I had seen this rather interesting and prominent peak on my way south, travelling to Marigat from Chemolingot in the police truck. With its two distinctive rounded peaks it gave the impression of a swing bridge.
I had not expected to be heading in that direction, but due to circumstances later that evening I found myself heading in a matatu towards Kabarnet, a small town in the Tuken mountains, noting on the map I had been given by John at Mbarra, a peak near to the town called Morop Hill (2318 m). I ask my neighbour in the matatu about this; on mentioning the mountain he immediately lights up and gives me information, telling me the place I should alight to get there and the village I must walk to, writing this down. And as we pass it he points out the mountain and the village out to me, though by then it is nearly dark.
The following morning I find a car heading back to Katin village, from where I (end up) on a motorbike travelling the fairly short way with a lady who rather insisted I came with her, on a road through tall forest to the village of Kapkomoi where she lived. From here I followed a track leading gently up towards the ridge, soon to gain the company of a young man who starts telling me some things about the forest, explaining how some pieces of logs (of acacia trees) lying by the road would be cut up to provide fuel for bakeries, and how the timber from an area that had just been felled would be used for making doors and beds and furniture.
I was very impressed by the forest here, for I hadn’t seen lush forest for some time. It was notably cooler in this region too than where I had been for the past six weeks, and here were growing some big trees and a good mixture of native species.
From the top you could see that this hill and its other smaller neighbour to the south were the last bastions of native forest in the surrounding area, even if the forest was now being encroached upon by the newly felled area.
Though as the young man told me, the felled area was intended to be re-planted. He explained that it was going to be parceled out to the people of the village, and the people would each be given some trees by the Kenya forest service to plant, meantime while the trees were growing they would plant maize there – so the emphasis was on the ‘benefits’ for the local people.
It was quite a grand view up there, though somewhat hazy in the distance, and mostly over the local region, which was quite hilly and entirely green, though the adjacent hills had lost the larger trees, and were mostly just covered in low regenerating scrub. To the east you had a good view over to Lake Baringo, with its several lacustrine islands, one of which was covered in greenery, and hazily south to Lake Bogoda and the rounded hills beyond.
To the west beyond the range you could discern the drop from the plateau to the Kerio valley, and the vague shapes of the hills beyond.
The young man had followed me up there, so we sat on top talking for quite a while. There is actually a cross on top of this hill, and I am soon gathering that Morop is well valued by the local people, and is a well known hill in the region.
On the descent I met a man ascending, dressed smartly in black trousers and white shirt. He introduced himself as Pastor Morichai, and told me he was going to the summit to consider where people would sit prior to a counselling session and prayers that would take place the following day for some people prior to their marriage.
Back at the village I encountered another man who tells me he is the assistant chief administrator of the area. He explains to me that Morop, which had previously been classified as a hill has since been promoted to mountain, as is evident from a sign in the village. He told me there are two types of large butterflies that can be seen on the summit, though they were rare.
Kimajoch (Sacho Hill) 11.3.17
This hill I also found marked on my map of the Cherangani’s, standing at 2421m, so a little higher than Morop. And indeed it had been visible from that summit the day previously.
As directed I took a matatu to Sacho which led through pleasant forested country wending around the hillsides. The lady behind was also going to Sacho, and had told me her son was attending the High School there. When we arrive we turn down a lane and find at the foot of the hill a prestigious Catholic school, with many children in carmine uniforms apparent there, and here the majority of the passengers get off.
I am told by the driver that I should have disemarked earlier to go to Kimajoch, the hill behind which people mostly seemed to prefer to call Sacho Hill. He takes me back to the junction, and from there I walk back along the road, soon finding a well-trodden rocky path leading up through the forest towards the peak.
It was not far, as the road traverses quite high up the hill on the western side, and I was soon on the ridge from where I made my way through the scrub to the far side, and found myself on a rocky crest.
The precipitous classical profile of the hill on its eastern flank then became apparent, as it sheered down to the valley below, the slopes, beyond the cliffs being covered in native trees.
As I sketched at one point two black and white eagles swirled below, though mostly the birds here were swallows, along with some intriguingly tiny flycatchers in the bushes.
The summit on which stands a Safaricom mast, affords a perspective to the southern end of the range here known as the Tugen mountains. But I was still not satisfied until I had visited the lower northern summit, the area of which I found was enclosed by a fence with a metal gate upon the track. But I was easily able to slide through the fence and found a pleasant area of native tree parkland, where someone had erected benches and a wooden shelter with the intention perhaps of making a camping or picnic area. I felt quite comfortable there, and sat for a while under the shade drawing the scene.
