviously to notify other members of the herd of his whereabouts.

We passed several villages as we neared the market to an awaiting bus. When the bus came to view, my Spanish friend Pablo shouted, “Si lo hiciomos, we made it yeah!” We had covered 30 kilometres with a score time of slightly over 10 hours.

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