Its difficult to explain the power of an idea. It dwells in our consciousness; sometimes relegated, sometimes ignored, but never forgotten. Ever present in the back of our minds, dominating our thoughts whenever we we have a moment to day dream.
I first saw a photo of Mount Ololokwe about 12 years ago and my imagination was instantly captured by this massive mountain emerging seemingly out of nowhere from the desert plains. In many of my travels such as during my elephant encounter in Samburu, and a most relaxing trip to Sera Conservancy among many more, she seemed to continually taunt me and was a constant reminder of the promise I once made to myself.
I had to spend a night atop this mountain.
Mount Ololokwe (known as Ol Donyo Sabache) is located on Namunyak Conservancy in Samburu East. Namunyak was formed in 1995 and today it consists of 6 group ranches covering an area of 394,000 hectares with a population of approximately 13,000 people. The mountain rises out of the Samburu plains and is around 2000 ASL at its highest point.
This mountain is one of the easiest to access in Northern Kenya. It is only 1 1/2 hrs from Nanyuki, the same from Meru and only 45min from Isiolo Town.
The A2 passes just below the mountain so its easy to get to the mountain using public transport. No 4WD required, cars, motorcycles even a bicycle will get you there. However I recommend a night at either Nanyuki or Isiolo for a very early start otherwise you’ll be making your climb in heat like you’ve never known before.
Surprise, surprise, on arrival at the junction of the Archers Post – Baragoi Road where we were to meet our guide there was no sign of him. After 2hrs of driving up and down and been bounced around by the Namunyak management, it turns out our guide was already on the mountain with other guests! So no guide, none of the donkeys we had organized, no nothing. Now what?
We were finally directed to Sabache Camp, located at the foot of the mountain, where we were finally able to rustle up 5 porters and an armed guide to take us up the mountain. Due to the lack of donkeys we had to jettison alot of the stuff we had carried and repack everything. In hindsight we probably should have given more importance to such frivolous items such as food, water and shelter.
As this is a route not often used our climb started with having to clear some bush from the path up. Right at this point, Okei the guide warned us not to sit down on a particular rock as there was a massive snake under it, what a start.
Its a long, steep very twisty climb. Most of the trails up the mountain are old elephant trails and are also used by cattle driven up towards the permanent springs at the top. The porters irritatingly don’t feel it, they bounced on ahead with all our luggage chatting away. About 2 hours of a hard hot climb (for me anyway) we began to get glimpses of what we were working towards.
I’m finding the climb difficult. Due to the delay in in getting ourselves organized after the letdown we are climbing during high noon (thanks Namunyak!). Luckily except for a few clearings like the one above alot of the climb up is bushy and as such affords some shade. We make numerous stops for rest and water. After about 3hrs of we finally make it to the top of the mountain. But its not over yet, we need to walk about another 30min along the plateau to the campsite. The plateau is really large at the top, with forests and grassy plains leading to large granite slabs at the edges.
Aaaand we’ve made it. The campsite we used was located just at the cliffs edge of the mountain. These photos do the view no justice, looking out over Sera and Kalama conservancies and on a clear day as far as the Merti Plateau.
The entire afternoon we are treated to a dance of rain showers passing the plains below.
A different view of the campsite. As you can see there is a shaded area right behind the tents. There is another camping spot about 200m behind this one higher up on the cliff edge but I didn’t take the time to visit it.
It should be noted that there are no facilities at on the mountain. You must carry all your food, water and shelter. If possible toilets should be dug and covered.
The famous cat and mouse rock formation of Samburu, known to the locals as Nkadoru Murto . Maybe worth a visit another time?
Telecommunication masts below us, there are engineers who live here on a rotational basis. Definitely not the worst office to wake up to.
As evening falls natures beautiful display continues. Almost time for dinner, it is at this point we realize someone (N) has brought the wrong gas bottle- stove combination. What joy.
The First Evening.
The first drops of rain start to fall at 7pm. In ten minutes the it is a fully fledged storm, thunder and lightning threaten to crack open the sky. I first notice my tent floor begin to leak at at 730pm. By 8pm water is practically gushing in through the floor. Over the noise of the torrential rain I don’t know how my travel mates or the guide are. Shouting is impossible. At one point I honestly believe I will be struck by lightning, the flashes light up the inside of my tent and are are only 5min apart. I am drenched through, same with my mattress and sleeping bag, I have to build up an ‘island’ in my tent so as not to lie in water. This is when I realize that I cant find half my food. I have a dinner of some biscuits and juice. I cant sleep, I’m too cold……..
End of Part 1, click here for Part 2.