Following that I walked most of the way back along the road to Kabarnet, enjoying the forest sounds and the scenery, particularly to the west where you could see the many ridges dropping down to the Kerio Valley. Further on meeting quite a number of people walking along carrying hoes, who were about preparing the maize fields prior to planting.
Mount Roley 13.3.17
I had seen from Google maps that Maralal lies in a basin of indistinct hills, and that the higher peaks were some distance away, dropping down to the Rift Valley to the east.
Having arrived in the dark, I had not idea of the topography of the area until the morning, and the first things I came upon were a Mount Zion shop, and a Mountain View hotel. So it seemed that mountains were still in the consciousness of the people even if there were only shallow hills nearby.
I set out with no intentions actually, just that my feet began carrying me, as I came upon some wide well-worn tracks leading out into the hilly country, which I followed away from the town, just enjoying being outside, with the sunshine and the warm breeze, buoyed in by a certain sense of purpose in just being out in the countryside, content to think I might just wander there pleasantly with just my thoughts even if I did not find any mountain as such.
I am soon being greeted by groups of women coming towards the town carrying what appeared to be sacks of greenery, by a strap across the forehead, which looked quite heavy. I tell them I am heading to the ‘milimani’ (mountain), though as yet I had not found one.
Then beyond the first hill the country begins to look more interesting, and
I become intrigued to continue to the horizon to gain the view beyond, spotting in the distance some rocky crags which add a bit more character to the scenery.
A little further on I encounter two men, wearing tartan shawls over their short longhi’s as one might imagine the Scots of old, very much in serviceable fashion. They are rather keen to know what I am doing there, but as they only speak the local language (which here is Samburu) we do not get very far in communicating. So they turn round and come with me, stopping at a couple of manyattas (which here are a little like Maori pa’s surrounded by fences of tall sticks). But we have to go some way before we find anyone who speaks English, finding at length a polite young boy who explains to them I am wanting to visit the mountain to get a view.
In the end we agree that they will accompany me, and when we get back to Maralal I will buy them some food. So we continue on, following always the wide sheep tracks whilst one of them keeps pointing things out in a strange way, waving his stick – he is carrying a stick like a short handled golf club, which I find out later is a kind of ceremonial baton, as traditionally used in handling goats. (I had seen one subsequently used for propping up a car bonnet.) The other man also carries a baton only with a metal rose at one end.
It soon becomes apparent that they are going to take me to the craggy peak which I had spotted earlier, I am very happy with that, as this seems like a distinct mountain. The way is easy, for there is not a great deal of vegetation, just a scattering of low trees. As we approach the peak we gain a view down to the Rift valley beyond where you can see hazy shapes of the ‘pimples’ and hummocks in the area around Barsaloi. The marveling at the view at least, I was able to communicate well enough with my companions, who told me the name of the peaks nearby.
The summit itself had the feel of a mountain, with a rocky platform upon which we sat (and ate some oranges which I had bought, which the two men cut up with their machetes). After I had made a sketch we started our descent, this time dropping down to the wooded lower valley to the west, in which the river still contained some muddy pools of water. There were some big trees here, and it was refreshing to see grass and waterholes. There were piles of elephant dung all along the way, and sometimes footprints in the mud, so now I was convinced there were elephants living in this area, as the men had been telling me earlier. It was a pleasant and interesting route, though my companions were beginning to tire, and at one point they asked a girl to bring up some water. It was really muddy, though both of them drank some, if not with much relish.
Finally we emerge at Maralal, and here I bought the two chaps ugali and meat at a small hotel, which they thanked me for heartily, then we went to a small store and they each selected a pile of goods, such as bags of flour, sugar and tea, which the storeman found two boxes for them to put it. And the men were very happy that they had some things to take back to their families.
Imarti Hill (Baragoi) 14.3.17
I had just arrived in Baragoi, and found a place to stay, then on my way out to investigate the small township I am greeted in English by a man sitting beneath a tree. He tells me his name of Pastor Joseph, and it is very easy to recognise that he has had some experience meeting foreigners and guiding them around.
Perhaps I am not surprised at the evidence that foreigners come to this area, as I had already recognised a particular scenic beauty about this place, once over the dry hills past Surujani to the south. I begin asking him about the local mountains, the hazy profiles of which, seen from the journey having already begun to intrigue me. Pastor Joseph is most accommodating, and suggests we walk to a nearby hill where we will get a view, and he can point things out.
I am happy with that, if admittedly we have to walk quite fast to get there, in order to be on the summit before the sun sets. For I would have liked to spend more time there, just relishing the greenery. Because this area, near to the town was so amazingly different from the desperately dry and damaged land that we had passed through on the journey here, and which I had been travelling through for some days. Here it seemed was what the land ought to be like, with a canopy of tall spreading trees and a full covering of green sward on the ground.
