Mt. Longonot Volcano, Lake Niavasha, Hell’s Gate National Park

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So our story begins yesterday at 4:30 a.m. when we were scheduled to ‘get up’ to meet our car at 6 a.m. for the outing to the Niavasha area. In all actuality, we were still suffering from some jet lag, so 3:30 seemed about right… The night before Cindy explained how this is a pretty easy hike, about 3 km out, and 3 km back, no worries… that’s easy. (More story below). We also went on a great boat ride after the Volcano, and then spent today biking to/from Hell’s Gate National park – all in Kenya. It’s about a 2 hour drive from our hotel to/from this area.

The Volcano Experience

We enjoy hiking, but truth be told, leading up to the trip we were not doing significant trail time ahead of coming here. But as always, we roll with it, so off we went with our guide “Simba”. On our ride there, I asked “what’s the distance?” His reply “oh, not so bad, 3 km up, 7 km around and 3 km back down…”. Hmm, wait, that’s 16km, so about 10 miles. Ok, trip is paid, onward!

The team with our guide, Simba, at the top of the volcano.

We started early, and got very lucky with having a cloudy day to keep us cool.

The base camp sits at 2150 meters (7053 ft), the first climb to the edge of the rim sits at around 2560 meters (~8400 ft), and the summit is at 2780 meters (9120 ft). In total, about 2100 ft of total vertical gain, the first part in about 1.5 miles, the rest in the next 1.5 miles, then you continue around the crater so you can then come down.

Did we do it, absolutely, did we suffer coming down the hill at the end – absolutely. Just the up/down of it sort of rocked knees & toes, but nothing Advil and a beer cannot fix. It took us about 5 hours to do the entire hike. When you are walking along sections of the trail it is literally straight down to the crater floor.

It became very steep at parts, with cliff on both sides.

This is looking down into Hell’s Gate from the rim, not the top.

The view of the top of the ‘summit’ of where we climbed to, we went up then all the way around to the left.

Everyone did great, although last night we were pretty wiped out. I’m glad we live at 5kft, vs. coming here from sea level. I think everyone actually slept through most of the night, except Cindy who was woken by a barking dog at 12:30, which did not stop. She says she did not fall asleep again, but I distinctly heard snoring, so all bets are off.

Lake Niavasha

After the volcano, we then transited with Simba to the lake, for a late lunch and boat tour. This was simply amazing – first we could sit in the boat and not move, second there were great animals to see and experience. Mostly birds, but also hippo’s and giraffe. I didn’t know a lot about the hippo, but they are real people killers. They stay in the water during the day, and then come out to graze at night on land… walk into one, and well, game over for you.

One of the most interesting things was seeing people wading into the lake and standing on tree remnants in order to fish. People sort of setup a fort on a tree and then camp there fishing, or in other cases walking in the water with nets to catch fish. I think the man/hippo relationship is symbiotic and both mutually stay away from each other.

Hell’s Gate National Park

Today was biking 8 km in and 8 km out of Hell’s Gate National Park – pretty interesting place with Hell’s Gate being volcanic steam / heat vents that are being used for geothermal energy generation. Along the way on your bike you get to see lots of animals hanging out & doing their thing (giraffe, zebra, antelope, etc.). The joke is “take your ‘gelfie’ with the giraffe”. I guess too many tourists and we get made fun of.

Gavin practicing with the Mosquito net in the room

Driving Around

Driving around is a unique experience, similar to any 2nd/3rd world country that we’ve been. Including passing around busses, trucks, other cars and getting passed on a regular basis. There are a lot of people in the city, standing along side the road selling hand made goods and doing lots of manual labor. We saw one road crew laying asphalt by hand – no machines.

You get a unique perspective on the culture – everyone is very nice. With 48MM people and about 45% unemployment rate, having and keeping your job is paramount. Tourism is a top industry so they cater to your every move. I don’t mind it, the tips are $1-$2. An entire plate of food is about $5. 1L Bottle of water? 50c.

Now we are back at our hotel in Nairobi, actually doing laundry inside, getting ready for tomorrow’s 3 day trek out to the field. I guess it’s a 5 hour drive to where we are going, which should be fun. After those 3 days, we are on a flight to Rwanda, no idea if we will have internet / WiFi until then.


  1. Jack McCullough says

    Thank you so much for an awesome story and outstanding pictures. We are glad you are seeing and experiencing another “life adventure”.

    Love, Dad


  2. Sandy says

    Great pictures! Thanks for taking the time to keep us up to date. I could never do that hike, but you all are YOUNG.
    Love, Mom


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