I am sure that Matt, and indeed all of the group, found the trek up Mount Longonot exhilarating – but exhausting. While Matt had done quite a lot of hill-walking in the UK, he had never done anything at serious altitude – Mount Snowdon being the highest. It can take several days, even weeks, for your body to acclimatise to the higher elevation. So this second trek was a very important step towards their ultimate goal.
On a less serious note, Matt loved to barter! I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor tradesman after hearing how little he had actually paid in the end!! I don’t think the guy had a chance.
Matt was very pleased with the painting he had bought – it was of a large elephant. Unfortunately, the only way he could bring it home was to take it off its frame and roll it. This sounds a fairly sensible approach given the idea of lugging a fairly large painting, complete with frame, on a four-week expedition; sadly it got quite squashed in his bag and was very creased when he finally got it home. He still loved it though, and was able to tell the tale of his first bartering encounter …
Day 5 – July 20th
“For the first time during this expedition, today was a real physical challenge. Our second acclimatisation trek, Mount Longonot, involved ascending to the rim of one of the largest volcanic craters in the world, and then round the rim up to the peak – twice the height of Snowdon. Mt. Longonot is a dormant volcano which emitted flames from its vents for 3 months solid in 2010. However Robert assured us, “.. that not happen to you today. Hakuna Matata.” The early part of the trek took us past multiple giraffes, and Robert continued to teach us about local flora and fauna.
After about a kilometre, the ground became loose and much steeper. Dust soon turned from an inconvenience into a real problem, every step took more effort through the sand-like volcanic ash and the dust dried the mouth and irritated the eyes.
Luckily Robert was on hand to lift our spirits by teaching us a traditional call and response Kenyan song in Swahili.
There were two huts on the way to the peak; one halfway up the mountain proper and one just as you reach the rim. We stopped at each for a much needed rest and drink, and gorged on handmade trail mix.
By the time we reached the rim, we were approaching the middle of the day and the heat and the dust were making a hard climb much harder.
As we progressed around the undulating rim, we slowly climbed higher and higher, all the while surrounded by one of the most amazing views I have ever seen, both across the enormous crater and down the mountainside across the Great Rift Valley.
By the time I finally reached the peak, I was about ready to collapse. So that’s what I did. After collapsing, I crawled to a less precarious spot and undid my bag so I could comfortably lie in the thick dust, covered in sweat and grime I was too exhausted even for lunch.
The slog down was almost unbearable, but eventually we made it down, thirsty and drained, but proud.
On the way back we stopped at a local shop filled with beautiful carvings and paintings. After looking around for a while, I haggled a small painting down from $120 to $80. I then went to choose one I liked and picked up a medium painting. The shopkeeper noticed, and wanted $150 for it, but I didn’t want to pay any more than $100, so I offered $80 for the painting, a small lion and a bracelet for my girlfriend Kate’s birthday that I had been eyeing up because it was the only one I had seen which I liked and that I hoped she would like too. It also worked out well because the shopkeeper was too focused on the expensive painting to worry about the bracelet and the lion which would have been quite pricey on their own. We settled on $100 for the lot, and after I upgraded the lion and haggled back down to $100, I left the shop happy, with only the problem of carrying a painting up a mountain twice as high as Mount Longonot. Later on we arrived at the Hotel Janus and I took a much needed shower. Tomorrow is the first day of safari and we have to be up at 4.50 as Gavan is leading the group for the day so an early night is on its way.”