The ground was also notably damp; Pastor Joseph explained they had recently had two days of rain in this area. Maybe it could be explained by the soil or the geology, but certainly this area was distinctly different from its surroundings which had received no rain yet.
At length we gain the top of the small peak, which is a sacred place, as Pastor Joseph explained, and has a white cross upon the top. From here you gained a perspective on a number of other small surrounding hills, and views to intriguing fairly distance small mountain ranges settled about the plain. There was suddenly so much to see.
It was dark by the time we reached the town on the return, stopping on route for Pastor Joseph to show me his little church, and to meet and greet his mother, a diminutive lady wearing the traditional coloured beaded neckband of the Turkana women. As Pastor Joseph explained, though we were in Samburu county, there were still Turkana people living here, though they maintained distinct areas of occupation, even in the town.
So I was very happy to have had the impromptu opportunity to climb a mountain that evening.
44 Ndoto Mountains 15/16.3.17
These hills you could see from Imarti Hill, somewhat in the distance to the east. I was told you could approach them from a place called Le Silica, so the next morning I set off walking there. After some kilometres I got a lift in a truck that was taking some workers to the new power line being constructed. They were good enough to go out of their way and take me to the end of the track (past the last pylon) from where I could walk to the village which you could see nestled at the foot of the Ndoto hills.
There were quite a lot of people working there, constructing the high capacity pylons; I found out later this was part of a new wind-power project generating electricity by Lake Turkana. The pylons were being constructed piece by piece, the men climbing up them, and various ropes and pulleys used to support the structure. I was impressed at how efficiently the work was taking place. As we passed of course we greeted all of the contingents, and our driver gave their reason for their diversion.
It was easy going walking across country to the village, over the dry scrub-land without trees, passing as I went two men, looking after camels, one of whom pointed me towards a path towards the town.
When I arrive in Le Silica, I first visit one of the shops, then as I am heading up towards the hill a man sitting by a house greets me, and offers to find me someone to accompany me. He then brings another man, quite stout, who speaks good English, who it seemed had taken foreigners up the mountain previously.
Meantime some other people have gathered around, including one man who tells me he is a schoolteacher who keeps waving his arms about, and another men who objects that the mountain belongs to the community and foreigners should not go there.
So the man, who is intending to be my guide, whose name is DJ, says we should first go and see the chief to get permission. So we head to a nearby house, and the chief comes and we sit outside on chairs. The chief is quite happy for me to go, along with DJ and another man who lives on top of the hill.
First we go to the shop again, as DJ wants to buy some tobacco, to give to people on the mountain who we might meet. But as we are coming back up again past the chief’s house we find the objecting man again, and various others making some voluble confusion. They all then go into the chief’s compound and are arguing. I am not interested to be involved in argument or the cause of it, so I stay outside, and soon decide to go back to Baragoi.
So I begin walking back the way I came. DJ follows me, and tells me he will come with me to the power lines, from where I am assuming I will be able to get a lift back to Baragoi with the workers going home.
We do not go directly there, at one point stopping at a temporary encampment where a family is living, where I greet some women. It turns out this is the camp of the first man I had seen on route coming, whom as we are leaving asks DJ for some tobacco.
We continue on further, coming to another encampment, where there are huge number of the igloo-like stick shelters which the pastorals live in, covered in pieces of sacking and cloth. I am told these Samburu people are blocking the progress of the power line, whilst they are asking the government to give them some money, for compensation for intruding on their traditional lands.
Here we stop for a while as DJ drinks some local beer. I had seen this before on the way to Mount Roley, the two men had bought a tin mug of what I thought was tea from a lady beside the track, which they had shared. It turned out this was local beer made of millet and sorghum, which DJ drank two mugs off; and though he said it had no effect, it clearly had some.
It was already 4.30, and I am a little worried the power-line workers might have gone already, but fortunately when we get there I see some still up the pylons and there beside the first one is their bus.
So I get a lift back to Baragoi with them, whilst DJ walks back across country to his home.
DJ had remembered there is a local market in the adjacent village, called Tanga, the following day, and that a vehicle would be going there from Baragoi. So the following morning I find this vehicle, which the driver tells me is an ex-British army land-rover, which was owned by one of the local shopkeepers. It takes quite a time of course to load up the various goods, but eventually we get going, and arrive at Tanga which turns out to be a cluster of stick market huts and a few houses set on a sandy knoll at the base of the mountain.
