A Day in the Aberdare Forest: Hiking the Elephant Hill

Not a Morning Person

Sun Mountains
My eyes would not open no matter how much I wanted them to. Why am I waking up so early? And then it dawns on me, I am going on a hike and I have to be in town by 7 AM, otherwise, they’ll leave without me. At the thought of the adventure that awaits me, my heart starts to beat faster with anticipation and before I know it I find myself seated in the back of a cab with mom and dad, on my way to Nairobi town.

On My Way There

I can’t contain my excitement. I’m fidgeting in my seat, nervously eating up all the snack I packed for the hike and looking at the window whenever I spot a hill or a mountain. But none of them look like an elephant so I continue to fidget, to eat and look out the window, until an hour later.

Upon Arrival

The first thing I notice when I reach the Aberdare Forest is the huge signpost that tells me how likely it is that a forest fire will occur. The huge arrow on the huge dial is pointed towards the green part of the dial. Looks like there won’t be a forest fire today. I get off the bus and immediately I need to use the bathroom. The bathroom is a small shack with a hole in the ground and it’s being guarded by a very friendly teenage cow. He insists that we all must pet him. And so we do.

The Pines

Plants towards the Summit
Oxygenated Plants
Like every hike, the terrain is flat at first and so I think to myself, ‘this is gonna be easy as hell’, little do I know, Elephant hill is a merciless ascent. Once I’ve broken a sweat and the clear sky starts to get replaced with pine treetops, that’s when the ascent up the elephant’s leg begins. The pine forest is amazing and if it were not for the smallĀ beamsĀ of light seeping through the branches of the trees, I think that I would probably need a flashlight. The hike through the Pines is a peaceful one and all too soon it’s over.

The Bamboo Forest

As we leave the pine forest behind us and climb further up the elephant’s leg, we take a break on its elbow right before we journey further into a different kind of forest; the bamboo forest. The Bamboo forest is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been… up until the terrain takes a dramatic spike and I’m forced hold onto bamboos. Otherwise, I’ll just fall flat on my face. As I make my way through walls of bamboo, I notice small then big circular puddles on the ground. They’re elephant footprints. Needless to say, I’m jumping with excitement at the thought of possibly seeing one of these amazing creatures.

The Elephants’ Hike

According to our guide the elephants in this part of the forest, wake up really early and begin their ascent to the top of the hill; the elephant’s head. Then they make their way over the summit and onto the other side of the hill, by 12 PM where they will drink water from the stream, rest a little and eat some of the vegetation around that area. In the middle of the afternoon, they start their journey back to their starting point, on the other side of the hill. They do this trek every single day.
Looking Up
Just round the Corner

Desperation Point

Desperation point is where we all stop to have lunch, on the elephant’s shoulder. It’s also where we decide whether we want to continue our torturous trek up the hill or whether we want to make our way back to the elephant’s foot. Hence the name, desperation point. I decide to push on and make my way slowly up its neck.

Loss of breath

The terrain gets drier from there and the oxygen level begins to drop. I start to climb up the elephant’s ear, gripping onto any protruding rocks that I can get my hands on. The vegetation up there is amazing and alien looking, unlike any I’ve ever seen. If I wasn’t so desperate to get to the top, I would have probably stopped to examine them, but I’m filled with desperation and so I all but run up the slope breathless.

Loss of words

I’m speechless. I’ve been this high up in my life and the view is so vast it makes me feel small. The elephant’s head is flat and littered with rocks that people use to sit on. I all but collapse onto one of them, until I can’t stand to be away from the edge where I can get absorbed by the amazing view. It’s humbling and I feel so small, like nothing in life really matters.
The Top
The Summit

The Long way down

We all but race down the elephant’s ear and hop onto its shoulder, right before we reach the bamboo forest and then its nothing but slipping and sliding through the bamboo trees. Before I know it, I am bursting through the bamboo and leaping right into the pines. This time the trek through the pines seems endless and I feel like my legs are going to give out, right before I start to see the sky again. As exhaustion takes me over, I unconsciously pass by the many farms that line the road back to where the bus is parked, and all I want to do is go home. Soon enough, the bus takes me there, as the sun begins to set.

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