Part 1 of 2
Above: Baboon parliament on Kaimot Hill in Sekerr Range. Copyright Rupi Mangat
Published 24 August 2019 saturday Nation magazine
Little known and shrouded in secrecy, the Sekerr range is a striking feature of the Pokot land in north-western Kenya. Reaching Kapenguria at dusk from South Nandi forest we’re unsure whether we should drive at night into unknown territory.
“It’s safe,” replies John Yoposiwa Ywalasiwa the highland Pokot and our host at Mt Mtelo Eco Lodge. “I’ll be waiting for you at Maarich Pass trading centre.”
It’s a downhill road following the curve of the Cheranganis – only we can’t see the massif blanketed in darkness. Ortum the town before Maarich Pass trading centre is lit with electricity and an hour later, we meet Ywalasiwa and follow him on his pikipiki up into the Sekerr Mountains. The darkness is absolute save for the stars sparkling like jewels flung in the sky.
Arriving in the middle of the night at Mt Mtelo Eco Lodge, we can see little of our surroundings but are fascinated by our new abode complete with hot showers and so beautiful. My banda is called Mtelo in honour of the sacred peak of the Pokot in the Sekerr. There’s a hot dinner waiting for us – chicken curry, chapattis, tea and coffee – and we thought we were going in for hardship!
It’s the bright light streaming into the room that awakens me in the morning. And l gasp at the view on opening the door. I’m facing the peak of Mtelo that was hidden in the darkness but now so stoic in the day.
It’s a leisurely start to the day. Ywalasiwa’s wife, Annalise has eggs, pancakes, tea and coffee ready for breakfast. John started the eco camp to encourage people to travel to this part of the world for it is in one word – stunning and safe.
With so much to see in the mountainous country, Ywalasiwa has the two days planned for us. Day one is a leisurely hike to Kaimot hills along a picturesque countryside of terraced farms and pretty homesteads complete with the woven granaries of the highland Pokot.
Every now and then we chat with the local Pokot who are happy to welcome visitors to their abode. Little Pokot boys with their bows and arrows show their prowess with perfect aim – mostly aiming at the mice and moles. They really could represent Kenya in archery.
The path leads us up to a pair of magnificent granite-grey cliffs against a deep blue sky with the plains of the Great Rift Valley spread far below that everything looks miniscule. Overlooking the cliffs, we’re in for a surprise. There’s a beautiful single-room mountain cabin showing off the surreal vistas, bringing the outside in.
Ywalasiwa points to the features in our 360-degree world.
“That’s the baboon parliament,” he says pointing to the cliffs where the baboons gather at night. Past the cliffs is the silver steel frame of the booster that we drove by the previous night. It’s followed by the end tail of the Cheranganis with the mountains of Koh and Tiaty on the floor of the Rift that is home of the lowland Pokot. River Moruny flows out of the Cheranganis and into the land of the Turkana. Swivelling around, he points to Mosol range and then the might Mtelo in company of Chaichai and Katugh.
It’s spectacular and we are overwhelmed by the beauty of space. And then Ywalasiwa surprises us with a delicious hot lunch sent by Anna – maragwe, spaghetti, avocado with a hot coffee thermos. Life can’t get any better.
In the wide Pokot skies unbroken by any human-made structures, a pair of Fan-tailed ravens holds us spell-bound soaring and diving deep into the valley. It’s a performance that only the natural world can stage and the ravens are only found around here.
South Nandi Forest to Kitale is 140 kilometers.
Drive past Saiwa Swamp National Park to Kapenguria 40 kilometres away and then via Maarich Pass to Mtelo. It is 55 kilometers away.
Nairobi to Mt Mtelo via Kitale is 550 kilometers. It’s an exciting route.
Kapenguria via Kitale hit the world headlines in the 1950s during the highly-charged case of the men suspected to be behind the Mau Mau rebellion. Stop at Kapenguria museum to see the cells of the Kapenguria six and learn about the people of north-western Kenya.
Mount Mtelo (Sekerr) is the fifth-highest mountain in Kenya (10,944 ft), after Mt Kenya, Mt Elgon, Aberdares and the Cheranganis.
Check in at Mt Mtelo Eco Lodge. Email Ywalasiwa: firstname.lastname@example.org
Best is to call Ywalasiwa on 0718 281 729.