If you are in Nairobi with no weekend plans and you like to hike, Mount Longonot might be the place to go. The mountain will give you a chance to enjoy the pleasures of hiking a stone’s throw away from the city – not more than a 100 KM or about an hour’s drive.
While staying in Kenya I went to Mount Longonot 3 times and had fun each time and on each occasion convinced myself that this would be my last climb but it is always hard once you get hooked. A piece of advice though, do not do it during the rainy season otherwise brace yourself for a really bad surprise at the top – when you get caught in the heavy rain and strong winds and there is no place to take cover!
The climb to Mount Longonot is quite a hard one. Despite the distance from the gate to the summit being less than 6 KM, it took me almost 3 hours to the crater rim and 1 hour more to circle the crater and then make it to summit – nearly 2 hours outside the park record of 1 hour 20 minutes set by some guy called Jones. Jones’ record is conspicuously displayed at the entrance to the Mount Longonot National Park. I wonder whether he really had the time to appreciate the views while rushing to the top!
The Mount Longonot hike usually has 3 big milestones that are supposed to motivate you to keep going each time you finish one. The first is to reach the gazebo in the slope of the volcano; the second is to reach the crater rim and finally scale the 2,780 M summit.
In the first leg, from the gate to the gazebo, we could see some wild animals at a distance walking around the Savannah. We spotted some Giraffes, Zebras and Antelopes. Climbing from the Gazebo to the rim is a good challenge while the view of the surrounding landscape gets ever more beautiful urging you further up for more. You may come across other teams coming down after scaling the summit and they urge you on with words such as, “go on, you are almost there”, encouraging you on.
Upon reaching the crater, rim you get the first glimpse of the sheer size of the crater and looking around you can see, far in the distance, the great landscape of the Rift Valley and not too far, Lake Naivasha. There is dense vegetation inside the crater. Some smoke rising from the ground marks signs of volcanic activity although the last known eruption occurred more than 100 years ago in 1860.
At this point I would like to give you a quick tip I learnt – if you circle the crater clockwise, it makes your return journey from the summit much easier. One hour later we reached the summit and quickly pulled out our cameras for the usual summit photos taken close to the milestone mark so we can show proof of having conquered the Longonot for posterity’s sake and of course to share with our friends on FaceBook.
I was surprised that I could post to FaceBook from the top of the summit. Amazing enough, there is mobile coverage. After all the photos were taken, we paused to take in the amazing views of the crater.
It is an impressive sight to see and when you imagine what force was behind the moving of all the tonnes of rock and earth to form that big hole, you begin to appreciate the power of Mother Earth which is followed by the feeling of how small we are in this big scheme of the universe.
On our way back from the summit we struck another bonus. The view of the secondary crater which is much smaller than the primary one has this unique shape that gives one a sort of an out-of-the-earth view as if from Mars or some other planet in a sci-fi film.
At one point we had to change course to move away from the path of a nest of bees. It was with surprise that I learnt months later that a group of young people fell in the crater probably running from the bees.
After a hard climb like that one, there was nothing better than a good lunch of nyama choma with ugali and sukuma wiki at a restaurant just outside the park gate. While in the bus, we passed a few children playing and the temptation for a few photos of them dressed in their Sunday suits and dresses was irresistible.
We arrived in Nairobi just in time for me to capture one of my best photos ever – that golden-orange tone of an African sunset! Sunsets in Africa are something special!