I didnt set the alarm because I always wake up at the crack of dawn however imagine my panic when I woke at 750am! I was ready by 8.05 having grabbed very unelegantly a couple of cooked sausages, a grilled tomoato and stuffed them inbetween a couple of slices of toasted bread, downed a juice and collected my packed lunch. We stopped off at the ATM and I picked up some cash and then drove via Naivasha town as Moses needed petrol and all the stations seemed to be empty. We eventually got some and picked up lots of water and eventually got to the gate of Mount Longonot.
The walk up was surprisingly challenging. Every now and then there would be a steep bit where we had to clamber over and up the rocks. We had lots of stops as I could feel my heart racing trying to adjust to a very quick altitude change. I believe the top of the crater is 2,800m (more or less) and it took me 2 hours. The last bit was particularly difficult but I was determined to make it partly because after we had started, we were overtaken by a party of school boys (about 18 years old) who were on a trip from Western Kenya. They were like mountain goats, running up and doing the summit in 1 hour, many of them carrying their school shoes (not wanting to ruin them) and doing it barefoot! The only good thing was that their two teachers gave up half way up which helped reassure me that it was tough! I had a chat with them and told them why I was in Kenya and they were very keen to start up their own gap year programme. The main teacher, Seth, was clearly very bright and saw the whole scenario immediately. We exchanged addresses and I said that once I had the first project filled, I would contact him and maybe come back next year.
Reaching the top, there was this unexpected spectacular view of the crater of the volcano, overgrown with greenery and a track that you could take around the top of the crater. Joseph thought it would take me about 2 hours to do and didn’t encourage it. It looked even more challenging and I think if I were to go back, I woud allow time to do that too. Having said that, the descent was just as challenging especially over the steep bits. I got back to my hotel exhausted and feeling very good to have done it.
I shared my packed lunch with Joseph as he did not appear to have brought anything with him (apart from a camel on his back – you know, the kind full of water). Kraft cheese and tomato sandwiches (disgusting!), a leg of chicken, a boiled egg, some water melon (I had already given this to Moses), some biscuits and a carton drink.
On the way up, Joseph pointed out the sage bushes with their cotton-wool like flowers and the whistling acacia trees. These were quite special because each one had a colony of ants that lived on the tree, piercing the fruit (to allow the seeds to propagate) but also protecting the tree from predators. If anyone touches the tree, suddenly all the ants appear and bite them to bits. Also, there is a lovely wind on Mount Longonot and consequently it blows into the holes of the fruits and makes a whistling sound – hence the name – Whistling Acacia Tree.
Joseph seemed to have a history with the British Army. I am not sure whether he was trained by them or he was the trainer but he says they continue to visit the area and engage his services in particular to do absailing (in the crater on Mount Longonot) and also rockclimbing at Hells Gate.
Whilst we were on the mountain, Joseph had a little crisis on his mobile phone. In Kenya the vast majority of Kenyans use M-pesa to transfer money and pay bills. There are lots of places in the villages where you can go in and deposit some money into your M-pesa account (which you have already set up) and then when you want to pay someone or a bill, you can do it via your mobile phone. It sounds a wonderful system although they dont get any interest on monies kept in their account but it only costs 25 Kenyan shillings to make a withdrawal. His mother needed 2,000 kenyan shillings and he was trying to send it to her and for some reason it wasn’t working. This is something I need to investigate for the gap year students because if they are allowed to have an account, it might be an easier way of getting hold of money if there isn’t a hole in the wall nearby. Also, according to Joseph, there is less chance of fraud.
Then he had another crisis as his sister has fibroids and needed to go into hospital the next day to see the consultant and decide on whether to have an operation now (£2,000) and decide on removing the fibroids (which might grow back) or have a histerectomy and no more childen.
His phone rung constantly. Apparently he owes his sister big time as she paid for his education because she has a good job working for one of the 50 flower growers (who will pay for her operation). Joseph is paying for 2 of his brothers to go to school. The Masai family ties are very strong.
In the afternoon, I sat out by the pool too tired even to swim and it started to rain so I kept under the umbrella and sorted out my photos. I kept hearing a rustling in the trees behind me and then something jumped onto the umbrella. I quickly gathered up all my bits as this cheeky monkey eyed me up to see what it could steal. It then bolted off to join another monkey in the garden. The gardens here are full of lovely birds including a peacock and you can hear the hippos in the lake…
At dinner I decided to try the Masai Mara Steak – it came with a slice of Kraft cheese, tomato, the same greens I have had with every meal so far – obviously in season- and I felt very bloated after eating it.
Full details on the Kenya placement, our sports coaching, teaching and orphanage placements in South Africa and our teaching, orphanage, building renovation (july), community centre and women’s empowerment placements in India can be seen on http://www.volunteervacations.co.uk . Tel: 0044 1483 331551/0044 7833 208 158 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org