Ok, I know I came here in Kenya for the per diems, I admit it ok? The experience in working on a full implementation at client site is nice but the per diem is nicer :) Whenever I’m sad, homesick or just pure sick of my life, I think of the material stuff I could buy or the travel plans I can now afford because of this ‘opportunity’ to comfort myself.
I live like a hermit but sometimes I do go out (and it is NOT to the grocery), I watch a movie alone on a ‘very widescreen’ TV (they already call it a cinema here) at Westgate Mall, have coffee at Java House while reading a book or once in a while go out from the Nairobi
A couple of weeks ago, a friend from Cebu came for ITC1 (work related, very boring and I have no plans to talk about it). She only has 2 weeks and wants to explore Kenya since it is very unlikely (but if the fare is free,why not ? ) we would be coming back to this place once the project is done. So we headed to Rift Valley since it is only a couple of hours drive from Nairobi. For the information of everyone, the Rift Valley is a lowland between highlands created by the action of a geologic rift or fault (thanks Wiki) and in simpler terms, thousands of years ago, there was a humungous earthquake that ripped some part of the world and created the valley.
On a bright Saturday morning (but still cold for us at 20 degrees celcius), 3 Bisayas headed out for a weekend without work. We rented a cab for 2 days at 15000 KSH (approx 7500 php) to take us to Mt Longonot, Lake Naivasha and Hell’s Gate. But before that, a drive to the Great Rift Valley; I have passed this long stretch of road 3x already and it never fails to take my breath away, literally and figuratively.
First Stop: Mt. Longonot National Park
Entrance Fee: 20 USD for Non-Residents and 500 KsH for Residents (or those who have working permits already)
The entrance fee is a bit discriminating but I come from a country that occasionally rip tourists off, who am I to complain? It’s my turn to be the ripped off as a tourist.
When I first heard of Mt. Longonot, my friend Harold said his Thai roommate said it took him 2 hours to reach the crater. Well, 2 hours is not bad, even for a very lethargic, non-athletic person like me. What he failed to mention was that it was 2 hours worth of serious trek wherein you have to contort your body to certain angles just to get to places. And by the time I realized this, I was already cursing like crazy and more than halfway through so I could not possibly go back. After almost 3 hours of huffing and puffing our way up, we reached the crater. I thought it would be so amazing, like a really WOW moment, but then my first thought was : “That’s it? Really?” Don’t get me wrong, the view was nice from up there with all the valleys and lakes below but I guess I was expecting a body of water on that crater (like Pinatubo).
Going down was really slippery and my Sanuks were not exactly made for treks. After that calorie burning adventure, we went out for lunch at Simba Lodge along Naivasha Lake. Simba Lodge is a really nice place, but very expensive. For 500 USD a night you get a small villa with a beautiful view of the lake and a very spacious backyard with antelopes, gazelles, zebras and other animals we normally just see in the zoo. If I have 500 USD, I will still not stay here and would rather go to Masai Mara and see more animals
Second stop: Lake Naivasha
Entrance Fee: None
We stayed in Fish Eagle Inn, 12000 KSH for 2 rooms. We originally booked at Fisherman’s Camp but the only available rooms are at top camp which were butt ugly and no way in hell we are staying there for 10000 KSH (it was just a hut situated on a hill with no view of the lake whatsoever, it is so far from the main road and the road going up is so bad I wonder if anyone on their right mind would stay there).
Lake Naivasha is home to a lot of birds and hippos. But for me, I would always prefer the serenity of the nearby Lake Oloiden. There seems to a limitless supply of pink flamingos flying all over you and the hippos are just everywhere. You can go boating for 3000 KSH an hour and have fun driving the pink flamingos away (evil hehe).
Best advise I got from this trip? Always bring US dollars with you if you plan to visit national parks in Kenya. The conversion rate they offer at the entrance is simply ridiculous, nothing spells rip off than charging 1 USD = 102 KsH, that is 10 KsH more than what it is worth at the market. And second best advise, always ask for the price first for anyone offering their services as a guide, last time I was in Hell’s gate we only paid 300 Ksh for a 2 hr tour. This time the guy insisted they charge 500 KsH per hour. Wow, that’s what we call inflation.