Monday, 2 November 2009

Hell’s gate

Hell’s Gate national park is one of the few national parks where there are no large predators…unless, that is, a lion sneaks in which has happened on a couple of occasions. This means that, unlike most parks, you can hire a bike and cycle around the park getting up close and personal with the wildlife.

The bikes we hired would not have met UK health and safety standards. Most had gears that were temperamental at best whilst others didn’t have brakes. Whilst Fisherman’s Camp owned a few of the bikes, most of them were on loan from individuals from the nearby village. This made for an interesting day out!

Our guide, John, was one of the most informative guides I’ve ever met. His father was a ranger in the park many years ago so he actually grew up in the ranger accommodation inside the park. He knew every corner of the park intimately and everything about the wildlife you’d find there. You could ask him anything and he would have an answer for it.

Half the day was spent cycling around the park, the other half was spent gorge walking. Our day almost came to an abrupt end when Ravi had a puncture early on and John informed us we had 4km to go to get to the ranger post where it might be fixed. Using Nat’s initiative and Leatherman, we managed to fix the tire temporarily with a piece of gaffa tape that was holding Claire’s sunglasses together and some micropore from the medical kit I had on me.

The day was fantastic. We had close up encounters with zebra, a rock hyrax, an olive baboon with his thin pink appendage on full show, buffalo and wart hogs. The gorge itself wasn’t huge but interesting all the same with hot springs dripping down the rocks at different points. It involved quite a bit of slip sliding down steep stone faces and clambering about the rocks. The gorge is prone to flash floods which wash away the stone with great force. Since 1992, the gorge has increased in depth by about 20m so it’s only a matter of time before the Hell’s Gate gorge transforms into something not too dissimilar from the Grand Canyon.

Bar Nat, Jon and me, everyone headed back to camp early in the afternoon when all the animals had taken shelter. The three of us hung back for an hour or so just chilling out on a grassy plain surrounded by zebra. It was great just sitting there in complete silence listening to the sounds of nature with not another human soul to be seen or heard. At that point I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I heard complete silence. I can’t overestimate the importance of being able to let your mind wander with no distractions. Right then, I really didn’t miss London!

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