My first contact with Ol Donyo Sabuk, was when I went there mountain hiking with a group and had the good luck to become friends with the ranger who invited me to stay for a weekend at his home.
It is while there I learnt of 2 new names – Ol Donyo Sabuk and Mcmillan. Ol Donyo Sabuk is a Maasai word which means ‘big mountain’. As for Mcmillan – well this was the name of Lord Mcmillan, the previous owner of a very big ranch that included the lands around the mountain and where now sit 5 towns!
Lord Mcmillan arrived in 1901 as a hunter of wild game. He was known to host very famous guests in his house such as the American president, Roosevelt and the British Prime Minister, Churchill.
Hiking the mountain presents a medium to high difficulty level. From the park gate to the top is an 8 KM walk. Most of it is done on a dirt road with amazing views. One of the views close to the top is that of the burial site of Mcmillan and his wife and dog.
According to the story, McMillan asked to be buried under a tree he loved, at the top of the Mountain. He would come here often to watch the spectacular sunsets that are an incredible site to watch even today.
Back then the dirt road did not exist and so his coffin had to be carried by a tractor that broke a couple of miles from the top and since it was impossible to carry it any further, he was buried, not at the top under his beloved tree, but nevertheless, in a place with one of the most amazing views.
We continued the hike to the top where we had a very relaxing time enjoying the view and a traditional Kenyan lunch that consisted of Kuku Choma (chicken barbecue) with Ugali, and of course we ate with our hands in a very traditional way!
Staying for a weekend gave me the chance to venture deeper into Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park and just before daybreak, while we were seated outside the house, we saw a troop of around a dozen monkeys approaching. I understand they come very close to the houses to look for food.
They came so near that I could get close-up photos of their facial expressions. The group of monkeys included some females with their young ones. It was funny to see how the mother carries her kids around the belly.
In the morning we were woken up by baboons jumping over our roof. I was too lazy to wake and so missed the photo opportunity! Next time I might be lucky!
Close to the park entrance are the Fourteen Falls which I have taken some spectacular photos of. The falls are one of the main tourist attractions around and attract foreigners and Kenyans alike.
But one of the most beautiful natural shows you would not want to miss is offered by Kenya’s second biggest river – the Athi. Besides taking great pictures here, you can engage in a range of fun activities.
Probably the most daring one is what they call ‘to go for an adventure’. Basically the idea is to cross to the other side of the 100 M wide river by using rocks planted by Mother Nature on the river bed, as a bridge. This is fairly possible when the water levels are low but it can be a dangerous venture during the rainy season.
In between the Fourteen Falls and the park is the Ol Donyo Sabuk town (or using the Kamba term – ‘Kilima mbogo’). Going to the town is another adventure. On Sunday, the town is a colourful affair of people coming from church, laughing and talking as they head to the local market and shops.
We went into town to look for petrol for the car and to our surprise there were no operating gas stations. We had to buy our fuel in a premise without any special sign to show it was a fuel station!
Finally after a lot of bargaining we got our fuel. While waiting for the car to be filled up, I found myself suddenly surrounded by little princesses in their Sunday bests. I guess they were attracted by my camera.
With their lovely and innocent smiles, they requested for their portraits to be taken and of course those of their friends. I was intrigued by their fascination as I showed them their own portraits trapped in a small screen on my camera.
That was a nice way to say goodbye to Ol Donyo Sabuk – with smiling impressions of those little ones in my camera and in my heart.