I had arranged to meet DJ there, but I did not find him, and was told he was not there. So I set off myself, as I do I meet the chief from Le Silica again, who tells me I should not go up the mountain alone. Then he very quickly recruits a man to go with me, and we set off. But this man is not too keen to go, and asks me for a great amount of money which I did not want to pay him, so he soon goes back and I continue alone.
The track soon crosses a dry riverbed which I decide to follow up towards the mountain. This turns out to be a rather picturesque and also a quiet route and I did not see anyone in there. Eventually as I am getting near I climb out from the mud cliff sides and find I am on the plain not far from the foot of the mountain.
There were something particularly beautiful and attractive about this area, even though, like everywhere the vegetation had been damaged by much grazing, just the light and the aspect looking back on the low hills beyond, it had a very peaceful and attractive feel.
I encountered only one young lady on the way up, through the fairly light bush, finding bits of path higher up. It turned out here too there were some people living on the top, in their encampment surrounded by a pa fence. I stayed only long enough to make a rapid sketch of the hills beyond, namely the other (main) peak of Ndoto which lies behind La Silica, seeing distantly beyond it the plains of Marsabit county.
I make a prompt descent, at one point coming through a forest of tall cacti, which were really like trees, to arrive back to the market (soka) with plenty of time still to talk to quite a number of people, some of whom had seen me the previous day in Le Silica, and spoke to the chief again who was happy I had achieved my mission.
Ialso found DJ who had arrived it seemed shortly I had set off, and had remained in the market all day until I returned.
From SOUTH HORR
South Horr Hill 18.3.17
I set off up this small peak overlooking the town, after having spotted it earlier after my stroll along the riverbed. First passing quite a number of camels resting in an indent of the dry river. There was not too much vegetation, and some tree cacti at the top.
From the top gaining a view down to the nearby tree clad riverbeds, which were notably green, though as the peak is not high there was only a modest view.
On the return at the foot I was obliged to go through somebody’s allotment in order to get back to the riverbed, and was greeted by a lady sitting in front of her house, which she pointed out. She asked me what I had seen up there – another of the difficult questions people ask me, because well, how can you describe in words the sense of wonder at the space, and ‘feeling’ the shape of the land, indeed I cannot really explain it to myself
Still I make some attempt, realizing after that I forgot to mention the pink cactus flowers that were flourishing there despite the dryness. Actually I did not get to the very top because there was a fence up there surrounding the summit, which the lady explained was on account of a project to build a tourist camp up there.
The lady told me the mountain was called Cawap, Though I am not entirely sure she was not referring to the other larger mountain that I had lies to the south in the plains.
Mount Mumuso 19.3.17
I had already been in South Horr for two days, admiring the towering ridges which rise at either side of the valley, surveying the craggy tops and wondering how feasible it would be to go up there.
The day before after climbing to the viewpoint I had also climbed up to the first peak of the ridge of a mountain called Serrata which stretches in front of the mountain range on the Nyiro side. From there I had seen that it ought not to be too difficult to make the ascent to the ridge at the other side of the valley.
So the next morning I set off in good time, crossing the river and heading up small paths towards the hill. At one point meeting a man, who seemed in approval that I was heading to the ‘milimani’, and another later who was carrying some green branches who have me a brief greeting. Apart from that I met no one, though at one point I could hear a number of voices in the forest, and one man (who I couldn’t see hailed me), but I did not stop for him, and just called back ‘hi’ to him three times.
After that I was just following bits of goat and cattle track, having to bend quite a lot to avoid the prickly branches of trees; it was fairly steep and lose the way I went. But once on the ridge it was easier walking with views to the peaks beyond, also south towards the many interestingly shaped rocky peaks of the further Ndoto range.
I continued along the ridge, and at length came to the rocky summit I had seen from below. And sat up there enjoying the view for a brief while, in some state of wonderment at being there at all.
On the return, after some bush bashing off the ridge I found a well worn cattle track which brought me all the way down towards the river, meeting on route a couple of baboons, and people only by the river itself who were camped there in temporary shelters.
Mount Porr 22.3.17
The day previous on my journey, hitch hiking to Loiyangalani, I was truly amazed to see lake Turkana, having not seen a large expanse of water for some months since I was by Lake Victoria. Here I found that luminous quality of brilliance and cleanliness of a spacious place. For there was scarce vegetation surrounding it.
What stood out clearly was a prominent small pyramidal mountain sitting neatly beside the lake, I was told this was Mount Porr.
The following day I had got talking to a man, Mr Stephen Nakeno who wrote his name down for me, (partly in case of the event of meeting people along the way who might be asking questions, as happens, so I could tell them I was acquainted with him). He told me he was the Chairman of the Beach Management Committee and drew me a map, showing the four villages ( simple settlements of stick and cardboard huts as were found here, and are called manyattas). The first two were Layepi and Komote, inhabited by people of the El Molo tribe, which is the smallest of the 42 tribes in Kenya, containing some 400 people.
