Proper Walk 2016
This year’s diary… A quick note: The Proper Walk updates are by Michael Farley from a satellite phone each day. The pictures are used by permission of D. Pennell Brooks or Dave Brooks, as he’s known to his friends.
Day 1 of Proper Walk 2016 is in the books! They hiked 10 miles and saw numerous animals including giraffe, gazelle, zebra, dik dik, and they pitched camp by a lake. A hippo came out of the lake and voiced his disapproval of the camel safari invading his turf – fortunately he only put on a show and didn’t charge or cause any problems. Hippos are extremely dangerous! Lion tracks were found on the other side of camp. Be safe Walkers!
Day 2 started early with the Walkers rising before sunlight. The hippo who complained about our arrival, was about 25 yards off shore watching us pack up and get prepared for today’s hike. For the first time Walkers, the packing is a new experience and it goes slowly. A few experienced hands help to move the process along. The gurgling complaints of the camels, as their packs and carry all boxes are loaded onto their backs, beckons the Walkers to watch and smile to these unique sight and sounds. Breakfast options include cereal, nuts, fruit, dried fruit, juice, tea and coffee. Each Walker packs snacks of biltong, dried fruit, and enough water to stay hydrated until the first break.
It got down in the 40s last night and just barely 50 as we packed up – it should be in the low 70s when we reach our next camp in the early afternoon. There are 22 camels, 8 camel herders, 8 Walkers, and the Amazing Amanda. Most of the Walkers are Proper Walk veterans, but there are several new Walkers including the youngest Walker to join this ad adventure for a cause (we’ll list the Walkers soon).
Our hike takes us down off the Laikipia Plateau through grasslands known as no mans land – it is claimed by several tribes as well as the Kenyan government. We pass by Pokot, Samburu, and Turkana pastoralists attending and moving their cattle.
In the late morning we begin climbing again and get back to 6,100 feet before we stop for the day, having put in a strenuous 12 miles. Soon Amanda and her helper has a “cuppa” ready for us – the tea helps give us the energy to set up camp again.
Day 3 was extremely hot, with the equatorial sun beating down on us relentlessly. We broke camp early AM trying to beat the heat, but it caught us by late morning. The most important task of the day was to stay hydrated, as we aren’t used to this type of heat and it is taking its toll.
We are hiking through the Karisia Hills north of Laikipia Highlands. The terrain is semi-arrid grasslands with acacia and candalarba trees sprinkled about the hills. This is Pokot territory and we encounter a number of herders who are leading their flocks to and from the nearby watering hole. We see cattle, goats, sheep, and even 1 donkey herd. The Pokot here primarily speak their tribal language, a few speak Swahili, but we heard no English even though it is one of Kenya’s national languages.
An older Pokot stopped us and addressed us in Swahili to learn what our safari was doing there. After our explanation, he nodded and left, seemingly satisfied we weren’t there to cause any trouble. Most of the herders stop and wave or just observe us going by – we are certainly going to be a good story to tell their friends and family. The miles are adding up and we are all tired, it’s difficult to train for walking nearly a half marathon everyday and the heat truly sapped our energy today. We pulled into camp by early afternoon near another small lake. Each of us relaxed, napped, drank tea and water, set up our tents, attended to blisters, and waited for dinner. The moon is nearly full now and as we sat around the campfire before retiring, we all feel the novelty wearing off and the routine of the Walk setting in.
Day 4 was a scorcher! We did 12 miles, mostly on a rough road with a local Samburu guide who is supposedly taking us towards an amazing overlook of the Great Rift Valley. That makes 45 total miles so far and I’m feeling everyone of them in my knees and legs. The heat has drained us all!
We finally found a shady spot to camp about mid-afternoon. There were not many trees along our route today – finding a nice acacia tree to provide us some relief from the sun for the remainder of the day, was a welcome find. Along our route a construction crew was building a power line. 2 workers were working high up on the metal towers that carry the electric lines. Someone noticed they were not tied in with a safety harness and said, “Call OSHA!” Another person said, “Here in Kenya it’s NO SHA.” Far different take on worker safety in Kenya.
