Lake Nakuru

Wazii means “Awesome” in Swahili

I woke up around 7:30am and decided I may as well get an early start and explore the lake.  The sink water was brown at the campsite’s facilities, but I figured (hoped) my facial cleanser would negate the effects.  I went to unlock the girls from their van quarantine since the door was still broken from the night before, and then I went off with Herman to check out Lake Naivasha.

As we walked towards the lake, we were joined by three canine companions that we knew somehow “belonged” to the camp.  There were two German Shepherds and a Beagle that we saw wandering around the camp, and I knew they were not completely wild dogs.  It felt a bit like a scene from “Homeward Bound” as the dogs were all eager to accompany us on our adventure.  The way the dogs would run ahead on the path to show us the way and then wait for us to catch up was really cute.

We passed by several rose farms, and we later learned flower farming constitutes the main industry around Lake Naivasha.  Kenya’s agricultural exports, which consists primarily of coffee, tea, horticultural produce, make up approximately 25% of the country’s GDP.

Lake Naivasha’s water level was extremely low at the time we were there due to a recent drought, and from the dock it essentially dropped off to dried ground.  We could see white dots of pelicans in the distance, and we walked over the cracked earth and sinking mud to get closer.  We finally stopped at a large creek of brown rushing water, which is possibly where the sink water at the camp came from.

Herman and I put our canine companions to good use and decided to play a game of “fetch” in hopes that their running would cause the pelicans to fly away.  Herman chucked rocks across the creek and sure enough, the dogs eagerly jumped into the creek and took off after them.  Just like clockwork, the flamingos took off in flight one by one at the approaching dogs.  It was a beautiful sight to see this elegant white line lift off into a circle and then fly away.

We left the camp around 10:30am and grabbed a light breakfast in town.  It was noon by the time we arrived at Mount Longonot, whose name is derived from the Maasai word oloonong’ot, meaning “mountains of many spurs” or “steep ridges”.  Mt. Longonot is a dormant stratovolcano located southeast of Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley.  It is believed the volcano’s last eruption was in the 1860s.

Non-Resident Admission: USD$20 (only 500Ksh for residents and 200Ksh for Kenyan citizens)

The hike to the summit (elevation 2,776m or 9,108 ft) of Mt. Longonot took about 1hr and 15min.  It was a very dusty and steep incline to the top, and there were many spiky trees that were not very inviting to grab a hold of to assist with the ascent.  The sprawling crater was gorgeous with green trees covering the entire valley floor.

The walk around the crater rim would take about one hour, and as I was too tired to continue, I asked Mital what we could see on the other side of the mountain.  The entire group responded by bursting into the never-ending song “The Other Side of the Mountain.”

We started back down the mountain and let the momentum bring us into a run down the steep, sandy incline.  We kicked up huge clouds of dust as we raced down the mountain (not recommended for obvious safety issues) and it resembled the way cartoon characters like the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote would be depicted running through the desert.  We finally reached the bottom extremely dusty and sweaty, and had to take some time to pour all the sand out of our shoes before boarding the van again.

Our next stop was the Lake Nakuru National Park, whose name means “Dust/Dusty Place” in the Maasai language.   The lake is famous for the thousands (sometimes millions) of pink flamingos who line its shores.  It was time for our first game ride!

Non-Resident Admission: USD$60 (Kenyan citizens: USD$15)

We arrived at the park at 5:30pm (we had had some car battery trouble in the morning) and the park required all visitors to exit by 7pm, as it is very dangerous to stay in the park after nightfall.  With limited time, Richard drove the van at ridiculous speeds through the park so that we could have the chance to see the animals that were exclusive to Lake Nakuru: flamingos (heroe) and white rhinos (kifaru).  We would have plenty of time to see the other popular game animals later in Maasai Mara.

Our first destination was the lakeshore, which looked like a sea of shocking pink from afar.  Due to the drought, the water level had receded greatly just like Lake Navaiasha’s, and we were able to drive out on the alkaline lake bottom.  We could see the constantly shifting mass of pink flamingos milling around the shore.

As our safari van raced through the park, I got a few bruises from bouncing around the car.  I was definitely glad that I brought a neck pillow, although it spent considerably more time as an extra seat cushion than around my neck!

During our whirlwind of a ride, we spotted zebras, gazelles, buffaloes, warthogs, vervet monkeys, flamingos, pelicans, egrets, storks, black rhinos, white rhino, hyenas, and a hippopotamus.  Lake Nakuru was recently expanded to provide sanctuary for the critically endangered Black Rhinoceros and the near-threatened White Rhinoceros.  As of 2009, the park contained 25 black rhinos, which is one of the largest concentrations in the country, and 70 white rhinos.  We were lucky to be able to spot the black rhino during the last few minutes of daylight before we had to exit the park.

After leaving the park, we stopped in downtown Nakuru and randomly found a Chinese restaurant for dinner.  The owner was a Chinese man who had emigrated from Beijing and then opened up a restaurant in Nakuru.  Afterward, we went on a lookout for a campsite for the evening and stumbled upon a Hindu temple that offered free lodging to travelers.  The Shree Jalaram Temple only asked for volunteer donations, which was a great deal for a clean bed and showers!

Roza was still ill so we quarantined her in a separate room, while Natalya and I played Russian card games in our room until we fell asleep.

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