Ever been to Lake Ellis?”
“Well, let’s go”
**ONE WEEK OR SO LATER**
We left Nairobi at 5am, in which case we were lucky to have a car as it is then easy to manoeuvre around the government instructions as far as curfew times go. The then 9pm curfew was not doing us any favours. It is a 5-hours’ drive from Nairobi and we were aiming to knock on Chogoria gate by 10am. The Google Maps direction to the Kenya Wildlife Service Chogoria gate is correct. Unlike us, I suggest you pay key attention to the map once you’re past Chuka so you don’t miss your turn and end up snaking through dirt back roads to make your way back on course. We missed our turn by a cool 11 minutes’ drive because SOMEONE———.
There is that wee bit of dirt road to the main entry to the forest, how come the road within the forest is better than this stretch? Nonetheless, the road up takes a slight steep gradient from the main entry and gets steeper once you leave behind the bamboo belt further up. Not that far in, the road gets dotted with mostly elephant spoor, although we did not see any elephant. The drive to the KWS gate felt like an eternity to an extent that we started second-guessing ourselves – were we on the right track or not!
As we are about to finish the seemingly unending climb, we bump into a stalled pick-up circa 500m from the KWS gate – more on that in a wee bit. Finally!!!! the KWS gate was in sight, a sigh of relief and a wee whoo hooo!! A wee chit chat with the KWS officer manning the gate and he goes “did you guys pass a stalled pick-up on your way here,”
Him: So, erm….you will have to drive back there, so that you can make your Mpesa payment, it’s the only spot where there is GSM coverage.
Personally, I thought that that was awesome. They should however put a marker around that area, I suppose the stalled pick-up is never always there. Me thinks.
We embark on the climb soon after getting done with the entry formalities. I should point out that we did not come with our own guide, we thought we’d find one at the KWS gate. However, we did confirm with the KWS officer at the gate that the trail to Lake Ellis is pretty much straight forward.
However, barely 100m into our hike, we are met with a route decision, turn left into a field full of the tussock grass or push on towards the KWS bandas and hope that that’s the trail. I’m thinking to myself that just maybe we should have secured a guide to tag along with us. My partner decided to go back to the gate and get clarifications on the hike trail. This time, armed with authoritative info, we made our way through the tussock grass, which doesn’t stretch to far. As we match through the grass, my partner spots a smartphone dropped by a group that is ahead of us who are making their way back clearly combing through the grass searching for it. We hand it to them as we proceed – the relief on the owner’s face. They say it is a two-hour hike to Lake Ellis, we took 3 hours, here’s why, hear me out; the scenery all through to Lake Ellis is magical (for lack of a better word) and they scream at you to take photos of them; from fruticose lichen “old man’s beard” anchored on backs of trees, dried up whistling thorn et cetera et cetera.
We spot several armies of red ants following the usual scent their leader left behind as they head out to forage. As the road meanders up the trail, we get to a Y-junction, we took the right one after inspecting for recent human/vehicular track, the left one, we later found out that it leads to Lake Michaelson. Up ahead, Mugi Hill welcomes you to its neck of the woods, and quite a distant way the Giant’s Billiard Table just stares back at you. We come by a number of streams flowing with what to the naked eye is super clean water. A few meters ahead, we finally spot a sign saying that Lake Ellis is 2kms that way, if you are looking straight at the sign, ‘that way’ is to your right. This steep however dwarfs the other steeps we faced while driving up to the KWS gate, it’s got loose gravel of different sizes, the climb was painstaking.
I should point out that whatever is awaiting you on the other side is worth it a million times. The trek opens to the sight of a part of Lake Ellis in all its glory. Its entire span unfolds as you get nearer and it’s simply SCENIC! SERENE! You just sit there, savour everything and COLLECT MOMENTS. The beauty is hard to contain. YOU DO NOT FEEL LIKE LEAVING. EVER! You easily get lost in your thoughts and the beauty in front of you all fused into one, borderline psychedelic.
Oh! You do get a chance to glimpse at the peaks whenever the clouds feel like they’d want you to. They did feel like, for us, I think twice.
We had carried packed lunch with us, I was famished and went ahead to set up. At those temperatures, everything gets cold real quick. My partner tried siphoning water from her hydration pack and the water was near freezing cold. Eating was therefore done in a flash, at the shores of Lake Ellis and with a backdrop to die for. We got done, took some photos here and there. This was a near random day hike so spending the night there was off the books, having said that, we started on the descend. Reluctantly. I couldn’t bring myself to turn my head and look at the receding lake behind me. We had eaten into our overall hike time during the climb up, we therefore had to make up for the ‘lost’ time during the descend, which we ran most of it. That, and trying to beat a cloud of rain that was closing in on us very fast, which it did with about a kilometer left to reach the KWS gate.
Scenic Serene Adventures Ltd took care of our booking and itinerary. You can look them up at sereneadventure.com or reach out to them at email@example.com