When I first went up Ngong Hills, I was afraid I would be underwhelmed and the appetite I had worked up having seen the beautiful wind turbines, would not be satisfied. It’s a fear I have every time I set out to do something new. I’m glad to say that the turbines were even more magnificent up close, and the views were and still are to die for. I have gone about 6 more times since that first time, going further and further each time; and today, I went the whole length of it! It was scary, moderately difficult, breathtaking and absolutely fulfilling!
The furthest I had ever gone was up the second highest hill of all seven and from there, I could see the next hill (the highest) rising intimidatingly, along with clumps of what looked like a thick forest. The sight of it scared me and it suddenly hit me that I was alone where I stood, the nearest hikers going back down the hill I had left a distance behind. It was around 4pm and the 7pm curfew had already been installed, so I knew I would not carry on to see what lay beyond.
I walked back home, hurrying back up and down the hills and breathing easier when I caught up to other groups of people.
That forest beyond has taunted and somewhat terrified me since and yet the thought of crossing it and seeing the other side of the hills grew stronger still. A guide came highly recommended (at Kes 1500 yikes!) but reviews from TripAdvisor mentioned that weekend hikes are okey solo, because there are always other hikers on the trails, and this was the case. But only to a certain point.
Turns out most people get to that second highest hill, chill out there and head back like I had done the last time.
Going further today, I was thrilled going down that hill into, I felt, uncharted territory. And soon as I descended and went past the people who’d gotten there before- some of them worshipping- it hit me why many people went back at this point. I walked right into thick shrubbery, that didn’t seem like it would clear very soon.
I had a blade under my sweatshirt but still I took a pause in the middle of it, and considered turning back. The answer was tightening my hold on my knife and the resolve that there was no way I was going back after I had been walking all week preparing for this trail.
And I remember soberly thinking, truly this is not very safe for a woman hiking alone, and yet the angry part of me was like “Fuck it! I’m damned if I don’t and damned if I do.” So on I went, the shrubbery mostly thick in ways my body was constantly brushing against it to get past. The path below was very clear though and I felt a moment of deep gratitude to the people that had walked here before. Clear paths mean you’ll find a way through for sure and that was a beautiful assurance!
The first person I met was a guy walking in the opposite direction. I held my blade steady as he came closer and I said Hi. There was an openness in his face and in his answering my greeting that made me slightly relax. I asked him how much further the thick shrubbery went and just how far the Kiserian side was so far. He was honest that there was a bit more of the shrub and that Kiserian wasn’t too much further. “Utafika tu,” he said walking on.
At the next slight incline, I took note of some male hikers a distance behind me. At the next open area I decided to take a rest; because I was about to go up the highest hill, there was shrubbery all along its steeper incline and hidden blade or not, I would rather a bunch of male hikers walked ahead of me rather than behind me.
I decided they were safe when they passed by. One had a younger one with him, his son probably. Still I left them to walk on a little before I carried on slowly. I was sweaty under my hoody but I couldn’t take it off mostly because the shrubs were still too thick, and I didn’t want to worry about my skin itching when I needed to be ready to stab someone.
The next guy coming down the incline looked like a runner and he was very nice. “Jikaze, umeshafika,” he said, and added that I was at the final difficult stretch and that the hills ahead were easy downhill trails without the shrubbery.
I eventually got up the hill to find the three and a half males taking a rest at the top. I had rested on the way up and regardless, I really didn’t want to sit with them. Besides that, I was thrilled at the immediate descent that followed, so I said Hello and carried on.
The Runner had been right. The next hills were super easy, the views were amazing and I was back to open fields with hardly anyone in sight. I’d find myself looking back, and finding myself alone, a small fear would take a hold of me followed by an inner incredulous laugh; I had just stubbornly walked through thick shrubbery where man or beast might have attacked me, and it was open hills I was afraid of now? Really?!
At the 3rd last hill, a female hiker- who I think is also a guide caught up with me and we chatted a bit as we walked. This hill was the furthest she was going as she had to go back to a group she’d been walking with. I informed her that I had to get to Kiserian so I’d carry on. The last bit of advice she gave me was to not hike alone. “Do it with a group or at least have someone with you.”
It made sense but it also made me angry.
Hiking in a group would be dope of course but am I really to put all my explorations on hold, and wait for other people to align themselves because it isn’t “safe”? When is it ever really safe anyway?
The trail at this point was somewhat lost in the lush grass and I decided to clarify from the guys sitting together- three of them, all dressed in red religious clothing. They pointed the way and on I went.
I took sometime to rest a bit longer and eat the bananas I had carried as I enjoyed the view, and let the emotions inside play out. What my anger birthed was a deeper resolve to learn Muay Thai, to properly wield a blade, and in the long run, carry a firearm because I will definitely be going to more places on my own, and I want to feel less anxious about it.
I met two groups of hikers heading to Ngong from the Kiserian side, but for most of the past, the fields were empty, and towards the end, were herds of cows, goats and sheep- some belled. And they sounded so good!
Compared to the Ngong side, the Kona Baridi side looks like a less loved child, infrastructure-wise. Deep gulleys mar the less used road and the building that I guess is supposed to the the KWS office or something, has so many of its glass windows broken. There is actually a gate (unlike the Ngong Side) but it is more of a suggestion.
I hope to take the hike again, this time get to Kiserian and back via the hill. I’m also thrilled about going on longer camping hikes with a group of other hikers! Post Corona.
P.S- Doubt will tire you faster than the actual hill.
Written 12th April 2020