The Tales of Oldonyo Orok
Oldonyo Orok is a Maasai name given to the magnificent Namanga Hills.
It’s located in Namanga at the Kenya -Tanzania border overlooking Mt. Longido in Tanzania. Oldonyo Orok is only three and a half to four hours from Nairobi. It can be accessed using public transport by boarding Matatus going to Namanga at OTC, near where Jack n Jill supermarket once was. It is possible to go on a day trip hike from Nairobi, this can however be too strenuous for the body. An overnight adventure would suffice and give you ample time to rest and enjoy the visit.
Hills Gate Homes is a budget accommodation located at the foot of Oldonyo Orok.
It offers comfort, relaxation and close proximity to the hiking trails. At only Kshs. 2000 per person on bed and breakfast, Hills Gate Homes will ensure your stay is unforgettable and have you geared up for the scenic hike. If you are lucky, you can enjoy the great company of the owner and director who is a hiking guru up the hill.
The best time to start hiking Oldonyo Orok is 6.30am. An early hike will ensure that you are not subjected to the scotching sun during the adventure. One of the trails (the one I used) starts from Namanga River Lodge,.
A few meters from the lodge is a bridge built by Italians in 1943. According to the guide, the main road used to pass here and a bridge to cross Namanga river was eminent.
The river (though with little water) is characterized by indigenous trees.
As we started hiking, it was clear how the community in this area values conservation. They have protected indigenous vegetation most of which are large fig trees. This is probably the reason why Namanga river never dries up. The trails move along Namanga river offering a cool environment.
There are huge pipes carrying water down to Namanga town and others to Tanganyika. At this point, Oldonyo Orok felt like the Garden of Eden. The water flows gently, the sound of micro-waterfalls enhances the beauty of the terrain and the sounds made by various birds makes it even more fulfilling.
After hiking for a kilometer (gentle slope), we came across a huge rock with a cave. The rock was on the shores of the river with a tree on top of it. The river has many other small rocks and a mini waterfalls.
We noticed that some people had camped at this cave a few days earlier. There was fresh blood, which the guide explained was from a sacrificial goat by Maasai elders. This offered a good stop over as we admired the beauty. When I sought to know more about the caves, Ms. Sation Parmuat came in handy to satisfy my curiosity. Sation is the Miss Tourism Kajiado County, Miss Tourism greater Nairobi and the current director of Tourism Kajiado County.
Ms. Sation narrated the following:
"Oldonyo Orok, the black mountain in Maa language, is strategically situated in Namanga; Matapato south ward. It is in the home of Ilmatapato the sub clan of the Maasai. The conservancy has several attractions that people with different interests can satisfy their thirst and curiosity of their nature desires. Just before the seven peaks that the mountain possesses, several trails are available for the nature lovers and the shortest trails takes 6 hours to the peak. One of the trails commonly used has an interesting story of caves such as Enkapune e Molinga and Enkapune e Maumau.
Molinga is one of the famous heroes of the Maasai in that community. He burned down a white man’s house, so he went to seek refuge in one of the caves which was named after him.
His children would bring him the basic needs in his hiding place. Enkapune e Maumau was used as a hiding place during the colonial war.
Up along the trails, are different types of trees and shrubs strongly believed to be of traditional medicinal value. Some of them are: Oloilei for soup majorly for the lactating mothers and Orkonyil for infections, hypertension and blood cleaning. They also believe that a certain shrub called Olosesiai is a cure for HIV/ AIDs when a concoction with other recognized herbs is used. The local community mostly elderly and young men camp at a decided venue ‘Orlpul’ where they slaughter their animals and spend the whole day eating meat and drinking herbal soup.
On one of the peaks a large rock is found well known as Osoit loo Motonyik translated as the bird’s rock. A spectacular waterfall with clean fresh water flows down and this creates a beautiful scenary for sun bathing. Several animals such as buffaloes, monkeys, antelopes, baboons among others are found in the conservancy. Fresh water from the mountain is piped and supplied to the local community. Which also plays a big role in ensuring that the conservancy is not interfered with either by charcoal burners or poachers."
After the caves, we proceeded uphill. We could trace footprints of hyenas, wild pigs and a Leopard paw. It felt like we were casting a movie! The thrill was real and from this point on, we kept looking around for any interesting creatures. We came across another huge rock that offered a magical view of Namanga town and Mt Longido.
We took a few minutes to rest and take in the scenery and later proceeded with the hike. The trails here are off the beaten track and in several occasions we were forced to create our own way. Another half an hour later, we came across another rock with a view point. We sat down here for refreshments.
The location offered us amazing views and we couldn't help but take pictures and while trying a few jumpies.
From here, we went up for another 30 minutes. We realized that our water and other supplies were running out. We had to recall the hike at this point. Our guide led us downhill. It was much easier to climb up than down especially if the shoes did not have a good grip.
Oldonyo Orok is natural and the resources are not interfered with. The community has been educated and is fully aware of the benefits the mountain promises and they have worked together to conserve it. If you are looking for a place to experience nature at its best, think no further. Oldonyo Orok offers you just that with a cherry on top.
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Eliud Ndungu, a part-time adventure travel blogger who’s been exploring his motherland-Kenya for over 4 years