The Road to Hell
by Karim Kara
Rejuvenating views from the Camp
It had been many many years since I went back to Hells Gate. To be honest the new geothermal plant in the park has been putting me off of going since it has single handedly been responsible for nearly destroying one of the last remaining nesting sites for vultures in Kenya and East Africa.
However, whilst at Lake Naivasha and juggling between the idea on whether to rejuvenate at the lovely Carnelleys Camp, with the lake at my feet, or, take advantage of the fact that I lugged my bicycle all the way with me and explore Naivasha a little more.
Inevitably, the urge to give in to riding my bike and explore overcame me.
Part of me has always wanted to go to Hells Gate with my bike, it has been a life long dream to do that seeing as Hells Gate National Park is the only park that allows this, and I had my bike this time.
So, I turned onto this dirt road with my cross bike. A jittery bumpy few kilometres later of wishing for shocks, I was at the gate, paid and was on my way to explore.
It was wonderful being in the park again since over a decade ago. Plains dotted with Zebra and Giraffe. And now, courtesy of the Geothermal plant, mechanical giraffes also make an appearance.
Riding on the main road headed toward the Gorge, I focus to my right, atop a hill where my favourite camping spot is. With cliffs in every directions, I try look for 'whitewash' as sign of life (vultures nesting sites).
I am overwhelmed with this parks beauty and yet overcome with a sense of sadness that this park might soon be degazetted as a National Park.
But I look forward and keep riding. It gets really hot here, I remember this as I search my bag for a bottle of water.
"Am I crazy? Why am I here in the middle of the day?", I asked myself as other cycling tourists go in the opposite direction back out the gate.
The terrain changes and it is slightly more shady, I must be getting closer to the Gorges. I see 2 shinny metallic objects ahead. A mirage? Perhaps. As I keep riding, I approached 2 more cyclists on their way to the Gorge.
With a nod and smile, I take comfort in the fact that I am not the only crazy person here.
Suddenly the rough road ends giving way to road sings and tarmac. Well this is new! The geothermal project had built roads in the National Park. How did this even get allowed to happen? Progress at a cost!!
I parked my bike at the ranger station at the entrance to the gorge hike. The rangers assure me I don’t need to lock my bike, but, I am a city boy and lightning strikes at the thought of not locking my bike so I do so anyways. But secretly so not to offend the lovely rangers.
After a cold soda and some negotiations with the tour guides I decided to ignore all the warning signs - actual warning signs of flash floods, not some imaginary, karmic warning signs - and embark on the hike unguided. How much could the landscape have changed since I was last here, right?
For starters, the route I remember taking was blocked with salvaged wood and skulls drawn on them (I added in the skulls for dramatic effect).
A ranger came and told me, man to man, in secret, to keep my dignity intact, that the entrance to the gorge is “that way” as he pointed to a massive sign: "Gorge is This Way, Dummy!" (I was definitely extremely dehydrated, as you can imagine).
So I started walking to the sign, chin up, and confident. In about 5 steps, they (the Rangers and Guides) could all tell I was already lost and asked me to sign an indemnity form before I went any further.. No, seriously, you have to issue your name and number incase of emergencies. So I did, and re-took the same 5 steps as before and got more lost. In trying not to show it, I started staring at random objects whilst looking for tracks to see what path people took.
Then came James. Pretending like he was on his way to the gorge anyways, so I followed him. On realizing that I was stalking him, he started guiding me and before I knew it, I was trapped in his scheme. Dammit! But at the same time, I was extremely grateful.
He started with the view point, and then down in to the gorge and to Hells Showers and other dead ends with cool names.
One things is certain, that gorge has a life of its own. In the recent past it has seen some freak flash floods that changed the landscape, but with the changing sceneries, the floods had also claimed lives of a few unfortunate tourists. The rangers and wardens have done a remarkable job of setting up emergency exits and warnings signs every few kilometers.
I was and as I always am, ever stunned with this gorge and the views, and this park.
I wish there was a way to save it and to get the Vultures back to nesting in the park.
One of my absolute best memory collected over my many years on this planet is waking up to sounds of whooshing vultures leaving their roost in the morning. Having gotten to the aptly named special camp late at night the previous day, I never knew it was so close to a Vulture roost.
It was a phenomenal experience and sight and I wish everyone could experience that.