Even though I have just been here for more than a month, I already had the opportunity to take a week of vacation two weeks ago. The occasion was the visit of my friend and former roommate from Chicago Dave. Dave has been helping to startup an organization in Uganda called Kyklou last year, which is helping Ugandan farmers to sell their crops on the high value markets in Kenya. In his last week he had planned to take some time to travel and so we had the opportunity to explore some of Kenya's beauty together.
Our first target was climbing the eponymous Mount Kenya. With over 15.000 feet it is the tallest mountain I have ever climbed. And although mountaineering is probably not the thing one typically associates with Africa, it was one of the most beautiful hikes in my life. We had a really cool guide John and two cooks who were also carrying all our food. It would not be recommendable to do the hike without a guide (the way is not always easy to find, especially at the night hike on the las day) and the package always includes porters and cooks as well and it would be rude to do it without them, since it is how these people earn there living. But together with the ridiculous park entry fees, that unfortunately doesn't make it a cheap destination.
But we were to proud to have them carry all our stuff and also decided to camp in order to save some money. It was only a bit inconvenient that it started to snow on our second night, but with bottles filled with hot water we even survived that.
The high altitude is dangerous and it is completely unpredictable if and when you might get problems. I was badly altitude sick on the first night and weak the whole second day long, but with some Diamox medication I could cure the worst symptoms. Diamox is a fascinating pill, that tricks your body into breathing faster. Dave got altitude sickness even worse on the second night, before the last summit and it is dangerous to take medications at this point since it can can lead to overestimating your condition and getting to a hospital takes a long time. So it is advisable to preemptively take medication to help the body to acclimate easily.
The last summit is a night hike to reach the top of the mountain at sunrise. To climb the mountain in utter darkness, the way just illuminated by flashlights and with a stunning star-laden sky above was an incredible experience. Arriving at the top we were rewarded by the view of the surrounding mountains bathed in the light of the rising sun (see photo).
Overall, this three day hike was one of the most beautiful mountain experiences I have ever had and I would recommend it to anyone who likes hiking. Technically and cardio wise it is moderate challenge, only the altitude can be a major obstacle. More photos from the beautiful Kenyan mountain landscape can be found here.