Walking to the summit of a dormant volcano was not exactly what I had in mind for my one day off in Kenya. Well, I didn’t really have much in mind except for wanting to get out of the city, get some exercise and avoid tourist traps. Do you have a day tour somewhere where I do not have to ride in a car for more than an hour or so each way, I asked the concierge at the Tribe Hotel in Nairobi. Mount Longonot came up. Some 60 kilometers from the city, Longonot rises 2780 meters above sea level to become the highest point in the Great Rift Valley. It is a stratovolcano thought to have erupted for the last time in the 1860’s and for proof you can check a few spots from where steam still comes out.
The contrast between Longonot and Nairobi could not be stronger. Solitude, silence and 360 degree views extending for dozens of miles gave me relief from the crowded traffic and intense activity of urban Kenya. My guide, a local ranger-in-training and I were the only people on the trail for most of the time and the only ones to go above the crater rim that day, to the summit. I wasn’t surprised. From the rim to the summit, elevation gain intensifies and the terrain turns into very fine volcanic ash that threatens to crumble as you walk, making the climb more challenging.
Starting from the Mount Longonot National Park entrance, the walk to the summit took us about four hours. It is possible to do it in less time but why rush? We stopped several times to take in the cool, clean air, enjoy the scenery, take photos and watch giraffes, zebras and wild flowers. Ben, my guide, provided wonderful company and rich information about the region as well as the history, political and economic situation in Kenya. From the summit, we proceeded back to the National Park entrance by walking along the crater rim in an anti-clockwise direction and then down to the beginning of the trail, completing approximately 11 kilometers. I came back to the hotel in Nairobi happy and ready for a full week of conference and meetings.