I opted to take a motorbike as far as the second village, Komote, and walk along the shore (some 14 kilometres) to the hill. When we arrive there I am rather concerned to see that the mountain still appears quite some distance away, and had I seen the track then I would have asked the young man to take me further.
Anyway it was very pleasant walking there beside the lake, at first passing many different kinds of birds beside the waters edge, and a few people here and there, mostly in the distance. , it was very peaceful and relaxing just to wander there without worry of disturbance of too many questions from people.
the land was dry of course, and stoney underfoot, whilst there were still goats grazing. Further along I was pleased to see more trees growing near the lake, remnants of a former time when there had been much more greenery about here, as several people I met in the town attested to remembering.
After three hours walking, the mountain was at last getting nearer, but still i estimated another hour away to the top. And after sitting under an inviting tree for a while I decide to turn back, this time following the gravel road rather than the shore.
After some time I am happy to be passed by a vehicle, a truck which was , heading back to Loiyangalani. It was a relief truck taking food to the people in Moite, the settlment further up the lake. So I sat in the front and had a pleasant conversation with the workers who were returning from their mission.
I later spoke to some more people in the town gathering this little hill is quite a popular place to visit. And, as I had seen, part of it is sandy and another part is dark rock. But very sad to miss the view north up the lake which surely must be gained from it.
(22.3.17) Mount Kulal
This is the mountain rainge which sits behind Loiyangali beside the lake, the last large mountains before heading north. Mostly whilst I was there it had a capping of cloud along the top, lending an additional touch of remoteness. You could also see in certain light the band of greenery along the upper slopes – and people told me there were trees up there.
I found out that it would take about six hours to reach the base of it from Loiyangalani. The young man who had taken me to Komote had offered to take me there for 3000 shillings.
Gallipae Hill (Ilaut) 23.3
Having arrived in Ilaut on the bus from Loiyangalani, I am pleased to find myself now in a scenic mountain area again, right adjacent to the taller mountains with many intriguing rocky shapes. I am soon offered a place to stay with a local man in a nearby manyatta, meantime I have some time before we are due to set off there.
So after drawing the full profile of Mount Poi I decide to climb the small local rocky people, which is a somewhat prickly ascent, but worth the effort to gain a perspective of the area, so that I now perceive we are set right on the edge of the Marsabit plains, which stretch out wonderingly beyind to the north, with a few outliers to the west which I drew but did not determine their names.
Mount Poi 24.3.17
This mountain I learnt about from Terry, the Englishman who I had met first in the Cheranganis, who had written its name down, along with three other peaks on a slip of paper for me before I departed from Mbarra.
I didn’t know anything about this hill otherwise, but found out when I came north that you could climb it from Ilaut. then when I arrive I find it is a really prominent tall mountain, overshading the whole area, (even despite all the other remarkable looking peaks in this region, which I find out is still the Ndoto Range)
With its sheer rocky head it looked almost impossible to climb, yet when I arrive in Ilaut I am told there is a path up to the summit plateau where some people are actually living, grazing animals.
The following day I set off promptly from the manyatta, my host Francis showing me the way to the start of the way, on route passing a deep well cut down through the rock in which women were (rather picturesquely, and enchantingly reminiscent of some Egyptian painting, even though it was quite a different place to Egypt here, there bringing up water) and here one of them passed my water bottles down and filled them for me.
The path up anyway had been recently used so it was possible to follow the human footprints and dusty portion, though it took a little concentration to keep on it, as clearly the cattle sometimes went some other ways.
It was actually a very pleasant ascent, fairly directly towards the dip of the ridge. This area harboured a good number of animals, and quite a number of tall trees still grew here, the ‘wild’ sounds of the bird-life here reforming the atmosphere that this was a place still home as much to animals as to people.
I soon passed under the great dark cliff of the peak looming to my left and gained the crest of the ridge. From here a path led up to the peak itself, indeed a very spectacular route which had been reinforced in many places, which rough steps made beside some section of rock, so that the cattle I suppose would not lose their footing when being taken up there. Once of the man peak, the path traversed along quite some way before it finally made for the plateau so I am beginning to wonder if I will ever reach the top. On the way i pass two largish groups of cattle all clustered beneath large trees in the shade, which serve as landmarks for my return.
Near the top I pass two small huts, and hear some voices, but I do not meet the people there until the descent. Two boys had come after me, and were looking on as I made a sketch. They then asked me for money, but all I had to give them, somewhat apologetically, was a lollipop. I was told later how they would take the cows down to the well to drink persiodically, and that as the cattle were slow moving about the hill, they had to make an intermediate camp along the ridge for the night before. Anyway that was the work for the two boys there for the moment.
