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Heather: Hell’s Gate National Park

February 7, 2010

Ten of us left for Hell’s Gate on Friday after classes. We were supposed to be picked up at 2pm at school, but the matatu did not get there until 4:30. Yes, 4:30. That is even beyond “Kenyan time.” I was pissed. We were supposed to get to the park and have an hour long safari ride and then set up camp and go to town for dinner. Well, none of that worked out. We didn’t even get out of Nairobi until 5:30.

We finally reached Hell’s Gate around 7:30, but ran into some more problems. The ranger station at the front was closed and there was no one around to let us in. Finally we got to talk to someone and he said we couldn’t get in because the front entrance was closed. After a bunch of talking, he finally agreed to let us in, but then told us that we couldn’t walk because it was after dark so we would have to pay 2500bob for the matatu to bring us in. Lame. And then he wouldn’t believe that we were Kenyan residents, even though we had the papers in our passports to prove it. And we also had the Pupil’s Pass, that proves we are students. The tourist charge to get into the park and camp for one night is $40, but as Kenyan resident students, we should have gotten it for $7. He kept saying that we needed a letter from the Embassy stating that we’re students. Well no one knew about that, not even the MSID advisors when we called them. It really makes me mad how a lot of the Kenyan people try to charge us a lot more simply because we’re American. It’s happened more than once. The gate person kept trying to tell me that the student rate was 500bob and I knew that wasn’t right. So I got out my pamphlet that my host dad gave to me and proved to him that it was 250bob. He didn’t like that very much. They must not think that there actually are some people who plan and do research before hand and we’re not just going to give into anything. I had everything all set aside and ready to show the gate person when asked about it.

The ten of us made a decision to camp somewhere else for the night and hike into Hell’s Gate in the morning. Our matatu brought us to Fisherman’s Camp on Lake Naivasha, a couple miles away. We set up camp there and had a fire and ate some food there for the rest of the night. We had a lot of fun just sitting around the fire and talking and getting to know each other more. The next morning we packed up and started the 5km hike down to Hell’s Gate. We finally got there and got entrance and camping for the night. The total came to 650bob..about $8.50. We couldn’t get the student rate, but it was ok. We also then each paid 250bob for bike rental. Waste of time and money, they were terrible! We didn’t even use them the rest of the day. We started the next 5km hike to our campsite. We saw the campsite from the road; it was up on a huge hill/cliff side. From where we were it was about 1.5km to get up there, but our guide told us we could climb up the side of it if we wanted to, even though there weren’t any paths. So we started the trek up. Oh baby was that rough. It was extremely steep and I had my pack with two tents on it. If I leaned backward I would be rolling back down the side.

After everyone got up, we made some lunch and started back down the hill to hike to the gorge. That was another 5.2km. And it was HOT! It is a gorgeous park, with cliffs everywhere you look. From what I heard, The Lion King was based off this park, so we kept looking for Pride Rock. We saw a few places that had potential. We treked through the gorge and saw where Mufasa was killed. Or so we assumed. There was also a part of the gorge that an Indiana Jones movie was filmed at. We did some serious hiking up through the gorge. There were times when the rock went straight down and we had to shimmy our way down or up. Crazy, but fun stuff. We were getting really tired and finally started on our way back. We climbed up out of the gorge and went all the way to the top of the cliffs. We could see everything; it was awesome! We walked back and up our cliff again to the campsite. Overall we hiked about 30km that day. We were beat. Everyone went to bed extremely early that night.

This morning we got up and basically hung around camp for awhile until we started packing up. We left in groups, and I was in the last group to leave. We got lucky because there were some campers that were next to us and they were leaving too, but they had their truck so they volunteered to take our bags for us and drop them off at the entrance so we didn’t have to carry them. Everything worked out really well this weekend, except for the mishap on Friday afternoon. Our guide more than made up for it though, and he charged us less for the ride there and back too.

Overall it was a great park to visit. We didn’t get to see a lot of animals, but we did see a giraffe, some zebras and buffalos. It was more for the gorges than anything. But we camped in Africa with no fences around us, and that I think, is pretty amazing.

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