We all had a nice long nap or at least a respite during the hot afternoon. Even the camel guys seem a bit tired tonight as dinner was served later than usual. We had a delicious mince curry over rice dinner with chapati – it was delicious! All except for Mighty Joshua who enjoyed his lentils.
The Walkers with me this year are Winnie, Dave, Mighty Joshua, Walter (owner of Shabeen Restaurant), Pedro (friend of Dave), and Karl & Katy (first father / daughter Walkers). Katy is 15 and the youngest Walker to have gone on our adventure for a cause. I think she’s still happy she came:)
We are now camping under a full moon and a hyena cried out near our camp. It’s piercing oooo whooop cry got all of our attention. We’re in their neighborhood tonight and they let us know that without any question. Still, we will sleep well even with a hyena for company – we are that exhausted!
Day 5, the Proper Walk has reached the midway point and we’ve hiked over a double marathon. Today we hiked through some beautiful areas on our way to the Great Rift Valley Escarpment. The final mile was nearly straight down, brutal on knees and caused more than one blister. We had difficulty finding a camping area due to the thick trees and brush, but finally found a flat area and after some hard panga (machete) work by the camel guys we had a suitable campsite for the evening.
There happens to be quite a lot of water buffalo dung, hopefully we don’t see any while we rest, eat, and sleep as they are huge and very unpredictable. Baboons are in the trees nearby taking an interest in our safari.
Everyone is in good health and spirits, albeit very tired.
Day 6, we got up in the dark, as usual, and packed up in a groggy state. Breakfast was laid out and we ate and drank coffee as the sun slowly crested over the surrounding hills. We are surrounded by lush thick old growth forest, a beautiful camp site! Signs of water buffalo are all around us, but we didn’t see or hear any. The baboons quietly woke up as well and kept an eye on our activity. We picked out snacks and filled our water containers for the morning hike which will take us up and out of this fold in the Great Rift Valley Escarpment.
The Escarpment is comprised of steep rolling hills that give way down to the Great Rift Valley, a weak spot in the tectonic plates. The great mountains and lakes found in Eastern Africa are the result of the separation of these plates. Today we hiked up steeply to a ridge that is high enough to see down into the expanse of the Great Rift Valley – a stunning vista!
We had an elevation gain of over 2,500 feet to get to the ridge we followed. The temperature climbed all morning until it passed 90 degrees, even though we are above 7,000 feet in the Pura Hills. We covered over 12 miles and the heat sapped our energy, but by the time we found our camp, napped or rested, had a cup of tea, and some healthy snacks we all felt energized again.
We are still in old growth forest and in the land of the Dorobo Tribe. It’s not a single tribe, but a collection of different tribes that share common traits. The Dorobo were inhabitants of the forests and hunters that didn’t evolve into pastoralists like the Samburu, for example. The name is a reference to them being poor because they had no herds, the sign of wealth to the pastoralist tribes. It’s the first time we have encountered the Dorobo Tribe on the 8 Walks.
We are now over halfway to the end of our adventure for a cause and hope you will all share our story with friends and family. The children we met at the Centre are so thankful for your support and your help has given them hope for a future.
Day 7, another long 12 miles put us close to 80 miles for Proper Walk 2016. Our day’s trek took us through pristine old growth forest and up to nearly 8,000 feet in elevation, in a brief rain shower, and a 50 degree change in temperature. It will be in the upper 30s tonight and reached the upper 80s earlier today.
After the rain and before the moon appeared, the stars were incredibly vivid. Earlier on the hike, I told the Walkers about Kibibi, a young girl at the Centre who had an incredible spirit, but died of AIDS too young . During the ’06 Walk we had a ceremony to dedicate a star to Kibibi and her life, she touched many people in her short time. Phillip Virden, our amateur astronomer on that hike, reminds us that Kibibi watches over each Walk.
We are now in Samburu territory, where some cling to traditional pastoralist ways, while others have turned to farming. Our camel caravan always elicits stares, usually waves, and occasionally conversation. We have several Samburu camel guys with us to explain more or less what we are doing passing through their land.
Everyone is doing well. I’ve been experiencing some rather severe knee pain and some swelling due to the downhill and steep climbs in these hills. I may need to ride a camel tomorrow if the pain doesn’t subside overnight. To paraphrase an old saying, I would have taken better care of my legs if I’d known I was going to be doing these treks in my 60s.