The view from the top was certainly spectacular, in all four directions you could see the ranges of mountains and outliers. I was suspecting too that one of them was Mount Kenya, but I did not know.
Nesiram 25.3 (Ngurunet viewpoint)
I was pleasantly inspired when I arrived in Ngurunet, having walked here some hours along the road from the manyatta near (Le chevell) Ilaut, through the amazing mountain scenery, even if the vegetation nearby was in a somewhat sorry state showing much signs of damage, by the drought and over-browsing.
Anyway, rather like Baragoi, suddenly arriving in an area of greenery with an almost full canopy of tall green acacia trees, it was wonderful to see and to feel the pleasantness of it. Here I find there is also a place to camp, to which I am thoroughly welcomed, though it is not until the following day that I set out to explore the small pyramidal peak, one of two that lies at base of the circle of taller, towering mountains that form a circle behind the settlement.
As I am setting out I soon find I am being followed by a group of children, and then an old man hails me, and calls me to follow a different path to the peak. He does not speak English at all, but seems inclined to think there is some problem about me heading up there, indicating too that he is too old to accompany me. He is rather inclined to call me back, but I manage to covey to him the idea that, ‘yes we can keep on talking about it, but I am here to climb it).
The children had remained following us, and the old man made some several attempts to get rid of them, but they had paid no heed – so I am thinking maybe it was here a question of the prerogative of children, that they indeed needed to learn things, so it was their business fo follow and observe.
So anyway, they are coming after me. It is not too difficult, fairly steep with some vegetation, but not too hard to find a way. Though higher we come to a rocky part, and maybe i am somewhat energised by my following, for I think I would not have attempted such a direct ascent had the children not been there. So we end up with a stretch of rock climbing and hauling up by roots, the childn following, helping each other along. Though in the end only two of them make it, whilst the others all turned back.
Then once over the crags one of them points out the easier way round.
So we all three sit on the rocky top, and I am feeling some respect for the two chaps who had followed me, and who watch me for a while as I am sketching. For it is a good viewpoint up here. You could also see a nd band of of green forste at the foot of the towering cliffs. Though they lose interest before I have finished, and head down. i following, this time by a somewhat easier way.
This rather amazing towering outlier peak I had observed first when walking along the dry riverbed from the camp where I was staying into Ngurunet village, and had been inspired to make a sketch of it the first afternoon, with its intriguing ridge and craggy tops.
And then on the third day I decide to make an attempt to climb it, having spoken to some people who tell me you can ascend from the far side.
I had actually been thinking of traversing along the ridge. And from the far side I ascend the smaller western peak by the rock slope, but find no paths there through the rather thick and very thorny vegetation, so I am obliged to descend and try another way.
I am made really aware of the dryness of the idea here, whilst you could see that it had at one time been quite wet. The rock I had ascended was for instance graced with steps of totally dry moss, which had been gradually forming a covering of soil. But now it was totally compaced and hard and shrinking from the rock after a year with no rain.
There was nobody grazing sheep in this area behind, as clearly all the grass had been finished, and though you could see some old paths that must of be made by cattle of the mountain, they were already becoming overgrown. So the area rather had the feeling of reverting back to the preserve of the wild animals, for there were still squirrels there, and I saw also hares and deer. (and of course many birds which did not seem too disturbed by the dryness).
After some exploring I determined that there was no passable path now heading up the mountain, and that the only way was to ascend by the bands of rock which ran shallowly up towards the main peak. This proved indeed quite an efficient route, once I had found a way, crossing higher up onto a second rock band which led me to the final summit. Indeed this turned out to be a really excellent viewpoint in all directions, and most intorguing to the south to the tall caldera of Aldera, and the steep rocky summits which seemed impossible to climb. The relative inaccessibility of this country here probably accounted for the poppulations of wild animals still living in this area.
So there was something for me rather amazing and magnificent about all this.
the memory of that climb had been very wonderful for me, partly because it had taken me quite a number of hours exploring to finally make a way up, and it wasn’t at all a question of will or determination, djust that I seemed to possess the energy to keep on going just that little bit further, until suddenly I got there, and I am thinkinbg of those firends down below in the camp who were aware of me being up there – so in many ways I was doing it for them too.
another thought also occurred to me on that climb, which concerned the beauty of these places as might be summed up by the words ‘despite everything’. Because up near the summit you found some really beautiful miniature boabab trees, green in the stop with a wide base which tapered rapidy and intriguingly to the bifurcations of branches. And many of these green barked trees were now sprouting beautiful pink and white flowers. It was truly amazing to see – that despite all the drought and the damage to the land by so many animals and collecting of wood, beauty in its most perfect of qualities could still be manifested.
