This morning we got up early for our volcano climbing excursion. While we were waiting for David to pick us up we saw a group of 7 or 8 Colobus monkeys eating breakfast just in front of the lodge. THEY ARE SO FUNNY! And their tails... look like those macrame plant hangers that seemingly everyone in my childhood had gracing the corners of their living rooms. There were also Vervet monkeys jumping around stealing little bits of breakfast for themselves and generally acting like monkeys.
We left the lodge at 7:30 to drive to Mt. Longonot - a dormant volcano that last erupted in 1863. It is about 30 mins from the lodge and the plan is to hike up the side and then around the crater.
David has a bad knee (from dancing while in Canada) so he stayed behind with Bubbie and we set off with our guide Daniel. Daniel is dressed in long pants and a t-shirt, no hat, no water. We are dressed like bumbling tourists - hats, sunscreen shining, multiple water bottles. We ask him how long it takes to hike to the crater and he says 'about 30-40 mins, if you are fit.' We assure him we are all fit. He did not look convinced.
Daniel is like a sprightly young mountain goat. He springs up the slope without even losing his breath or breaking a sweat. We get to a point that is halfway up - it has been 30 minutes already. The slope started out gently but changed to something around 45 degrees about 10 minutes in. After a short break, we start again.
Now we're hiking through deep crevices that started out as lava flow and have been eroded over time to runnels. We stop more often now, about every 5 minutes, to give ourselves a breath. The sun is out and my best guess is that the temperature is 26-28. It is just before 9am.
Everytime we stop, Daniel looks back patiently. I take the opportunity to take wide panoramic photos which look essentially the same every time but give me an excuse to keep stationary for a few moments before slogging on again.
We finally get to the top and at first glance I feel dizzy: just in front of me is a straight drop to the crater about 350 m below. The path around the crater looks like the precipices James Bond might feel comfortable on to show off his manliness, but we are made of weaker stuff. We ask how long to go around the crater and our guide tells us (probably with a new estimate of our 'fitness') 3-4 hours. Plus another hour downhill.
Having come all this way it seemed a bit sad not to take on the whole volcano, but we didn't want to hike for 4 more hours, especially with Mindy's fear of heights, meaning she'd have to stay behind. We decided to walk for another 40 minutes and then climb down. We made it around a quarter of the way and saw steam chutes which told us that although dormant, this volcano is definitely not extinct.
The view over the rift valley was amazing. We were in the clouds, watching them roll in over the mountain ranges.
The climb down was a different kind of hard: I felt it all in my thighs for days to come. But it was all worth it for....
Here's to you, Mt. Longonot! Thanks for not exploding on us!
We got back to the lodge around 12:30 and relaxed for the rest of the day. In the afternoon we went for a walk around the lodge - to the lake (where more hippos were observed) and on the jetty. We saw a rainbow, waterbucks, giraffes, egrets, and more monkeys.
But possibly the highlight of my animal observations on this day was this:
Tomorrow we head to David's land, about halfway to Maasai Mara Conservancy. We'll be camping for 3 nights in REAL, ACTUAL TENTS and that makes me slightly nervous about... you know... insects...