After the equator we went for lunch at the Trout Tree Restaurant. I was here last year with the La Salle students and the food was amazing. You sit in tables set up on platforms in a large tree house, basically, and you're surrounded by monkeys in the trees. I think it was the best meal we've had by far and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. Several students got the chance to feed or hold the monkeys, too.
After a wonderful, filling lunch we headed for the river lodge. Naro Moru is located off the main highway on a dirt road, which I'm not sure really counts as a road. It's more a dusty field next to the railroad tracks with a beaten path. So, you follow this dusty road about one kilometer to the gates and suddenly you're transported into this lush, amazing tropical getaway.
Pretty much immediately upon arriving the whole group independently thought that two nights was not going to be enough. We'd managed to budget really well up until this point, so we were able to spontaneously decide to stay an extra day, which made everyone incredibly excited at the prospect of another full day of relaxation before heading off to our next academically focused task.
Tuesday we were up before dawn preparing for our hike of Mt. Kenya. We picked up our guide, Addison, from the Mt. Kenya Guide and Porters Club and proceeded to Met Station, approximately 3,000 meters above sea level. Before we began our hike, Addison assured us that the best way to ascend the mountain was at a slow and steady pace as a team and he was not mistaken! We started out around 9:30 and about 15 minutes in I wasn't sure I was going to make it. The altitude at the starting point already had me out of breath. We stopped multiple times along the route and Addison could not have been more patient and encouraging. He humored every stop and every photo op request we made. We reached Lenana point, 4,000 meters or 12,000 feet above sea level at 2:00pm. I realized after we got back to the hotel that I was so tired and out of it I didn't even take any real pictures from the top point of our hike! I had some minor altitude sickness and felt dizzy, nauseous, and got a headache. I was also so wiped out that I took at 15 minute power nap on the ground! Despite the intensity and exhausting nature of the hike, you can see from the pictures that it was 1,000 times worth it.
We descended the mountain in far less time, arriving back at Met Station around 4:45. I had called Sakwa to see where he was and it seemed he was only ten minutes away, but thirty minutes later he still hadn't shown and service on the mountain is so spotty I couldn't get back in touch with him. Suddenly, we heard the faint sounds of a car horn. Immediately I thought they were stuck somewhere in the mud or something else was wrong. After the second round of honking we decided to start walking down the mountain in search of the van. Sure enough, after we rounded the second corner we spotted the van, slowly chugging up the mountain and smoking. Somehow the connection to the radiator had come loose, all of the coolant had leaked out of the van, and it overheated, burning up all of the oil in the process.
We were able, with the help of our amazing guide Addison, to continuously refill the radiator in order to get the van back down to the park gates. There, Sakwa negotiated with the rangers to take us back to our hotel in one of their trucks and allow us to leave the van there overnight since it was starting to get dark and we were all exhausted having been on the mountain all day long. Never a dull moment in my travels!!
Wednesday was a glorious day of rest and relaxation. Addison accompanied us all the way to the hotel on Tuesday evening and asked me to check in with his boss the following day since it was too late to do so by the time we got out of the park on Tuesday. This was the perfect excuse for me to get on a boda boda (a motorcycle taxi) and head back up to the guide and porter office. For those of you who know me well, mortorcycle taxis were my primary means of transportation when I lived in Benin and I desperately miss the freedom of riding on them. Some of the best 30 minutes of my trip riding on the back of that bike!
When I returned from the office I got changed and headed straight to the pool. I parked myself there until 5pm, when I reported for my head and neck massage and pedicure that I had scheduled after a very rough wake up post hike. We spent our last night in the bar area playing darts and drinking wine. I got a bullseye, which was super exciting since I've never really played darts before. We also left our mark in Naro Moru. A tradition at the lodge is to sign a t-shirt and leave it hanging in the lounge area. Check out who I climbed a mountain for!
Waking up this morning knowing that we were leaving such a beautiful place was a little hard, but I'm looking forward to our travels today and our final academic visits in Eldoret and Kakamega before heading to Masai Mara for our big safari finale. I cannot believe we've less than a week to go before we're headed home already!!