So how the life survived here, despite all this was something truly amazing. Life here in its own right.
This amazing peak I drew several times. I had first seen it from Ilaut walking in the evening along the path to his village, and it had appeared ina sketch then. He had told me it was called Lokinoi, but I was later given the name Halibaladan, which I think was the more local name.
It stood out in many subsequent views I had, being rather the shape of a lose fist, and clearly a bit higher than the surrounding outlier peaks. Francis had told me you could climb it from the village of Namerei, and that was my intention as I set off from Ngurunet, on completing my missions there.
As I walked the moutain gradually became closer, and I began to see that it was very cllearly the remnants of an ancient volcano, still preserving something of its circular base, but with the craggy top formed into many intriguing shapes.
After some hours of pleasant walking, (with 20 drops of rain falling on me from the clouds which are now beginning to grace the sky about the mountains here), and a very pleasant breeze.
Though in Namerei we have now rather left the mountains, and there are very few trees, and the area is now very much desert, with many dust storms and wind.
I have some interesting conversation with a coupld of yound men there, and another man, who is a head teacher ina nearby village school called Lecuchula, tells me you must climb it from a place called Manyatta Lingima, which is still 12 kilometres from Namerei. And here a long way, in the circumstances of transportation.
in the event I am not inclined to try and stay in Namerei, but decided to continue on the Laisamis. After walking some way I am offered a lift with some people travelling to Isiolo, and from the car I gain yet a closer view of this intriguing mountain, wondering at the possibuility of finding a way up one or other of the smooth outer ridges.
This smaller peak beyond Halibaladan volcano had been visible for quite some days since I had entered the Mount Poi area, and Francis had told me it was near to Laisamis, and had given me the name lodomut.
But when I was talking to people in Namerei, one man tells me the name is also Halilugumder, and writes it down for me.
As I am travelling in the car towards Laisamis I begin to gain a closer perspective on this intriguing mountain, which as we approach gains the shape almost of a sphinx, resting there sturdily in the landscape.
As we are passing closer I make some remark about it to the man next to me in the back of the car, who is most impressed that I know the name as Halilugumder, taking it rather as a compliment to the local culture that I knew it as such.
This peak I had first seen from Kapungaria, the distinctive toothed ridge in the range south of Tiati.
I became more aware of it later when I was travelling to from K to Ch, as the road began to pass quite close to the base of it. And when I reached the village of P, I was actually offered a place to stay there by a young man in a local house, from where I was told I could climb the moutain.
However as that had not been on my plan, I did not take up the offer.
From Ch also the Skatgat takes on a different prominence, as demarking the gateway to the higher mountains behind. And it is clearly visible from the Ch hill. And there is a Skatgat hotel in the town.
Marsabit Hill 30.3.17
I had passed many small hills rising from the plains on route to Marsabit, mostly almost bare of vegetation, showing the red soil. But at Marsabit there are suddenly trees, and to the SE it is National Park, with the hills here clothed in native forest.
Beside the town stands Marsabit Hill, which I just had time to make a sketch of the deepening profile of trees in the approaching sunset, on the first evening.
Some heavy rain fell next morning, enclosing the hill (and the town for a while) in cloud. But it lifted later and I proceeded to the Ahmed Gate, indicated by the wildlife service signpost. Here I was told that no one was allowed to enter the area except in a vehicle, which was something of a disappointment as I was looking forward to a pleasant stroll in the green forest.
Anyway some speculative exploring of the inhabited area below the hill brought me to a path alongside an electric fence-line, which I presume was demarking the edge of the park. Then after a while I came to the end of it, and found a well-used peaty path heading up into the forest. It seemed to have been used mostly by deer, though there was evidence of people’s passage in the discarded water bottles along the way. The path became somewhat less defined but continued on, climbing gently, until I reached the ridge heading to the nearest summit. It was very pleasant there, and clearly primarily the preserve of animals, for I saw no human footprints.
There were some largish trees at the top with dangling lichens on the branches, suggesting remnants of more primeaval forest cover here at one time. It was very pleasing to look out from here over a substantial covering of similar forest on the adjacent hills and to image this as home to many animals and birds. I saw myself a largish deer and quite a big troupe of baboons passed just ahead of me on my return, and paid no heed to me at all, suggesting that they were not accustomed to being disturbed by people.
So I was happy at my chance opportunity for a small forey into this terribtory without disturbing or being heeded by animal or man.
Mount Chopkoron 30.3.17
This small outlying hill can be seen clearly from laisamis town, to the east, standing out distinctly from the other small hills here due to its neat pyramidal shape capped with a pale tooth of rock.
