Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rwanda: Journey to the Land of a Thousand Hills

Rwanda, also known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, ‘Des Mille Collines’ in the language of the Belgian colonists that ruled the country for more than half a century and the French that came to influence much of its direction after that until… until the catastrophic genocides of the 90s.

A small country, located close to the heart of the African continent. A hilly country with hardly any flat land, hence its name.

It is not really surprising that prior to the 90s, no one really knew of this country, until the genocides put it firmly onto the world physce. The award winning film, ‘Hotel Rwanda’, which portrayed the actions of the hotel’s manager, Paul Rusesabagina, in trying to save the genocide victims, did in no small part, to spread the word of what happened in this small central African country called Rwanda to the world.

For the chance to visit this legendary hotel alone, Hotel Des Mille Collines, did I volunteer to join Linus’s side trip into Rwanda. At least it was better than hanging around Lake Bunyonyi in neighboring Uganda with nothing to do for the day while our other (more well heeled) members are looking for gorillas in the Ugandan foothills.

There is however, a catch. Unlike Kenya and Uganda, Rwanda requires Malaysians to apply for a visa AND they do not offer visa application facilities at the border (strangely, Singaporeans are exempted from getting a visa). Rather, you’d have to apply a visa online at their immigration website where you’ll be issued with a number which you will quote when arriving at their border outpost. We did not do that.

Thus, with generous doses of optimism as well as the reassurance from our Africa Travel Co. guide, John, that we’ll surely get through despite our ‘handicap’, we paid our USD50/each to cover the cost of having a driver take us into Rwanda in his car.

We departed from the Lake Bunyonyi campsite at 730am, hopping into the car driven my John’s contact, Mike.

When we reached the nearby town of Kibale, Mike switched with another guy called Milton whom we found out is going to be our ‘guide’ for the day. Mike apparently owns the car, Milton works for him.

From Kibale, it’s just a short 15 minute drive through single carriage roads to the Uganda-Rwanda border. As in previous border crossings, you’ll know you are close to the border when you see a logjam of lorries on the road.

Getting out from Uganda is easy. It’s getting into Rwanda that now proves hard.
The Rwandan entry card, for us the start of a lengthy process to get in...
Walking across no-man’s land from the Uganda border office, we ended up at its Rwandan counterpart. Here, there are noticeably more people leaving Rwanda than entering, so the counter is remarkably ‘empty’.

Initially, the immigration officer refused to issue us a pass for us to enter Rwanda, seemingly laying to rest any hopes of us entering the country. However, that was before Linus worked his ‘magic’ and managed to convince her to reconsider (perhaps that’s the reason why I always seem to include this artistic blokes in my trips ;)).

Rwanda's National Community Service Day (Umuganda) falls
on every last Saturday of the month. It's their version of
our own 'Gotong Royong' minus the armed guards... o_O
The immigration officer relented and asked for our passports. From here, it’s a wait of almost 2 hours, while the officer made a number of phone calls as she flipped through our passports. We were called into the office to meet her superior after that.

Despite John’s, our guide back in Lake Bunyonyi, offer to speak the immigration officers to explain the situation on our behalf, none of them were interested to listen or even hold on to the phone to talk to him. It looks like it was left to us to get ourselves across.

The immigration officer’s superior casually asked us our purpose of visit as well as our professions and when he is satisfied, finally instructed his subordinate to issue us a ONE DAY pass, expiring at the stroke of midnight.

We thank the man before trotting out of his office to start the application.

Paying the standard USD30, we got our stamps and hopped into the car to head for the capital city, Kigali.
Nearing Kigali, more modern buildings in sight.

It was a 1 ½ hour drive from the border to the capital, along the way we saw some very interesting sights. It was apparently Umuganda (National Community Service Day)  in Rwanda and it is held EVERY last Saturday of the month. Participation is compulsory for Rwandans and on this day, shops close until about 1pm in the afternoon when the cleaning activities are completed. You can see people sweeping the roads and surroundings under the watchful eyes of the army and police. I guess it’s an apparent social experiment to foster integration among the people after decades of inter-tribal hostility.

I am told that it is even against the law to identify oneself by tribal affiliation anymore. There are no more ‘Hutu’ or ‘Tutsi’ but rather, everyone identifies themselves as Rwandan. Hmm, perhaps there is something to learn here…

In fact, a lot of East Africans I spoke to seems to hold Rwanda in very high regard. Almost everyone was praising the current government's social engineering works. It is also worth noting that it's economy is improving as well.

