April 12, 2013

Mount Kenya: Days 4 & 5 (something rather special)

Day 4

I would have expected that the day after our sunrise summit we'd be able to sleep in a bit, but we're up at 5:30am, in the dark, to get on the trail by 6:30am and avoid the afternoon rain.  But given that we had spent the entire previous afternoon ensconced in sleeping bags, it's not that bad.  

Moreover, the view from the breakfast table is something rather special.


The sun is up by the time we pack up and leave the lodge.  Still impressed with our previous day's achievement  we take loads of pictures before leaving the mountain, probably for good.  

Hyrax in motion (foreground)

There are a bunch (a herd? a pride? a flock) of hyrax (hyraxen?) eating our breakfast scraps outside the lodge.  Oh, that's right- I may not have properly introduced you to the hyrax yet.  The hyrax is an animal about the size of a small rabbit and looks like a cross between a gopher and a bear.  Their interests include running around, yipping, sitting on tall rocks, and eating scraps.  We decided that their community most likely follows a kingdom format with a royal family: King Harry the Hyrax.  It's not widely known, but all human-folk passing through their lands actually need the permission of King Harry, who sends messengers (or henchmen or servants or something) out to give the formal OK.  It's kind of like Downton Abbey.  With hyraxen.

The birth of this story took the better part of an hour and is looking forward to adaption as an illustrated children's book one of these days. 

As a completely unrelated comment- You really notice how few important things you have to say when you're away from external stimulation for multiple days.  

King Harry's henchman

But we eventually manage to say goodbye and we're off again.

Walking is so easy!  I'm hardly sore and I feel like I could do this forever!  I finally understand the Forrest Gump types that walk/run coast-to-coast for no apparent reason.  Maybe I should do that- just walk forever.  Then it occurs to me that I'm probably benefiting from the consistent downhill grade and the fact that a porter is carrying my pack.  I probably wouldn't want to do this forever... but in the moment it's delightful!
Summits behind us

Going down

With the climax behind us and several days of walking still before us, our minds and conversation wander.  Allison explains the plot of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village to me.  She refreshes me on the plot of the Labyrinth  and comments that David Bowie's obsession with a very young girl is somewhat disturbing.  I see her creepy-factor and raise her by the Twilight werewolf-in-love-with-an-infant scenario.  

Oh no.  I have inadvertently admitted to watching the Twilight movies.

I give a proper explanation for why I have watched the Twilight movies (stuck in the Kenyan desert without power, internet, or clean clothes, but a laptop full of borrowed movies).  

I give a full summary of the Twilight movies.  

We move on to summarizing plots and discussing the merits of good Young Adult fiction books, such as The Giver.  

We're quiet for a while, and I notice that this is probably the longest I've ever gone without wearing earrings since I was 16.  I think that I probably shouldn't blog that thought because it will raze any outdoorsy mountaineering credibility I've built with the previous 3 days.  Then I think that it's the 21st century and I can have it all... Earings and mountains... Lean in!  Or something!  I try to remember the criticisms of Sheryl Sandburg and thing that it has something to do with her being very rich.  If I were very rich I'd write a book about it too.  And put some secret passages in my custom-built house.  Wait, what was the question again?  I was a little bit dreaming...

Walking consecutive days sure gives you plenty of time to listen to your unrelenting mental chatter.

"Why did all Receivers in The Giver have to have blue eyes?"

By now we've reached the "Vertical Bog."  Which is a name I didn't make up for a stretch of the Naro Maru trail, where "trail" really means "bigmudswamp on an incline."  Necessitating the use of Very Fashionable gaters to protect pants and shoes.  Ok, perhaps they're not completely necessary, but I paid to rent them for 5 days, so...

Gaters in the vertical bog, which looks a bit horizontal right now but is probably at a good 25 degree angle in real life.  So... still not vertical but more diagonal.

We exit the vertical bog and enter a rainforest.  Of the comparisons I've heard between hiking Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro, it's almost universally (anecdotally) accepted that the Mt. Kenya hike is more beautiful because of its oft-changing terrain.  

Dwarfed by rainforest giants


The air is fresh, clean, and cool.  We're small among the giant trees, snug in moss.  Flowers are springing up around us, purple, white, pink and yellow.  They're unassuming, not gaudy displays, just enjoying the shade like everyone else.

And we reach our next cabin minutes, nay- moments, before the buckets of rain started falling down.  Which was a combination of good luck and good planning, but the luck was tempered by the fact that the latrines were, again, outdoors.

Then it was inside for another afternoon of tea, food, more food, more tea, wait-I-shouldn't-drink-more-tea-because-the-latrines-are-outside-and-its-pouring-rain, OK... more tea, fun-sized snickers bars, reading, sleeping bags, sweatpants, and sleep.

Cabin in the Mt. Kenya rainforest

Day 5

Up early... surprise!  

It's going to be a short walk back to the park gates.  Maybe just three hours or so.  We spend extra time in the morning taking pictures.  

The rafiki monkeys outside the cabin door

The team

Then, as usual, we pack up, head off, hike for some hours, and arrive at the destination.  This time, the end. 

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