This was a day from Hell. Literally.
We arrived at Fisherman’s Camp, just outside Hell’s Gate after leaving Nairobi. It’s a great campsite, with lots of space. We met up with a German couple that we had met in Nairobi the day before and went for a boat ride – as an aside Julian is the biggest German we’ve ever met.
The boatride was great, we saw buffalo, birds and baited a couple of fish eagles…
But it was after the boat ride that the fateful event occurred. If you know us well, you will know that I don’t cycle and one of the worst days of my life was Christmas day 2 years ago when Alex and I decided to cycle Zanzibar with the East African Mountain Biking Champion. It did not go well and I swore never to do anything remotely similar again.
Well, enter the German couple, some persuasive arguments and some horribly false information with the end result that at 6am the following morning I was on a bicycle in the freezing cold, pedalling towards Hell’s Gate National Park to fulfill a bucket list wish for Dean.
At Hell’s Gate you are encouraged to hire a bicycle and cycle through. What they don’t tell you is that the bicycle seats that they rent you are recycled (geddit??) instruments of torture. By the time I had reached the gate I was already in tears (5km from the camp) and an hour after that we were all in agony. We decided (and by that I do not mean me) to do the longer route and from the longer route to do an additional detour (to find a cave that doesn’t exist) through thick sand up a mountain. Alex and I were not coping (but mostly me), so we turned back after being lost by the others who were cycling ahead like little mountain-biker-ninjas.
To try an weigh down some of Dean’s enthusiasm we gave him the backpack with 3.5 litres of water, binos, birdbook and food – all in all about 7kg’s worth of weight.
After the others had lost us, and we had ditched our bikes for the extra detour portion, we had more time to look around us and while there was just the two of us, walking, we identified lion, leopard and hyena spoor. Unsurprisingly we walked a little quicker and retrieved our bikes post-haste.
Once back on our bikes, and still a little nervous, we cycled along with giraffe, antelope and zebra running along and ahead of us. It was as though they were being chased, although we later decided that they were likely running away from us. Spectacular stuff!
Our logic was to meet the other cyclists at the end of the park where there is a gorge (the inspiration for Pride Rock in the Lion King.) And where they filmed Tomb Raider. But, unbeknownst to us, Dean was freaking out, cycling backwards and forwards like a madman trying to find us in the BAKING heat, with his HEAVY backpack, seriously UNCOMFORTABLE bike riding through DEEP sand tracks. So, long story short, the others never made it to the gorge, but turned back to the campsite to try and find us there.
Poor Dean cycled as if our lives depended on it, packed up the car, and came to find us while we were lying half-dead at the picnic site waiting for them. Eventually, thanks to some lovely rangers, a safari van and a 2 way radio it was all sorted out and Dean picked us up in the middle of the park. The plan was to now go back to the campsite, have some lunch, go for a snooze and go back into the park later in the day. Well, that was the plan until we got to the exit gate and they wouldn’t let us re-enter the park later. We had to stay in all day.
So, in to 40 degree heat, we went back into the park to wait for the late afternoon to take a walk through the gorge.
At 2:30pm we eventually ate breakfast and lunch (when Dean disappeared earlier he took with him the water, food, binos, wallet and car keys) which left us with a camera and very few options!
Once Dean had found us, Alex laughed for the rest of the afternoon, Dean drank sugary drinks and I lay down until it was time to go walking.
With all of our muscles shrieking indignantly at the abuse, we went for the gorge walk which was TOTALLY worth it and made the whole ordeal worthwhile!
The funny thing is that sometimes going through these awful experiences is so enjoyable because you get to remark endlessly (and by that I mean complain) at how awful it all is. It is strangely satisfying.
So, to summarise, we had an AWESOME day in the park! Really, really! Thanks Dean, Alex, Julian and Viktoria – it was an AWESOME ADVENTURE!
On the way to Nairobi we stopped to have a look at the beautiful flamingos!