Some places may seem uninteresting, but if you experience them in a certain way, they become magical. There are places that if someone asked you to visit, you would probably look for an excuse not to because they do not strike you as the place you would derive an unforgettable adventure. Such is my story with Lake Elementaita.
I grew up in Nakuru and at some point lived in a part of Nyandarua. I could see Lake Elementaita (also known as Kariandusi) from home. When I was twelve, I would hunt small animals like gazelles, hare and dikdiks together with my fellow village boys. We would chase them up to Kariandusi. This lake is not new to me and to therefore consider it as a place I would go on holiday was definitely absurd. But you know what they say, never say never. It happened that I was to completely change my perception.
It was a typical Monday morning, riddled with the blues and I was busy making plans for the coming weekend. As I browsed through the internet, I came across an offer for an overnight trip to Lake Elementaita. This did not pique my interest and so I continued with my search but unfortunately could not find anything interesting. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at the ‘Lake Elementaita thing”. I was so disinterested though, I took one look at the title of the offer and left the page to continue with my work. I however left the tab open. After a few hours, I was back on the page. This time, I gave it a thorough read through. I was surprised to discover how enticing the itinerary and details for the trip were. But then again it was Kariandusi. I was still undecided :(
The package was put together by Stejos Tours and Travel. ”I know these guys,” I thought. Stellamaris -the company director- is a good friend. She is a smiley and outgoing person. She is the kind of person you wonder if they’ve ever had a bad day in their life. I contacted her and she convinced me to give it a try. Just like that my weekend plan was signed and stamped. I also got added to a Whatsapp group where everyone going for this trip received updates. Time flew by fast and finally it was D-day.
At 7:00 am, quite early for a Saturday, I was already in Nairobi town opposite international life house. This was the scheduled pick up point. I met a group of guys who had arrived before me. Stellamaris was already there busy as a bee making sure everything was going according to plan. I took a seat in the bus, but at this point, I was not expecting much. My excitement was below par. We left Nairobi at 8.30 am.
Our first stop was The Great Rift Valley View Point. This is where everyone travelling to Naivasha, Nakuru, Maasai Mara and other destinations in Rift Valley stops to access washrooms, buy curios, take pictures and witness how magical nature is.
We did all that in 15 minutes and were back in the bus to proceed with our journey. We were over 50 people in two buses. There were all characters in the buses. We introduced ourselves to each other, shared laughs and a few stories.
Before realizing it, we were already in Naivasha town. We made our second stop at Buffalo Mall, Naivasha. Stellamaris gave us 20 minutes to shop. By now, I had made several friends. I started feeling like this trip was more about gaining acquaintances than experiencing adventure. Only time would tell.
After Gilgil, we stopped right next to a large field full of tall grass and beside it was a small area with no grass. Before we could attack Stellamaris with the many questions we had, Mato (also referred to himself as Mato Mato) called us in a circle. His mandate was team dynamics and to lead us in a session of fun. I joined in. Mato is an experienced team building facilitator. According to Stellamaris, she contracts him in all her travel packages for his ability to bring about team cohesion and foster bonding. Mato led us in a series of activities that were characterized by stretching, mind games, singing and dancing, mingling and laughter. This was the deal sealer. My holiday had now started to pick up. I hadn’t had such expectations. It was refreshing. This was quite different from the usual Lake Elementaita experience.
We got back to the bus re-energized and before we knew it we were at Kikopey. This is meat heaven for all you meat lovers out there. It’s just past Gilgil Weighbridge where you get freshly cooked nyamchom and you have a myriad of butcheries to select from. It is a great place to make a stop when travelling along Nairobi-Nakuru Highway and you can kick back and have lunch before getting back on the road. Our bond grew stronger over the delectable nyama choma meal. I was getting in higher spirits and had more enthusiasm for the trip. I knew that even though Elementaita was a common place for me, these people would make my experience worthwhile.