We arrived in Kigali at about 1pm, heading straight to the Genocide Museum to find it CLOSED!
Outside the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It's closed when we arrived
It appears that not only did we arrive on Umuganda, we arrived on the same day the top brass of the East African Community’s police force have decided to drop by at the museum for an official visit!
Operating Hours for the Kigali Genocide Memorial
We waited for almost an hour, chatting with some of the surprisingly international visitors waiting outside with us before the top brass left and we were allowed in.
Loitering around the front entrance...
Entrance to the museum is free. However, a fee is required if you intend to take photographs. You can also hire a physical guide or settle for an audio ‘guide’ to rent. Donations are most welcomed.

We did not pay for the photos nor hired a guide. ;) We did however, put in some token donations.

Stepping into the museum, one would be immediately struck by the darkness. I guess the lack of light is to enhance the experience reading about this dark part of Rwandan history. And ‘reading’ is generally what you will be spending most of your time doing. There are many nicely done panels of narratives detailing the background of the genocide. There are a lot of references to Rwandan politicians although to a neophyte like us, one might find it a little bit confusing to keep track if you do not already have a background of the genocide. Rwandan names seem to be generously peppered throughout without first introducing them to the reader who they were and what role did they play. I won't be detailing the Genocide here in this blog. There are many better sources to gleam information of it, I'd refer you to wikipedia for now. ;)

There were a few audio visual stations, playing pictures of the massacre along the way but what was a disappointment for me was the lack of much physical exhibits. Aside from the narrative panels, I count one old rifle and 3 machetes as display items.

Also, I sort of have this sense of ‘history being written by the victors’ as I read through the narratives. Maybe it’s not surprising because the current President, Paul Kagame, was also the rebel leader that commanded the army that swept through Rwanda that eventually ended the genocide. 
The current President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame

Blame was placed on the Belgian colonials for creating the ‘Hutu/Tutsi’ separation while the French were blamed for aiding the discriminatory governments after Rwanda’s independence. Maybe this is one reason the present government is trying to change their present national language from French to English, or so I am told!

The second floor of the museum was divided into two segments: one, an exhibit of panels showcasing pictures of children that had been murdered in the Rwandan genocide and the other section, a general presentation of other genocides that had occurred throughout the world. Aside from the Holocaust, the Killing Fields, the Balkan Wars of the 90s and even the turn of the century massacre of Armenians in the Caucasus, I was surprised that I didn’t know anything about the Namibian Genocide/Herero Genocide perpetuated by German colonists also in the early 20th century under the command of General Lothar Von Trotha.

It took more than an hour before we finally stepped out into the outdoor courtyard of the museum. There is a genocide archive, a wifi equipped café, a souvenir shop and a memorial housing 250,000 victims of the genocide.

The archive was closed and I was looking forward to having lunch at our next stop, so I paused by the memorial to give my respects to the dead. Symbolic coffins draped in the Rwandan flag were laid in a pit beneath a glass panel. I guess the remains of the dead were buried beneath the concrete bottom of the pit that housed the coffin further below.
One of the Burial Pits housing part of 250,000 victims of the Rwandan Genocide
I dropped by the souvenir shop next, for the first time in this Africa trip seeing rather ‘reasonable’ prices. This was before Nakuru, I didn’t know I could get things cheaper, but then again, proceeds from the sales of the souvenirs would go to the running of the museum. 
A closer look at the tomb.
I bought a wooden carving of an antelope for USD7, USD8 for a bead necklace, USD3 for a miniature Rwandan drum and USD1 for a number of Jesus figurines.

Thus, ends our visit to the museum and onwards to our next destination, the ‘in’famous Hotel Rwanda!

But first, we have to locate our driver.

Calling our driver, we were told he was conducting ‘business’ in town so we needed to ‘wait’ for him to get back for another 30 minutes.
Seeing as we have nothing else to do, we descended alongside the road leading to the museum and wandered into a local supermarket. 
Happy Shopkeepers... we left a little bit of 'Malaysia' here...

