Northern Kenya: An epic journey into beauty unexpected – a multipart story: Part 4: Ngurunit, the Ndoto Mountains and returning to Mt Ololokwe

The 4th part of our multi-stop journey saw us going closer towards the Ndoto mountains, where we stayed in a small town called Ngurunit.  You can read about our journey till that point in Part 1 , Part 2 , and Part 3 which saw us go from Nairobi to Samburu to Koros and Lake Turkana.

Some of the flowers we saw on our trip.  The bottom flower (not sure of the name of it) can be pressed to release a drop of liquid that can be used as an eye drop.  We are slowly trying to brush up on our knowledge of the flora.

The drive from Koros to Ngurunit would pass through the village of Kurungu (an area where elephants have returned and live in harmony with the community) and the town of South Horr.  The greenery with wildflowers continued all along the way, making for another amazing drive.

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The mountains also continued to provide a stunning landscape, especially with the changing weather.

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On the way, we passed a huge fenced off area – this is where there had been an irrigation project started by the Red Cross and an array of vegetables were grown at the time, but unfortunately, it had not worked out (due to not educating the local people?) and the area is now derelict, but I understand there are plans to revive the project again.  Look out for this – you will see greenhouses on the side, if you are in the area.

The roads were relatively good, and we could see construction of roads going on in the distance as we passed South Horr – am not sure if this may be the road to Maralal via Baragoi?  We had been advised to avoid Baragoi as there was a lot of insecurity, so it was good that it was not on our plan for this trip.

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A view of the iconic Mt Poi behind the Pajero on our drive to Ngurunit.  A favourite with climbers!!

Ngurunit is a small town nestled at the base of the Ndoto Mountains, which are at the northern end of the Matthews Range.  The views once in the area are once again breath-taking!! There is a lugga that passes through the town, which usually has water, but unfortunately, due to the drought last year, it had dried up. I hope it fills up again with the recent rains that we have experienced.

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Our camp set up – we used our Iron Man awning room in Ngurunit – can you spot it?

We stayed at Lasamu campsite – thank you Kenyan Camper for your posts about this area, making it easier for us to know where to stay.  There were beautiful view of the Ndotos from there, although the iconic shape that is Mt Poi was hidden most of the time due to the clouds.  Mt Poi is a favourite for enthusiastic rock climbers, though we did not come across any while in the area.

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Some of the views from our campsite

We were once again luck to have the campsite to ourselves (we are getting quite spoilt with not having to share campsites).  There is also another campsite in the area – Salato campsite, but we did not go and check what it was like.  When we were there, the town had a problem with water as one of the water pipes had broken.  Luckily, we had carried water for washing as well on this trip, and were okay.  It is very important if visiting this part of Kenya to be as self sufficient as possible.  The evening passed by relaxing and we had a wonderful curry with tortillas for dinner.

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The beautiful colours of sunrise in Ngurunit

We spent the next morning in Ngurunit, learning about some of the challenges in the areas from Steven Labarakwe, who owns the camp.  The mountains are losing their tree coverage due to deforestation as the cedar trees are being cut down for charcoal or for poles.

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An example of a tree cut down for charcoal

We also visited a school near the camp to plant trees and grass in the area, and learnt about the great need the schools have for simple things like exercise books and pencils.  We are looking forward to revisiting later this year to help them out with some of these simple supplies.  If you would like to help out or contribute to this, please get in touch.

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Planting trees and grass using Seedballs from Seedballs Kenya

From there, we had a drive to get to a beautiful short hike within the Ndoto mountains to some natural water slides and rock pools – so picturesque and fun!!  And the walk in the mountains was like being in a rainforest.

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We recommend taking a guide from the village for this hike, as it is difficult to find the trail to the rock pools after a certain point – we had experienced this first hand the previous afternoon.

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The water for Ngurunit comes from the Ndoto Mountains, and flows by gravity.  This tank houses the water and there was a broken pipe around here which resulted in no water in the town when we were there.  They had it repaired the following day.

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The natural rock slides and pools!!  Check out the video about this on our YouTube channel

There are longer walks that can organised within the Ndoto range too, but we did not have enough time for this.  Steven told us stories of his childhood in the area, and how there were rhinos and elephants there till the 1970’s – hopefully, we see a return of these species with the conservation efforts starting to happen around Northern Kenya.  The forest used to be so thick at that there were no paths to access it.

From Ngurunit, we drove back through the beautiful landscape towards Mt Ololokwe, the home of God for the Samburu tribe.  See Part 2 for more pictures of the mountain we passed on our journey. The Milgis lugga had started to get water flowing through it, but we were lucky that it had not flooded, so were still able to cross it easily.

