Travels & Trips

Samburu ride: Stargazing on Mt Ololokwe

Have you seen those pictures of bikers posing next to Mt. Ololokwe, the table mountain of Samburu? I’ve been wanting to climb this mountain for years. Hiking, riding and swimming is a triathlon I’d sign up for.

“Archer’s Post” just rolls off your tongue in a way that you want to teleport yourself to this Northern Frontier.

Then on a Saturday I decide to finally hit the road. Armed with the knowledge that it’s all excellent tarmac until right next to the mountain, I leave early and reach Sagana at 8:15 without any stops. Boy, the clear views of Mt Kenya’s peaks after Murang’a were amazing.

While having breakfast at the café at Magunas I call the team at Sabache Camp to hear if they can help arrange for guided hiking and camping. They suggest to arrive in time for a three hour hike.

Continuing towards Nanyuki, I somehow missed the right turn at Marua after Karatina (I hadn’t checked the map properly and assumed it’s all straight). As I find myself in Nyeri town I realize my mistake and proceed towards Kiganjo where I enter the highway again. Some nice views and twists but really not a detour I’d recommend if you’re on a tight timeline.

I decide to have some early lunch in Nanyuki in anticipation for strenuous hiking in the heat.
Before Timau I find myself riding through desert locust swarms so I stop for pictures! How frustrating and scary it must be to see them settling on your farmland.

Huge, scary swarm of desert locusts just 12km after Nanyuki, right at the turn for Old Moses

At the Isiolo junction when leaving the Mt Kenya circuit, the North calls with some instant humidity and heat.

I enter Isiolo at exactly 13:59 and pass through rather quickly. When I get to the turn for Wajir and check Maps, I realize just how much of this country I haven’t yet seen!

It had clouded up, but I didn’t expect what happened next: heavy rain and hail. After a few minutes, I spot a house by the roadside and I shelter with a family just before Archer’s Post.

I start to get seriously worried about whether I’ll still be able to hike Mt Ololokwe before sunset. But no way was I going to sleep down at the camp! It is nearly 3pm and I have 50km to go.

350km into my day, I reach the destination and branch off the tarmac at the signpost.

Mt Ololokwe is literally 500m from the highway and Sabache Camp is 2km on sandy off-road. I change from riding to hiking gear, peak up at the steep mountain and watch my guide, a local Samburu Moran put together my camping equipment which he’ll be carrying for me. I carry around 2 litres of water with me and decline another bottle as I’m told that there’s water on top that we can boil. We head out two hours to sunset…

Breathtaking views during the ascent

We cover the first 600m altitude in 90 minutes. It was past 5pm and cloudy so luckily not too hot. During the day, someone may need 2 litres of water just for the climb. The Work From Home lifestyle has me walking at a third of the speed of my guide who’s carrying 20kgs of luggage and is walking in sandals 😂

At some point, as we climb the narrow steep path between rocks and trees, I realize that the ground is not just soil and sand but also digested grass.

Fresh elephant poop! I had no idea that elephants can climb such terrain. But then I know very little about elephants. “What are we going to do if we bump into an elephant?” – The highly confident and a little daaah answer: “I’ll just throw stones. That’ll scare the elephant!”. Who am I to doubt someone who grew up around this mountain?

A natural water source hides behind trees on the mountain top. Quite muddy but good for cooking.

Once at the hill top, it’s another 3km of slight ascent to get to the flat rocky part with the best view. We arrive with the last sunrays and pitch the tent. While my guide collects dead wood and lights a bonfire, I devour my packed lunch from Nanyuki and watch the stars.

Thankfully all my curious questions were answered freely this evening and I got some interesting insights into Samburu culture.

After I had somewhat missed the sunset, I was really looking forward to the sunrise. But first, a night of wild camping at the mountain top. It got chilly but I was cozy in the tent and a good sleeping bag. There’s no clean water or toilet so wet wipes come in handy. Please plan to take your garbage back down.

The sunrise comes at 6am and unveils breathtaking views towards Isiolo, Mt. Kenya and across the Samburu plains.

Camping spot sent by the universe
Panorama shot

We then return via the same route with some amazing views.

The mountain has 4 routes to climb from, and for the convenience of storing bike and gear, I had chosen Sabache Camp. It would be quite possible to arrange with the community directly, and use other routes and I’ll be happy to link interested travellers up. Your bike might be excited to sleep in a manyatta!

After a bucket shower and an overpriced breakfast at Sabache I head out for the mandatory pictures and then head back South to Archer’s Post.

My next stop is Lion’s Cave Camp in Archer’s Post for a chill afternoon by the Ewaso Ngiro river. I found it easily found via Google Maps (satellite view) and there’s also local signage.

Rose and her team are doing a great job being welcoming and friendly. Clean place with glamping or camping options. 3k for glamping with own bathroom. I found 1500 for a tent with full bedding a great deal. The mbuzi choma was finger licking delicious, and the location by the river is divine.

Crocodiles and sharp rocks near your only water source? The skills acquired through the traditional local lifestyle are on another level!

Day 3: Back to Nairobi – 300km

Monday morning is surprisingly busy on the Isiolo highway: Sacks of charcoal lined up along the road, a few dozen soldiers jogging (one with crutches), 3 UK army convoys rolling up North. Okay, in all honesty, the road is so empty that I nearly start talking to flies.

Old bridge at Archer’s Post

After a quick poll on the Inked Sisterhood chat group, to turn my left at the Isiolo junction and go back via Meru to switch things up. Beautiful smooth riding through green hills and some nice curvy roads! I wouldn’t go as far as calling them Twisties, though.

Nithi bridge blackspot defused. Boy, was I happy that I had the road to myself!

From Chuka onwards, the road becomes busier, it starts raining heavily and as the road is narrower than the Nanyuki road I can’t overtake much and take quite long until I get to Makuyu.

Once on the main highway, I immediately get a few rude reminders of just how impatient and inconsiderate drivers can be. Sigh!!

From Thika onwards: empty roads until I get to Chiromo and hit Waiyaki Way traffic. I reach home around 4pm relatively dry (hurray for carrying rain gear!).

Total fuel: 1,867 KES on 720km. My Spirit 125cc motorcycle did the trick again: Fast enough to get me around, good handling on the off-road pieces, really fuel efficient and very handsome on photos.

This is a great 3-day trip. With more leave days I would have extended the trip through detours to Wamba, Ngurunit/South Horr, Marsabit or side routes around Meru or Matuu. Each ride adds 3 new rides to my list! 😜


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