Date: 22.02.2017 & 23.02.2017
Distance: 23km, estimated
Start altitude: 4 790m
End altitude: 2 700m
Staying in the Mt Kenya Bandas (Day 6) and back in Chogoria on Day 7.
Our plan was to hike from the Austrian Hut, via Lenana to the Bandas in one day. We also planned a sunrise-summit on Lenana and started hiking with our headlamps at 05:45.
Previously we were all alone on the peak. Now in the dark we could see a worm of lights, many on the summit, some approaching from the other side. Unfortunately today we will not have that privelege. At the final steps of the via ferrata we fall in behind another group. There is a buzz on the summit from all the people and it momentarily distracts me from the magnificent beauty around us.
Dawn has broken in all its glory and visibility is good. The sky is streaked in diferent shades of blue and orange. The mountains are coloured in soft hues of pink and the valleys down below are covered in a sleepy grey. The fresh cold air gives me a runny nose and I sniff a few times.
Suddenly there is a terrible buzz and I see a man launching a drone into the air. Remote in his hand he flies it off in the direction of Nelion then returns the noisy machine as if to photograph everyone on the summit. I have to make an effort not to throw it or its pilot with a stone, but keep on wishing a falcon will sweep in and take the dreaded thing out of the air.
With all the activity we feel as if something revered has been defaced and we depart from the summit after only a short while.
As we go down we pass many people on their way up. Our biggest surprise was to see a large noisy contingent of the Kenyan army on its way to Lenana. A string of people so long we did not see the end of the line. Many of them looked tired and out of shape. Charles however says they started far away that same morning, that might explain it. So glad we avoided this noisy bunch on Lenana.
Soon our route circles back onto the same track we followed up. We hike through the plain with the giant groundsels and stopped for breakfast at Mintos, Simon and the porters on duty as usual. Charles says we’ll have lunch at the start (end) of the jeep track. We however want to get to the Bandas and ask Charles that we rather have a late lunch there.
We continue hiking at a fast pace and soon we are in the heath-fields again. Down at the beautiful stream next where we camped our second night we refill our water and take a short break. Now onto the jeep track we are close to the Bandas, but the last 2 kilometers feel unusually long. We finally arrived around 13:00.
This was our longest hiking day and our feet feel tired, but we are glad to be back at the Bandas with its relative luxury.
We have lunch and relax the rest of the day.
On our last morning we start hiking down to our pick-up point at 09:00. It is still on the jeep track and only takes about 40 minutes until we see the waiting Land Rover. Along the way we see fresh elephant dung, but not the beast itself.
Before being dropped at our camp site in Chogoria we stop at an ATM and we pay the team the customary tipp for which they are very grateful.
At camp we pitch the tent again and sort the gear that have to go back to SA.
Mt Kenya was a highlight in all respects. Now back down our mood falls when we think of getting onto the bicycles. We wonder if we should not have stopped the tour after this great highlight. It almost seems appropriate to end on such a note. With some effort we motivate ourselves for the saddle, believing it will be worth it to finish what we started.
Thanks for enjoying the adventure with us.
Willem & Eva