Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The FOGs Safari: Mt. Kenya National Park

Although Mt. Kenya was given a little attention in the Flat Stanley series, like many of the other places visited on the FOGs Safari, there's more to say. First of all, even though Mt. Kilimanjaro is more famous, for Kenyans their own mountain seems to be the one they talk about the most (and Mt. Kilimanjaro is, properly speaking, in Tanzania, although it looms large over and is a great feature of Kenya's Amboseli National Park). Mt. Kenya is also renowned as a great challenge to the expatriates drawn to Kenya over the years, and taking on the training required for climbing the mountain and then making the ascent seem to be favorite adventures for the many Westerners who come to live (or even to visit) Nairobi. The mountain and its challenges has even been the drastic setting for a very unsettling novel by Anita Shreve (A Change in Altitude, published a couple of years ago).

Andrew and Charles and I had no such grand illusions. We simply wanted to see the mountain and, if we could, climb a little, starting with our vehicle and then getting out and walking as far as our limited climbing skills would allow. Truth to tell, we were primarily interested in the views from the mountain and to see as much of the undergrowth and any blooming wildflowers as we could. Nothing very spectacular in mind and that, in fact, is what we got. We had a very good guide (who also works as part of the Kenya Wildlife Service rescue team, so we felt pretty safe). And aside from the baboons, there's not much to worry about with respect to the wildlife.

The mountain was first noticed by Westerners back in 1849 (although, as I've mentioned before, the Kikuyu, Meru, and Akamba communities always considered Mt. Kenya to be the home of their gods). One interesting feature is the forest (the Kenyans say "forest" instead of "jungle") on the lower slopes of the mountain which give way to a bamboo forest a little higher up (for some reason I never thought much about bamboo in Africa - no particular reason, just didn't). Higher up, where we could not go of course, there are the barren peaks and the glacier, beautiful to see from afar. As I say, we specially enjoyed the views and the wildflowers. Some of our photographs from our expedition up Mt. Kenya can be seen here.

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