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Once we got to Laisamis, we were back on the tarmac road and headed towards Sabache camp, which is at the base of Mt Ololokwe and our home for the next three nights.

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Traffic on the road!!

Sabache means ‘A Place of Beauty and Reverence’ in the Maa Samburu language.

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It is located on a private wildlife reserve and conservancy owned and operated by the indigenous Samburu tribe.  The camp’s website also goes on to say the following about the camp’s model:

“Sabache is a model ecotourism project that strives to show “an intact habitat is worth more than one developed”. Because Sabache is 100% owned, operated by, and benefits the local indigenous Samburu community, it is a pioneer in sustainable community-based ecotourism and is committed to environmentally sound practices. By staying at Sabache, guests support conservation of the African wilderness and provide direct employment and income to more than 145 families in the area.”

The camp has tented rooms that you can stay in as well as a campground with running water, showers and drop down toilets, though we decided to set up our own shower and toilet.  We managed to get a nice clearing with loads of space as we had friends joining us.

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Our tent was obviously quite inviting for other residents in the area
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The view from our campsite! This is what I call the billion dollar view!!

Dipa who manages the camp was very helpful in getting the area cleared of the tall grass that had grown so that we could set up our tent.  We spent the day  and the following morning catching up on getting our laundry done and just relaxing (our favourite part of these trips).  The next afternoon, our friends had joined, and once all the tents were set up, we got a lovely campfire going and spent the evening relaxing, watching the stars – my favourite kind of entertainment.

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Trying out some night photography – still have a lot to learn!!

The great thing I loved about the camp was that even though there were a lot of people, as it was the Easter weekend, you could still manage to find a secluded space.  There were a lot of rock climbers, part of Mountain Club of Kenya (MCK), who had come that weekend to attempt some of the climbs in the area.  Northern Kenya is a paradise for these activities.

The next day’s agenda was to climb the beautiful Mt Ololokwe with our friends who had joined us.

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A couple of friends had decided to not attempt it and relax at the base.  I was excited, but also slightly anxious as I know my fitness levels were not great.  The climb was steep in a lot of sections, and I did find it tough, but still easier than I had envisioned.

While on our climb, we received news that one of the MCK climbers had a fall (not along the route we were on) – help was summoned quite fast for him, but due to the inaccessibility of the area he was in, it took the whole day for him to be brought down.  Elephants and puff adders seen in the area when the rescue team was going up to assess the situation, also slowed down the rescue.

We were very impressed with how the MCK team and the team at Sabache camp handled the whole situation and luckily none of the injuries were life threatening.  This incident was a reminder of the importance of knowing first aid, and we were thankful for having done the First Aid in Wilderness course earlier in the year.  You can read about it here. 

The views all along were beautiful, with some areas reminding me of being in the English countryside.

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The final push to the viewpoint

None of the views along the climb could have prepared us for what was waiting as the view point.  It was like looking through ‘God’s window’ as we saw miles and miles around of the beautiful Northern Kenya!!  This was definitely one of those climbs where the view at the top was more than worth the difficult ascent.  We had our lunch at the top and relaxed watching the hawks ride the air currents in the area.

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The beautiful panoramas from the top courtesy of our friend Sweata

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There is a stunning setting of a campsite near the top set amongst the trees (less than a 10 minute walk to the viewpoint), and next time, we are definitely going to make a plan to camp at the top of this majestic mountain.  Sabache camp can help organise this.

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The setting of the beautiful campsite near the top

We were climbing slowly, and with breaks, and finally after about 7 hours we got back to our camp for some well needed cold beers and soaking of our feet.  Carry plenty of water and snacks for the climb – you will need them.  We saw some pretty cool locusts along the way: not sure of the species though – still so much to learn!!

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That night, we were super tired, which is always a recipe for me to get cranky and not be the best company, so we crashed out by 7pm, leaving the others to hang out by the fire and await more information about the injured climber.

We headed out the next morning, and the storm clouds were brewing!!  We had not decided on where to stay that evening, and decided that we would wait to see what the weather was like.  Once we passed Isiolo, the heavens opened up and we got a crazy rainstorm.  We decided against heading to Ngare Ndare (which had been our first choice of camp for the night) and ended up in Timau instead – a story for another day.

Wilderness is a necessity there must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls.”
John Muir

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5 thoughts on “Northern Kenya: An epic journey into beauty unexpected – a multipart story: Part 4: Ngurunit, the Ndoto Mountains and returning to Mt Ololokwe

  1. Purvi, A good account of your experiences…..The area NFD at one time ( during colonial period ) was closed to visitors except by special permission. Try and get some literature on the history and exploration of of Northern Kenya.

    Liked by 1 person

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