Monday, July 4, 2011

Hell's Gate National Park

Me and the path through the park - yes I managed to wear both Carolina and Duke gear without spontaneous combustion

Amy and I took a much needed mental health day and took a two hour drive up to Hell's Gate National Park. This park is unique in that you can opt to bike the 8km to the Rangers station through the wildlife. Amy and I kept reassuring ourselves that if there were lions in this area they wouldn't willingly give tourists bikes and free reign of the place. That said, we saw plenty of wildlife and because we arrived early we were able to have the place to be the only visitors there. It was a very calm morning and I felt lucky to be able to be a part of nature in that sort of way. The bike was nothing luxurious but it wasn't a big safari vehicle and that made all the difference. It was really amazing to be so close to zebras, giraffes, warthogs, impalas, etc. without a metal cage all around us. We were able to stop and take pictures and meander through the park to the rangers station at the other side.
Zebra crossing in front of my favorite acacia tree
My sweeeeet ride - a too small bike stuck in first gear

Such a peaceful morning

Zebras and warthog parade

Can you see the giraffe?

A hike down into the gorge
When we got to the Rangers Station after 8 km of bouncing down the road, we were offered a chance for a two hour hike into the gorge. Although we were assured by the rangers that the hike was nothing to be afraid of, I was skeptical. The three other time I had been on "very easy" hikes in Africa they had turned into full-body clothes-destroying adventures. I warned Amy it would be more than a nature walk and we decided why  not, we were here. I guess correctly and at points we were hiking down vertical slabs of wet limestone (with the assistance of our tour guide George) and at another point I was shimmying parallel to the ground over a small stream. The biggest accomplishment was that I only fell once. It was a beautiful trek through the limestone that is continuously being eroded away. There were warning signs of flash floods throughout and George told us just a few days ago he had to usher 75 school kids as quick as possible out of the gorge because of imminent disaster. This is also apparently the gorge where they filmed Tomb Raider in 1992. The Gorge is not part of the national park but instead is on Maasai land. This was apparent when we saw a young Maasai boy herding his goats up and down the steep slopes of the gorge. There has been a drought in this area for the past two years resulting in more and more animals migrating towards the little water inside of the gorge. This includes large buffalo who have fallen into the gorge attempting to find food.

Our trusty tour guide, George, washes his hands in the hot springs

The green is from the algae caused by the hot springs

Amy and I 

Who knew we were so close to the chaos of Nairobi?

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