Despite the name, Hell’s Gate National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is home to scores of animals including zebra, giraffe, cape buffalo, antelope, and warthogs. It’s about an hour’s drive from Kijabe and this past weekend, we decided we needed to “get out” and have an adventure. Mike is an avid camper (Remember? Chalk and Cheese!!), me…not so much, BUT, I am learning to like it because the kids think it’s the best thing to do with your free time!
So, last Friday, we picked the kids up from school at 3pm and hit the road, loaded to the hilt with pre-made meals, tent, sleeping bags, pillows (because we can!), drinking water, bikes and a gazillion other items that are needed for such a trip. It’s good to get away from Kijabe from time to time…to gain perspective, to take a deep breath, and to remind ourselves that we live in one of the most stunning places the world has to offer.
On our drive there, besides seeing about a dozen near accidents, 4 lanes of traffic driving in the same direction on a two-lane road, some animals came out to greet us by the roadside.
Hell’s Gate is the perfect place to camp. It is full of wildlife, but there are no predators. If you have ever watched Tomb Raider, this is where it was filmed. After we paid in at the entrance of the park, Michael and Jane counted over 100 zebra within the first 3 minutes! We drove to the designated campsite high on a ridge, overlooking the canyon and proceeded to set up camp where we were the only campers. The “boys” put up the tent while I started dinner.
That evening, as we roasted marshmallows over the fire, we could hear the calls of the hyenas in the canyon below us. It’s hard to describe just how beautiful the sky looks at night here. Sitting in the pitch black with only the light from the quarter moon, the blanket of stars that stretch like a canopy across the sky are simply amazing. You can actually make out the curvature of the earth by how the stars appear like a domed roof. Every so often, we would hear a rustle, shine our torches, and were able to make out pairs of eyes surveying us from a distance. Most likely Mongoose. As the sounds of the hyenas yelping came closer, we took ourselves into the “safety” of our tent! The last time we camped there, Mike brought a Panga with him (a large sword-like knife used here for cutting grass and branches) and slept with it under the bed. When his Kenyan colleagues heard about what safety precaution he had adopted, they fell on the floor laughing! They said that the hyena would simply catch the blade in its jaws and proceed to attack anyway! Not exactly what you want to hear when you’re wanting a relaxing get-away!
The next morning, we woke up to the stillness and beauty of the park. It feels like you’re all alone, sitting at the ends of the earth. Mike and the kids got ready for a long bike ride, while I gratefully grabbed the book I was reading and settled in for a couple of hours of bliss!
The kids had a ball, tearing around on their bikes, seeing a ton of animals, and making bike jumps out of the dirt! Mike and I on the other hand, quite honestly, were exhausted!! The packing up, setting up, restless sleep, driving home, unpacking, and the cleaning! And then it was Monday! On the way back to Kijabe, we stopped off at a petrol station for some Indian food and a load of fresh fruit and vegetables from a shop that supplies Del Monte….papayas, mangoes, pineapples, avocados, mushrooms, berries, spinach…two wicker baskets full to the brim, for about $20. Enough goodness to make green smoothies for at least three weeks…in the comfort of our home…with running water…a kitchen…a bathroom… I don’t claim to be a camper yet 😉