As we walked, we were greeted by stares from the locals, intrigued perhaps at our East Asian features. :) We wandered into a local supermarket at the bottom of the hill that housed the museum and bought bottles of Coca Cola to quench our thirst. Linus managed to flip out a RM1 note to hand to a grateful shopkeeper before we were whisked by our driver to Hotel Rwanda.
Outside Hotel 'Rwanda'
(Des Mille Collines is actually a more romantised French name for the country as well, so in effect, Hotel 'Rwanda' is correct translation).

Kigali, the capital, is built on a hill. There are hardly any flat stretches of road and the buildings are terraced in layers one on top of the other.
Kigali is at the background... (You know la, we being Malaysians, we HAVE to be in the picture to proof we were there, otherwise you'd think I took some picture of Kigali from the web and wrote about it... ;))
The City of Kigali, Rwanda is built on a hill...

Houses are terraced up to cover the whole hill
Rwandan Public Toilet. Don't ask me why I took a picture of it, ask Linus! He has some 'fascination' with it. ;p Did someone say that, "The state of a nation's public toilet reflects the mentality of it's people"?
Hotel ‘Rwanda’ or more accurately, Hotel Des Mille Collines, is a 4 star hotel located in a rather posh section of the city. For room rates and booking, please follow the link above.

If you are thinking of relating the hotel you saw in the movie Hotel Rwanda to the real thing, you are in for a disappointment. The film was not shot in the real hotel for some reason but actually in South Africa. The real hotel has chosen to distance itself from the genocide, so you’d not see anything that would make reference to it. It looks like it is marketing itself as just ‘any other hotel’.

Passing through a metal detector, we headed to the famous swimming pool where there is a restaurant.

The menu does not appear to be very extensive in terms of entrees so Linus, his girlfriend, Ping and myself have to make do with what that is available. Admittedly, this would be the 1st time we’d be eating decent food in the almost 2 weeks of travelling.
The Menu at Des Mille Collines. Not many entrees. Click on the picture to zoom in.
I ordered the ‘cannot go wrong’ Spaghetti Bolognese, Ping ordered Chicken Burger while Linus and girlfriend shared the Beef Burger. Prices were not prohibitively expensive, almost on the same level as Kuala Lumpur. The waiter however spoke French, with a smattering of English. ;)
My order of Spaghetti Bolognese, it feels good to eat 'proper' food... ;)

Ping's order of Chicken Burger. Linus and Girlfriend's is the same except for the Beef Patty.
Around us were groups of mostly Europeans and one what looked like an Indian family. They might have been tourist from India but then again, there is quite a sizable community of Indians in Africa that have settled here for hundreds of years. 
Indian family at Des Mille Collines

Now what peeked my eyebrow was that large group of Koreans that I happen to bump in the Genocide Museum though. Rwanda seems like to me, a place off the beaten trail, unless you are truly interested about the genocide.
Time to chow down...

This here is some VERY HOT chili! I want more! :D
Having had our fill, we called the waiter over for the bill. I paid in US dollars and belatedly realized my error when I ended up with a stack of Rwandan Francs. Considering that we don’t intend to stay here, that was some money I need to unnecessarily spend!
Rwandan Francs, about RWF650 = USD1 (Aug 2012)
We moved to the shops just outside the main lobby, finding ourselves in one offering gorilla treks in Rwanda. Looking at the prices, it appears that it is more expensive than what you’d find in Uganda. It cost USD750 per head here compared to the stated USD500 in Uganda (not inclusive transport and tipping).
Gorilla Trek in Rwanda anyone?

The sun was about to set but Linus still had just this one last place to visit before we head home. After talking to the driver, he managed to yoke out a trip to the Caplaki souvenir center in Kigali. 
Outside the souvenir center. Bargaining expected, IF you know where to start...
We drove to the center and found the prices quite fitting for muzungus. :p After walking through a few shops, the driver came a calling, urging us to leave before it gets really dark. Considering the roads in Africa mostly without streetlamps, this is a understandable concern. 
Sunset! Time to head home...

We therefore jumped back into the car and head back to the border.

Compared to the chilly reception we got from the Rwandans, we got an additional 2 days stamped on our passports when we asked for a 5 day visa. All this for free. Well, at least Wisma Putra seems to be doing some good.

