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Hell’s Gate

You’d think given the chance to go on a six day vacation that we’d be raring to go and trying to get out of Nairobi as early as possible. In fact, however, what D wanted more than anything on Wednesday was to sleep in and have a lazy morning. We didn’t leave the house until well after ten and then made the mistake of stopping at Java House. When we hiked Longonot (See Longonot hike), we picked up a couple of sandwiches at Java, which had made for a perfect picnic lunch. However, with Wednesday being a holiday, the place was packed to the gills. The staff at Java is as courteous as it is incompetent so 45 minutes and many smiles after ordering cold sandwiches to go, we received hot turkey melts. The manager must have seen our looks of impatience turn to unrestrained ire because it only took five minutes for the mistake to be fixed.

the aforementioned escarpment road to the Rift Valley

the aforementioned escarpment road to the Rift Valley

Fortunately, Hell’s Gate National Park, the first stop on our road trip, is small enough to do in half a day. It offers the perfect combination of game viewing and hiking.  We had our sandwiches at a viewpoint overlooking the plains, spotting buffaloes and Thompson’s gazelles while we ate, and keeping an eye out for baboons who might have wanted to crash our picnic.


Hell’s Gate has a gorge, whose claim to fame is that it was used as a set for a scene in Tomb Raider 2. After hiking through the part of the gorge that served as Angelina Jolie’s playground, we returned to the main canyon and were immediately adopted by a group of Maasai children who insisted on guiding us. We tried to shake them by going up a path that overlooked the main canyon, but insistent cries of “wrong way” from a few Maasai elders who were watching from up on the other bank made us turn back and admit defeat. We let one of the kids lead us down to the riverbed, and walked along to where the hot springs started before crossing over to the other side and hiking up to a viewpoint that overlooked the gorge.




our guide Francis




We finished our hike with enough time to spare to drive through the rest of the park, which has plenty of giraffes, warthogs, and zebras.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sounds like fun. Did your guide want to be paid, is that why they were insistent? If so, how much? I’m curious about that interaction.

    September 7, 2011
    • The implicit understanding is that if someone guides you, then that person gets remunerated, but we never explicitly discussed it. We tipped Francis 200 shillings (apprx $2), which is pretty standard. The money was not the reason we wanted to shake our would-be guides. Rather, we simply wanted to be alone. It is hard to commune with nature when you’re surrounded by several kids who insist on pointing out the obvious at every turn.

      September 7, 2011
      • Makes sense. Obviously $2 wasn’t the issue, although I was curious about it; the cross-cultural communications and expectations aren’t easy to navigate.

        September 7, 2011
  2. Nice post (and blog). Love that last shot of the warthog …up in west africa these guys are like domesticated dogs, but not with tusks like that.
    NIce work,

    September 10, 2011

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