After sleeping off a 23Km hike on Kwenia Cliffs, the plan was to laze around the swimming pool at the Magadi Sports Club, but, by morning, the place looked small and stifling hot, so we headed out to higher ground – facing Nkurman Escarpment.
Everyone has their favourite destination – a place that elevates the spirit. Lentorre Lodge is that place for me. It is a rare gem, perched on the escarpment, overlooking the vast Orkiramatian-Shompole conservation area. From here you could see Mt. Shompole as well as Oldoinyo Lenkai and Gilai in Tanzania.
My interest here is to see the lodge after the departure of my friend, Peter ole Kiyiaa, a gold star tour guide and Ole Kuyo, a man that I highly respect for his knowledge of all things in the wild.
Ole Kuyo is a special kind of man. He has never stepped into a formal classroom but he can tell you every animal and plant species botanical, English and Maa names. My connection with him is his amazing hiking skills. He is skinny, strong and fast.
It is a 30Km drive from Magadi to Lentorre – the road is passable but I advise a 4 x 4. We pulled up to the reception area to the surprise of another friend who is now the lodge manager, Leonard ole Ndungu – small world!
Leonard gave us a tour of the lodge – there a few renovations being done. They are also building a tunnel that will give visitors an up-close encounter with wildlife at the waterhole. The rooms are spectacular, each with its mini swimming pool.
“Are you ready for the hills?” Ole Kuyo asked with a mischievous smile as he sized up my hiking companion.
We are ready! He handed long walking sticks to each of us. Water in the backpacks!
“The hike is for the strong,” he said as if to warn my hiking partner – “Elototo ormurran.”
It is a 4km hike – very steep hill, one of the many pieces of this massive escarpment. We must do this in an hour.
We paced up, following Kuyo, a rungu under his left armpit and a water bottle on the other. Oh, these thin legs and Bata Safari boots!
It is fast and I started panting within the fast 200 metres. We are still catching up on news about each other – what we have been up to since the last hike, the kids, cattle and of course the deadly drought. I enquired about of his daughter who was attacked by a honey badger last year. She has healed.
We reached the halfway mark – all sweating and the man kept walking, his earlobes dangling and no sweat. I and Herdsgirl are sweating bucket, panting, but, keeping up.
There was a commotion up the hill – hooves, rocks falling. Something is running. We stopped. Ole Kuyo tilted his head, listening keenly as the invisible creatures ran away from us, hidden by the acacia forest.
“Zebras,” he said.
“Not buffalo?” I asked.
“No. Zebras are lighter when they step on the ground,” he responded.
It was a relief to have stopped – to gasp some air.
We resumed the climb, meandering around the trees – reaching the summit from a very steep bend. Mt. Shompole smiled at us as it calmy sit at the base of Lake Natron. We could see as far as Lake Magadi and the smoky hills towards Kajiado Central.
We spent a few minutes at the summit – conversing and appreciating the spectacular views. The path downwards was sharp, loose rocks and we were almost trotting as he explained the different types of Acacia species.
“There are 45 of them after scientists removed 4 from the list,” Ole Kuyo explained. He said a few difficult botanical names – I remember none. I have never cared for botanical names since high school.
We came across a zebra skull. Ole Kuyo picked it up – looked at it keenly, the same tilting of the head to the right.
“It is a male zebra,” he said. “What is the difference from the female?” I asked gladly catching up with my breath.
“Males have an extra set of teeth. They use it to bite during fights with others,” he responded.
We hooved on…still fast but careful as the rocks are slippery and arrived back at the lodge under an hour to the surprise of Leonard and his team.
Oh, this glorious cup of tea is just what I needed.
There are new arrivals at the lodge – local rangers tracking a lion that is on the move from Amboseli and has just arrived in this area. The lion is such a nomad. It was collared with a tracking device in Samburu and transported to Tsavo National Park but it found its way to Amboseli and now traveled over 300KM to here.
“Maybe it is trying to get its way home,” one of the guys commented.
This area has about 65 lions that are jealously guarded by the community. I believe the nomadic lion has come to the right place.
It is time to return to Nairobi. I handed over a small shopping bag for his wife – 2kgs of sugar, tea leaves, packets of milk and biscuits for the kids.
“Pass my regards to your wife, “I said.
“I have two wives,” he said and we had a good laugh over my mistake and him having to sort out the mess of taking one shopping bag home.
You can contact Lentorre Lodge on Telephone: +254 (0) 723 317553