We continue our budget backpacking trip through Kenya with none other than a do-it-yourself bicycle safari through one of Africa’s most dramatic, and most endangered, landscapes.
We spent nine days in Kenya as part of a four-month backpacking trip through Southern and Eastern Africa. We spent three days around Lake Naivasha in November before heading on to Uganda for our final leg of the journey.
When Lori first told me that there was a National Park in Kenya that you could RIDE YOUR BIKE THROUGH, I was sold. Never mind the fact that Hells Gate N.P. is also home to numerous free-roaming baboons, jackals, hyena, African buffalo, zebra, leopards, and even lion — there was no turning back. Man, I love this country.
The 75-foot Fischer’s Tower (above) welcomes bicyclists as you enter the park. It took us about 30 minutes to ride the 6 km (~4 miles) of mostly gravel road from Camp Carnelley on Lake Naivasha to this point, via Elsa Gate (the Main Gate). Despite being fairly warm and dusty, it was a pleasant ride nonetheless. There are bike rental “shops” at where the road to the park meets the main road, but we opted to rent our bikes from Camp Carnelley’s so that we wouldn’t have to walk to the turnoff and because we had been told by other travelers that their bikes were generally better — and in our case, they were.
Fortunately, there aren’t too many hills in the park, with the very obvious exception of the long, gradual incline on the way back–you are descending into a gorge, after all–but we’ll get to that.
While most of the residents of Hells Gate aren’t that unique from what we saw at Addo (minus the elephants, of course), it is a truly unique and humbling experience to be able to ride through the park free from the trappings of steel and glass. The one thing Lori really wanted to see in the wild that she hadn’t was a giraffe. We did indeed manage to catch a fleeting glimpse of one far off in the distance–far from the multitudes I had encountered in Murchison years before.
There also happen to be over a hundred species of birds in the park, but we found you really have to have a good eye and a lot of patience to catch a glimpse of more than a few. Fortunately, Lori had sharpened her skills in Naivasha and was at the top of her game.
And then there were the baboons.
When we arrived at the picnic site and entrance to the Ol Njorowa (Lower) Gorge, it began to rain. We checked in with the park guides to see when the next guided tour of the gorge was happening and we agreed upon 30 minutes…just enough time to eat our sack lunch and get harassed by the many resident baboons of the area. For those of you who are familiar with these guys, sharing space with hungry, brazen and irritable baboons (when are they not!?) is never an enjoyable experience. If any of you out there ever invented a baboon repellent lotion, I’d be your biggest fan.
“BE AWARE” OF THE BABOONS.
TO BE CONTINUED…