At 2.30pm, we proceed to Lake Elementaita with our bellies full of meat and excitement. Destination-Sentrim Elementaita Lodge. This facility has a total of 84 rooms classified as: 10 deluxe cottages; 32 ground floor standard cottages; 16 upper floor standard cottages; 4 family houses, each with two bedrooms and 18 standard rooms beneath the conference rooms. In it there’s a clear view of Lake Elementaita., with a restaurant and swimming pool on either side. It has a neatly manicured lawn with several benches for relaxation. The pool is surrounded by sun beds with a bar and a kids’ playground behind. “This is amazing! I did not see this coming.” I thought. It looked different from what I remembered it to be. I was head over heels.
Stellamaris, had already made reservations. She’s a hands-on tour operator. My room was spacious, with pay TV, a table, chair, overhead shower and great lighting.
After freshening up I decided to sneak in a quick nap before Stellamaris’ briefing at 5:30Pm by the pool. I woke up in time but unfortunately realized that I had caught an infection, and the worst part is that it came with a headache. Thankfully there was a chemist at the reception. I ran there to buy medicine. I wasn’t going to let a little infection ruin my trip.
Back at the swimming pool, the music system was beckoning us. There, we found a lady called Grace. She is a professional Zumba trainer and instructor. She holds classes dubbed ‘Zumba by Grace’, and by what I saw, she definitely knows her stuff.
She got us to line up and the dance commenced. A little into it, other guests at the hotel joined us. The fun was overwhelming as everyone did their best to outdo each other. Grace is so talented. She mixed the moves in a way that one could rest while still dancing Zumba. I felt like my holiday was at a climax.
I was beat (I clearly need to work on my fitness) and decided to kick back and rest while taking in the magnificent view of the sunset. Whoever knows me knows how much I love sunsets. I love to catch the sunrise too at dawn. It’s the most amazing way to begin your day. The view of the sunset disappearing in the horizon of the lake was breath-taking to say the least. I had to catch the moment.
I must confess that this is not the Lake Elementaita that I remembered. “I misjudged and underestimated you Lake Elementaita.”
The sun left behind room for the stars to shine bright and adorn the sky, creating a sublime spectacle. Perfect time for dinner. I went back to the room, took a shower and headed down to the restaurant where I was amazed at the number of guests present. You only realize how many you are when you’re all gathered together in one place. I must have missed Stellamaris’ memo because everyone was in evening wear except me. I was the only one in jeans. I felt like a bit of a rebel.
The buffet was an assortment of diverse choices of delicacies. Coincidentally, a few people were celebrating their birthdays and they were treated to a surprise by the hotel staff.
After we were done stuffing ourselves and making merry, we couldn’t resist the crackling of the bonfire. The bonfire was apt because it was a very cold night. Unfortunately my illness didn’t let up and I had to cut short my fun. I retired to my room. I have no idea what time the last group left the bonfire place to go and sleep.
The next day was calm. Seeing my incapacitated state, I failed to catch the sunrise. I took breakfast at 8.00am and then took a walk along the shores of the lake. The view and breeze was refreshing.
We were supposed to check out of our rooms at 10.00am, so I went back to the room to pack up. We gathered around the pool again with our luggage.
Grace was waiting and she kick started another session of Zumba. I did not have the strength to take part this time but I watched. Some guys were doing the Zumba moves while inside the pool and Grace knew how well to balance both. After an interesting session, people took a shower in the poolside washrooms. We went back to the restaurant for lunch at 12.30pm. Meals at Sentrim Elementaita are nothing less than 5 star. That entire workout had worked up an appetite and people almost wiped everything clean. The waiters and staff in general were very helpful and professional. A place you wouldn’t be afraid to recommend to a friend. After lunch, we relaxed a little before leaving for Nairobi at 3.00 pm.
Nairobi awaited us but part of me didn’t want to leave Elementaita. This trip experience definitely changed my perspective. I also realized that I shouldn’t judge a place by an experience I had eons ago. Places have a way of reinventing themselves and if you’re stuck in the past then you may miss out on a gripping experience. I loved travelling in a group as well. I made friends there; friends for keeps. We left Kariandusi at exactly 3:30 pm with a promise to be back.