As I’m sure any of Matt’s friends would tell you, Matt was a massive Disney fan – and The Lion King was a particular favourite. It must have been very exciting to visit Hell’s Gate and see first hand the inspiration for many parts of the movie.
One of the things that Matt talked about while in hospital was the idea of a tattoo. Initially, when he thought he would be having a hip replacement, he wanted something to represent his missing hip – a sort of stylised muscular cut-away with a robotic hip and femur was one of his favourite ideas; when it became apparent that he was to have a hind-quarter amputation, rather than dwelling on the difficulties of having a missing leg, we had to think of another tattoo! The one that Matt favoured was of Simba, with ‘Hakuna Matata’ through it. Throughout his illness Matt stayed positive, so having a tattoo which translated as “No Worries” would have been very typical of him …
Day 4 – July 19th
“More porridge. Porridge is going to get old sooner or later, but right now when I wake up after a long night of being crushed by my massive tent-mates, porridge is all I desire. Today we travelled to Hell’s Gate for the first of our acclimatisation treks – 45 km through the valley and through the gorge (harder than it sounds).
Hell’s Gate National Park is based around several enormous valleys formed a long time ago by violent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. It is also the dramatic scenery for many films, most notably it was the inspiration for a lot of the Lion King. The first thing we saw was a large pillar of rock created, according to Masai legend, when a young tribeswoman disobeyed the rules of her village by refusing to marry her arranged match. The village cast her out and told her never to look back, but upon reaching this point she turned for one last look at her village and was turned to stone. This was shared with us by our fantastic guide Robert who will be with us for three more days.
On the very top of the rock was what looked like a very alert, large guinea pig. This turned out to be the sentry for a family of rock hyraxes on the look out for vultures and eagles. We walked round the rock and saw what appeared to be large dog prints, but were actually baboon prints. Robert also showed us naturally growing sage and taught us its medicinal properties. As we walked along the road, we saw many large herds of zebra and Thompson’s gazelle. We also came across several holes about a metre across which Robert said were hyena holes containing sleeping hyenas.
We then came across some warthogs snuffling through the savanna, or as Robert called then “Pumbas”. Pumba is Swahili for stupid, and they are called this for their extremely short memories. When we came near them they fled but almost immediately they forgot what they were fleeing from. Their large tusks are for digging up roots to eat.
As we continued along, we learned that Robert is a winger for a Kenyan rugby team.
Soon after I challenged Robert to a race on Gavan’s behalf and, true to form, Gavan won to thunderous applause.
We passed the inspiration for Lion King’s Pride Rock, and saw some vultures circling above.
Even more exciting, we were privileged enough to witness several pairs of Impala fighting for dominance with their large horns.
Eventually we reached the end of the valley, and started down an extremely steep and bouldery slope into the gorge. At one point we had to grab onto a tree and swing down before climbing down a ledge. Another difficult descent involved stepping along a precarious ridge just wide enough for our feet, and then stepping across to the wall on the other side to shimmy down, wedged between the two walls.
At this point we came across the hot springs. More like hot waterfalls, the volcanically heated water rushes to the surface and cascades down the walls, hot enough to boil eggs. On the way back up the gorge, I bought a tooth pendant made out of bone from the local Masai.
The return journey was slightly harder as we were more tired, particularly our shoulders and feet. We saw a baby giraffe and its mother which Christian was more impressed with.
Finally on the return bus journey we saw several baboons moving through a field. Dinner was rice with assorted vegetables and lentils; a hodgepodge of what we have left. The last interesting thing that happened today was the other group arriving complete with Mr Hudson and my Yellow Fever certificate. I will sleep easier tonight.”