The ebb and flow of the Walk is playing out. The beginning is so exciting- the preparation and anticipation for months and months culminates in meeting the camel safari, and the adrenaline flows for the first day or two as the safari is still so novel. Then the fatigue begins to set in from the strenuous hikes and the heat. The routine of packing and unpacking each day gets more difficult as exhaustion creeps in. We get a second wind as the body adjusts to the repeated daily hikes. Then the hike we’ve prepared so much for is suddenly over. Now, it feels like a pleasant thought – the end coming soon.
Day 8 found us hiking through incredibly beautiful hills as we climbed out of a valley to our campsite at 8,200 feet. The climb made the 11 miles a difficult hike. Shortly after we set up camp, a rainstorm hit which lasted an hour. We waited out the storm in our tents, I caught a nap and was awakened when the local Samburu chief named Stephen (his English name) came to our camp to meet and talk with us.
Stephen had heard about our safari coming through his land and wanted to meet us and talk with us. He told us he had worked hard to bring peace to this area between the Pokot, Turkana, Dorobo, and Samburu. In many areas in the Wild West, as Amanda calls it, there have been tribal conflict for many years due to overpopulation, overgrazing, cattle rustling, and the arrival of AK 47s and other weapons. He was very gracious and extended us warm wishes and safe travels through his land.
Shortly after Stephen left, a group of nearly a dozen Samburu women dressed in traditional clothing came into camp to see what we looked like and to learn more about us. That made for an interesting afternoon for us and gave them stories to tell their friends and families for the next few days.
I should note, I was able to walk today through the power of rest and anti-inflammatories. My knees are still sore, but with my walking sticks I was able to tough it out. Walking with Winnie helps as well, she is an inspiration!!
We are 20+ miles north of Maralal, the northern most Kenyan city. It is host of the Maralal International Camel Derby, a rather amazing race and event we are told. Due to our relatively close proximity to this population center, we were able to pick up a cell phone signal in order for Karl to send some more photos.
Thanks for following our adventure for the cause. You are helping the children of Makindu and giving them a future.
Day 9, our last night of camping on Proper Walk 2016, hard to believe how fast it has gone, although I might not have said that a few days ago. We added an additional 12 miles to our hike total today, bringing us over 100 miles. Today we hiked up and down in rolling hills in Samburu country and skirted Maralal, the northernmost city in this part of Kenya. As our safari moved around Maralal, we were joined by Samburu, most in traditional dress and mostly children. The children were enjoying our safari and the Walkers engaged with them, sharing smiles and words along the way.
We saw zebra along the hike today and many signs of elephant, hyena, and even leopard – we didn’t see any of the latter today. Tomorrow, our last day of hiking, will take us back into game country where we will see several of the Big 5 along our route.
Our camp is at 6,500 feet and once again, we had a hard rainstorm hit our camp that lasted about an hour and a half. It is chilly and our gear is all damp, if not outright wet. We have a roaring fire tonight to help keep us warm. We had a hot meal of mutton, cauliflower, and potatoes for dinner tonight that really hit the spot. We have eaten very well during our hike, thanks to Amanda and her helpers. Our vegetarian Walker Joshua, may have even eaten better than us meat lovers.
We will finish Proper Walk 2016 tomorrow in Mugi Ranch, a private ranch and wildlife conservancy that promises to be an incredible wildlife viewing opportunity. Before that, we all need a good, long, deep sleep to prepare us for one last day on the trail.
Day 11 – we met up with the bus to take us back to Nairobi after a bittersweet goodbye to our Proper Walk companions from Ol Maisor, the camel ranch that provides the camels and safari expertise. Amanda and her husband John, go above and beyond the call to plan and work out all the Proper Walk logistics. Bara Bara is the camel guys leader and once again was an indispensable safari leader.
The bus actually has wifi, a big improvement over Teddy, the rough riding Range Rover used for ground transportation on several Walks. The wifi allowed Karl to send photos of the last day on the trail.
Thank you for following our adventure for a cause. Please provide us your feedback and let us know if you have any questions about the Walk, the Makindu Children’s Program, or Kenya.