After this is back to our camp in Lake Bunyonyi and a good night’s sleep!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hell's Gate National Park: A Malaysian's Tale

Looking at the name of this National Park in Kenya, one would easily mistake the place to be dotted with cauldrons of molten lava spewing forth from the bowels of the Earth. Perhaps it was like this millions of years ago, but today it is somewhat geologically stable, it’s volcanic past evident but no longer threatening.

Hell’s Gate National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Kenya. Located 90km from Nairobi, it is in the Nakuru District near the shores of Lake Navaisha.

View Larger Map
The unique thing about this place is that one can take a bicycle and ride out into the bush, without having the worry of ‘putting the pedal to the metal’ should a lion, leopard or a cheetah decides to divert from the regular menu of antelopes, gazelles and buffaloes and go after you. That’s because in this park, the big predators are caught at the borders and sent back to stalk in the Maara, providing a ‘sanctuary’ for the prey animals and adventurous bikers to roam the vast countryside. You might see some hyenas but only in the very early mornings and more likely hear them during the night, should you opt to camp there.

The experience of riding a bicycle thru the park, at close proximity to the wildlife is at once liberating and exhilarating. You no longer feel cooped up in one of those safari bus, jeeps or vans, rather you can actually feel now what the animals are feeling, the gusts of wind blowing at your face, the warmth of the afternoon sun and the soft crunch of tall grass beneath your feet (watch out for the stray animal poo though). You can try to get as close as you can to the wildlife as they allow you to, but don’t make sudden movements or do anything threatening lest you start a stampede.

The rental for the bicycle, guide and accompanying park fees cost me USD50 through arrangement by Africa Travel Co. Separately, the fees (accurate as per 2012) are broken down as…

a) Adult Non Resident Pass - USD25
b) Cycling Pass - KSH100 ~ USD1
c) Bicycle Rental - USD15
d) Guide Fee - USD9
Tickets to enter the park... visitor pass and bike entry pass

It’s the last day of my sojourn through Africa and many of us were tired (and perhaps running out of cash), so for this biking outing into the bush, 3 others from our group decided to go; the Linus couple, Ping and myself. The rest decided to stay back in camp.

The bike ride started at 8:00am just outside the camp we were staying for the night, Crayfish Camp, located on the shores of Lake Navaisha. Here, we met our guide, Peter, a young man 24 years of age.

The place we were staying, Crayfish Camp, offers rather decent housing with the option of camping out on the field as I did the night before. For this last night of the trip, I am planning to stay in one of the twin bed chalets for about KSH3,200 (USD40). 
The Twin Bed Chalet at Crayfish Camp, I must say it is pretty good... ;)

The bike ride to the park from the start point took about 20 minutes, a short stint on the main road (watch out for the cars and matutus) before a right turn at the junction leading to a gravel road that connects to the park entrance.

At the junction there appears to be some shops offering more bicycle rentals as well as guides for hire. If you had not done so already, perhaps it is a good place to check out prices.

We stopped at the park entrance for our guide to do the proper formalities. Large signboards displaying park instructions and maps are placed strategically around for the idle biker to browse.
Front office for the Hell's Gate National Park, please register here... ;)
After a brief rest of about 15 minutes, it’s back on the road into the park proper.

The first major land feature we encountered was the tall rock spire known as ‘Fisher’s Tower’. Formed by cooled magma millions of years ago, it is actually the stack that we see today after it's volcanic sides eroded away ages ago. As to it's namesake, legend has it that a certain Englishmen named Fisher, climbed this ‘tower’ after one of his encounters with the native Maasai. Today and at the time of visit, it is still being climbed by ‘muzungus’ for a decent fee (USD15) of course. Ropes, cables and harnesses are provided. We paused here to catch our breath before continuing down the road towards the next office inside the park.
Fisher's Tower... watch out for crawling 'muzungus'... ;)
High rock cliffs flank the left and right side of the road as we move in. At the same time, animals such as zebra, Thompson gazelle and wilderbeast along with the occasional wild boar make an appearance. I am told by our guide, that during World War II, Kenyan soldiers were made to climb the rock cliffs as part of combat training, today it is the home for vultures and eagles, centuries of bird droppings forming patches of white on the limestone walls.
Pausing by the road to view the limestone cliffs.

A giraffe up close!
We paused a few times, stepping onto the side of the road and walking into the bush to get close to the animals to grab some pictures. At least you get to be in the same picture frame as the animals.