I was told by a motorbike driver there, the name of it. But he did not know the meaning of the name, as he said it was Samburu. He did not speak the Samburu language but Rendille, as he was from that tribe. He explained too that the hill probably originally had a rendille name, but that some twenty years ago the names of the hills here had been converted to Samburu names, and he did not know the original.
Mount Moille however he said still possessed its original Rendille name.
This modest rocky hill was first pointed out to me from Laisamis by Pastor Kiloran, who had offered to take me there on his motorbike, when I was on my way north to Marsabit. I subsequently noticed that it stood out quite prominently from the road coming south from there.
In the end I arranged to go there with another motorbike man, Edward, who was a friend of Pastor Kiloran, and we set off promptly at 8 o’clock. On the way he was telling me about an American woman, Carla, who I had heard of previously, who came periodically to the area to study the cultures of the different tribes. It turned out he had done quite a lot of work for her.
The mountain indeed looked more impressive near to, with a massive rocky face seen from the east. The western, rear, side was a little more broken up, with three distinct pinnacles
Edward suggested I ascend up the diagonal fissure coming up from the left, so I ascended from this direction, scrambling over the fiarly steep but rock faces towards the right hand tallest pinnacle, on the top of which there is a metal cross which you can climb up to.
There was an almost disconcerting sense of elevation from the summit perch, which afforded good views down over the local area, with the intriguing patterns of yellows and browns of the soil, and the sinuous lines of the wadis wending their way, slightly more vegetated, across the plains below otherwise evenly speckled with the remnant trees that still are allowed to remain here.
Though there was not much more to be seen in terms of the further mountains from the summit than below.
All the same, it felt a substantial climb to get up there, so it was definately worthy to be called a mountain.
Meantime Edward had been mending a puncture on his motorbike down below (unsuccessfully as it turned out, as we had to stop and pump it up on the return).
I made a sketch of Moille from below, and Edward told me some more about the names of the mountains here, explaining that many names had been changed to Samburu names about 20 years ago, during his father’s generation. He then explained something about generations which in one way was how people measured time.
This gently sloping peak with a distinct mitre rock cap is clearly visible from Wamba main street, standing in front of the higher peaks of the Mathew Ranges behind.
On asking a lady, who was selling samosas, I was told the name was Ngura. She also remarked there were elephants up there, adding that the elephants also came into the town itself during the night.
certainly when I set off the following afternoon to climb it, I found much evidence in piles of dung.. There were also quite a number of the small deer here, with the greenish-brown back which I had seen elsewhere in the area. Nearer the summit there were quite a number of boys, grazing goats, and making quite a noise, passing them on the return, though they did not take undue notice of me.
There are more rocky outcrops nearer the summit, casting views out to other rocky peaks perched in the plains to the south-west. The summit rock turned out to me somewhat larger and more formidable than it appeared from a distance. I think it would not be possible to climb it without some ropes and aides, though the daring might have got to the lower part by way of a fissure where there were some remnants of trees, which it seemed goats even had climbed up in the past.
So a pleasant and not an insubstantial walk to this local mountain.
This small rocky hill on the road back down from Wamba invited to be climbed as a gentle excursion. So I set off along the road back down towards the plains. It is Sunday. On route I pass beside a school where a number of boys are sat in groups beneath the trees. They call to me, and on my responding one of them comes to the fence to speak to me. I ask him why people are burning the forest on the mountain.
He is quite keen to come with me, and I tell him he is welcome to accompany me if he likes. But in the event he does not come, and i continue on alone, crossing the plains beneath the remaining thin covering of trees towards the mountain. As I get closer I meet a man on a motorbike, (with two passengers) who seems anyway in approval of my intention, and tells me I should climb it from the right side.
I do not do this, as it seems easier to ascend by the rocks of the shallow gully leading between the left hand two of the three pinnacles.
There are quite a number of boys here, looking after some goats, making some noise and calling out ‘chow’ to me, as seems to be the custom in this place, presumably because the people have had Italian visitors.
It is not far to climb, then a short rock scramble to the middle and tallest pinnacle, which affords a pleasing perspective on the intriguing flat plains which stretch out to the west towards Baragoi.
The shapes of other small peaks can also be seen to the south, and beyond them the hazy shapes of more distant hills.
Some of the boys had followed me up, but they became quieter after I had begun sketching. And when I looked round after I had finished I found four dark cherubic figure sitting together, intrigued upon a rock.
They did not follow me on further, and I proceeded over the further summit and made my way down through the thorny scrub to the far side, towards another small rocky hillock on which stands a radio mast.