Yes! There are still many things which are not well-documented in internet! Now-a-days it seems more exciting to visit not-so-amazing unknown places than the absolutely mind-blowing known one.
It was our last day in Kenya. After an week-long wild thrill in the mostly celebrated forests like Masai mara, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru & Lake Naivasha we went for a half-day trip in Hell’s Gate National Park with least expectations. We did the trip just because it was included in the itinerary of the Absolute Holiday, the safari company with whom we were having our wild experiences in Kenya. The only impressive information we got from the internet was walking through this park would be allowed due to the absence of any predator unlike other parks where we had to be always inside the safari car.
The first noticeable thing was the Fischer’s Tower, which from a distant view looked like huge cubical stones being piled one after another. This natural rock formation was named after one of the explorers of this area. This place is good for beginner-level rock climbers.
Our trail was through a savanna grassland and on the both side of our path the horizon was covered behind long & uninterrupted wall-like rock formation. It seems that the meadow is protected by natural walls on both side.
A closer view may depict the nature of the rock formation. Volcanic eruption followed by massive erosion day after day causes all these colored cubical structures and made the entire region a heaven for climbers.
The first part of the trail was about 7 km. It is a motor-able path, but one can walk or cycle. Visitors usually hire cycles from the entry gate, but we were short in time and preferred to go by our safari car. Though the animals and birds were fewer in number compared to the other parks, but they were roaming fearlessly beside our car. Absence of predators makes the dwellers of this park in-born brave-hearts and it was helping us to get better photographs. We managed to see and shoot warthogs, Thompson gazelles, impalas, olive baboons, zebras, giraffes, hartebeests and a silver-backed jackal. Birds were less in number. Some birds of prey were seen far away.
As we were already contented with our wild experiences in the previous parks, therefore, this small number of game viewing was a little bit frustrating for us. But when the motor-able path ended near a river gorge, we suddenly found that Kenya is not all about game-viewing. The canyon is surrounded by thick greenery of huge trees unlike savanna grasslands or swamp areas and the entire area resembles rain-forests.
The unexpected wonder of Hell’s Gate National Park actually lies in hiking through this river canyon. This is only permissible along with a guide. Visitors are given two options – a longer trail and a shorter trail. We chose the shorter one due to shortage of time.
The river gorge was very steep in some places and we had to climb down carefully. Little adventures like occasional jumping, crawling, sideways walking between narrow cliffs were very refreshing after an week-long safari car trip.
A thin stream was flowing through the canyon making the path muddy and slippery. This walk-able trail is risky in the season of heavy rain for the high chances of flash flood. The wavy curves on passageways due to the erosion by water indicates the maximum rise of water level, when the upper part of the cliff is mostly stratified.
Black obsidian stones were found here and there on the river bank.
We saw some strange brown marks like vertical brush strokes on the stratified part of the cliff.
There was no visitor apart from us. We steeped into that pre-historic ambiance created by the surrounding thick vegetation, the hanging roots, the unusual rocks and the soothing silence interrupted only by chirping of birds and jumping monkeys.
The path was gradually widening and heading towards a broader area which is actually a confluence of two rivers.
There we saw a hot water spring. The nearby rocks were yellow due to sulfur deposition and the air was full of sulfury smell .
We turned left and started walking through the path of another river. Rainwater, especially during the season of heavy rain, runs into this part too, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic flowing shapes in the rock.
The trail was full of frequent turns and every new turn was presenting newer amazement. The canyon, though less colored and smaller in size resembles to Antelope Canyon of Arizona, USA.
The trail was becoming narrower as we were proceeding deeper and suddenly it looked like the path was almost blocked by huge stones. This was the end of our shorter trail and one who chooses for the longer one has to pass through those stones to continue.
For the love of serenity and to experience uncluttered nature up-close & personal one should visit Hell’s Gate National Park at least for half a day while in Kenya.
Hell’s Gate National Park
Location : South of Lake Naivasha in Kenya, 114KM (approx) from Nairobi
Timing : 8AM – 5PM
Entry Fee : USD30 per person for foreigners, KES700 per person for (East African) residents, KES350 per car (Guide fee for hiking through the canyon is not included )