Back-to-back hike of Ol Donyo Orok and Ol Donyo Longido
I get an invite to do Ol Donyo Longindo hike from the power couple that is Mbigi and Jane. Having known the two for donkey years, I quickly rearrange my diary to subjugate this massif that stands imposingly on the Namanga – Arusha Highway. It’s been on my radar for a long while and what a better time to attack.
Jane is quintessential tale teller that keeps all and sundry regaled with juicy nuggets of narratives.. keeping all rolling in laughter. Mbigi is a perfect picture of suavity and sophistication in matters family. She takes the butt of all the jokes by Jane and even laughs at the humour in them.
By the day of the hike so many amendments have been made to the original plan. What was a simple dash to Tanzania to do Mt Longido has morphed into back-to- back hike of Ol Donyo Orok( Namanga Hills) in Kenya and Ol Donyo Longido in Tanzania. Friday has also been declared a holiday; meaning that the long weekend beckons.
We meet at Namanga on Friday. We cross over to Tanzania side where we are soon taking breakfast by a roadside eatery. On offer is chai ya rangi and chapo. One may also take chicken soup and chapo. I settle for the former. Our poor grasp of Kiswahili sanifu is badly exposed when Dominic Njuguna requests in broken language:
Njuguna: “Wapi naweza simama?” He asks the eatery owner. In our local dialect kusimama is euphemism for urinal????????
Owner: “Hamna haja mle kama mmesimama? Viti ni tele pale” she replies in impeccable Kiswahili
Njuguna is amusingly lost in this lingua miscommunication and I interject on his behalf.
The lady gets the drift and he is appropriately direct leaving us under peels of laughter????????
We park opposite Sacha club which proudly and prominently announces a date with Kikuyu song maestro Samidoh. I do a quick scan of the team. All are lean and lithe save for Jane and yours truly. Indeed Jane is the odd one out for I pass on like the group bouncer. Maybe a VIP is in the group and needs protection from threats posed by snakes, buffaloes and other not so friendly wildlife. The beaus are in their element in trendy sport wear complimented with fashionable hiking boots. Some have knee pads and other chic paraphernalia if only to emphasize the nature of the business ahead. They are ready to set the trails ablaze.
Men aren’t left out, they come out dazzling in modish gear fit for the occasion. Yours truly aptly looks the bodyguard part.
Soon we are at the foot of Ol Donyo Orok . Our guides are Joram and Leo. Ol’doinyo’orok means “the black mountain.” The name intimates more than the black silhouette that forms especially during hot season when the deciduous trees of the forest shed off their leaves and expose the black rock beneath… as we found later, this wild mountain not only has several false peaks but it’s unforgiving and intemperate.
We park our vehicles in a local Chief’s house and a quick round of introduction is done. The trip is organized by Bucketlister one of the foremost hiking organizers.The footslog to the apex soon starts on the Tanzanian side. Sparse acacia plantation interspersed by homesteads is commonplace for about 2km. We make entry into forest. The sun is totally blocked by the canopy. The hiking route covers dry woodland forest, rocky hills, humid forests and riverine vegetation.
Back to trail.. the forest becomes very thick and oven hot. The place is akin to steam bath. The night before it had rained, hence the hot and humid conditions. Indigenous trees and shrubs make this pristine forest a joy to be in. Our guides explain to us usage of different trees by the local Maasai. Some are used to treat different ailments while others are used for prevention of diseases. Unfortunately tree logging and charcoal burning is creeping in threatening this unique and fragile ecosystem.
Suddenly we are the second false peak. This one is characterized by a long sloppy water cascade that oozes rhythmical sounds of an orchestra. We refill our water bottles as we frolic in this gem of a paradise. It’s scenic, glamorously splendid and breathtaking. Some bucketlisters pull in some exotic picture poses. Yours truly avoid them lest he breaks his back while trying the stunts.
One hour to go. The guide announces to us. Through the most gorgeous mountain forest I have seen , we trudge on. The forest trees are surreal as they are covered with green lichens all round while the piercing sun rays give it a Jurassic look. Shiny black rocks add to this bizarre picture. The treacherous ground has many of us skidding dangerously but not enough to dampen our spirit.
Finally we come out of the forest by crossing a clear-watered mountain brook to a huge monolith rocky summit… but Lo and behold! We have to scale this wet rock all the way to the top to where a huge steel cross is concretized. The journey to the top is perilous.. one step on the wet obsidian rock would send you skidding to the after world. After crawling on all fours we finally hit the summit. The cross on the peak is a awful reminder of the torturous ordeal of hiking and the sense of conquest once achieved. It’s an applause all round as we refuel for our journey down.
The descent puts a great strain on our knees while some bucketlisters opt for butt slide as an easier way down. Finally after 8 hours of self inflicted tribulation we are one happy lot of conquerers. Ol Donyo Orok was meant to be a snack, an appetizer before the main meal that is Longido. It morphed into a monster none of us was prepared for.
Ol Donyo Orok down! Here we come Ol Donyo Longido????????????????