Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hell's Gate: Tales of Beauty, Adventure, and Sickness

Sunday was a no-work day, so I went mountain biking with Samir and Mario. We took several buses to Navasha and then to Fisherman’s where we rented bikes and rode to Hell’s Gate National Park. I had eaten an orange earlier which I guess didn’t suit me because while we were riding to Hell’s Gate I got extremely nauseous and faint and couldn’t move. I was forced to get off my bike and I sat for a while, and then mustered up enough energy to get to the entrance of Hell’s Gate. Once there, I threw up a couple times, rested for a couple minutes, drank Kenyan Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic, a strong version of GingerAle) and then forced myself to continue. I didn’t want to ruin the day for everyone and I was determined to see Hell’s Gate.

It was definitely worth it. I threw up a couple more times, but wow. Majestic cliffs and mountains with those flat treetop trees… zebras grazing… getting completely covered in light brown dust such that your clothing is covered and your face is covered and your teeth are covered…. J the vast blue sky with clouds playing hide and seek with you behind the mountains. I saw zebras and wild hogs like pumba in their natural habitats! I walked so close up to them. But I couldn’t take a picture up close because they seemed to think it was a weapon. The bikes weren’t that great quality and we were riding basically in sand, so it was very very hard, and I’m STILL sore, but it was an amazing experience. We rode to the gorge and hiked through it, easy because it had not rained in a while so it was very dry. On our way back from the gorge we ran into nightfall and it was pitch black, and we kept on fishtailing in the sand, so when a truck drove up, we hitched a ride. It was a group of Christian men who were on their way back from church and were driving through the park (which is very expensive for foreigners, but very cheap for Kenyan citizens). I got to stand on the back of a pickup and feel the wind go through my hair and my fingers, blowing some of the dust off me. And the stars! Amazing, the most I have ever seen. The clearest night… stars everywhere, not a patch without them…

On our way back to Nairobi, we had to take a cab which turned out to be a much bigger adventure than I could imagine it to be. First some men tried to sneak into my backpack and then people tried to recruit us for the “bus”… it’s a small private van that is commonly used for transportation, but the driver seemed drunk as well so we declined. When we finally got a cab, we went for a little bit and then we stopped and our driver got out and went to go talk to the drunk guys that had been following the car. He came back, and the guys followed him so he got out and punched them. Then punched them some more and got back in the car. A whole bunch of guys were in the trunk part of the car (station wagon) and when the car stopped to drop them off, Samir had a pocket knife ready in case someone tried to hijack the car or rob us while we were in it. Apparently that’s a very common occurrence here. And driving at night is not very safe. There were no lights on the shoulders, so the darkness did not help us to feel safer.

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