However, there are times that you do need to stop by the side of the road but this time not to take photos of the wild life but rather to avoid being run over by those huge tractors that seem to ply the dirt roads in the mornings. Judging by the big ploughs attached to the underbellies of these metallic monsters, I would surmise that they are for leveling the roads.
There be large tractors plying the roads... beware lest you get run over!
Also, you have to watch out for the one or two land rovers driven by muzungu tourists… looks cool and all but, the fact that they drive on the other side of the road in their home countries requires one to be a little bit cautious.

The view around is spectacular. The classical view of Africa, that lone acacia tree, growing by the dirt road in the savannah flanked by tall cliffs is HERE! Not for the first time, the sight of it knocked the sense back into me that I am really in AFRICA! :D
The iconic acacia tree, the hills, the dirt road, the grasslands and my bicycle... This is truly AFRICA! :D
Along the way we were joined by this girl from Canada. I thought it was a ‘passing’ phenomenon but Linus, being the chatty person that he is, invited her to ‘join’ us, conveniently leaving out the fact that our guide was PAID by us. The girl tagged along, firing questions at our seemingly friendly guide.

The park is also home to a Geothermal Power Station, we passed by a branch on the road leading to it.

At length, we arrived at the other office within the park where we have to leave our bicycles. This is where we commence our next section of the journey, the hike into Hell’s Gate Gorge. Of course formalities need to be observed and Peter did the necessary by identifying us to the rangers stationed at the office.

The Ranger's Office

Group photo at the Ranger's Office close to the start of hiking trail. Our Canadian tag-along in green.
The rangers are very friendly. One of them introduced himself as Jackson. Sadly, he has only a vauge idea of where my beloved country, Malaysia, is on the world map. :)

There is a decent looking toilet located outside the office and I took the liberty to peruse it finding it not bad by African standards.

With necessary arrangements complete, the guide motioned us to follow him, although I was initially puzzled as to why we were diverting from the noticeably obvious arch that should signify the start of the trail. Instead we plunged into a creek, negotiating between tall grass and rocks in the process. When asked, I was told by the guide that this is the ‘start’ of the trail and the one with the arch was the ‘end’. Well, he is the guide after all.
The arch that I thought was the entrance, turns out we made it into the exit... ;)

 We followed him soon finding ourselves flanked by high rock walls on both sides.
Millions of years of geological data can be found here in them walls...
If the scenes here look somewhat familiar, it is because these are the inspiration for the artists that drew the gorge in the Lion King, where the villain Mufasa gets trampled by a horde of wilderbeast fleeing from a flood (so I am told). :p
Tis here is where Mufasa was trampled... ;)
And mind you, the threat of drowning in a sudden surge of water is very real, despite the seemingly dry surroundings. Peter told us that a few years ago, a couple of children drowned within the gorge when rain water further up suddenly flooded it, the children having no ability to scale up the high rock walls.

Halfway into the side gorge, we saw what was labeled as a ‘volcanic plug’ which is really solidified magma that has formed in the shape of the shaft that contained it. Over millions of years, the surrounding crust that formed the shaft eroded away, leaving only a long ‘thin’ cylinder-like shape that is now the volcanic plug. A smiliar process is what formed Fisher's Tower as well.
The Volcanic Plug...
It is somewhere around this area that Ping, lugging his two HUGE DSLR cameras somehow lost his footing and scratched himself on his knee while miraculously protecting his very expensive cameras from damage. After expressing concerns that he ‘might not be able to walk(?)’ or ‘pedal(?)’, his wounds were administered by none other than our provocateur director, Linus, in which after a generous application of H2O2, we continued on the journey to the Devil’s Bedroom at the end of this side gorge.

The Devil’s Bedroom was basically a dead end. Surrounded on all three sides by high rock walls and shaded by the sun, it appeared as a rather nice place to take a rest. At least until the flood waters come and there is nowhere else to escape. Perhaps that’s why the ‘bedroom’ earned the word ‘Devil’s’. There is however this conspicuously looking rope dangling by the side of a rock wall when we arrived. Peter said, it is possible to climb up over the rock wall but from my reckoning it you'd really have to be EXTREMELY FIT and AGILE to do that. Linus had that glint in his eye that told me he was very tempted to do just that, fortunately for us, that glint 'faded' almost immediately. :)  
Sleeping in the Devil's Bedroom, hope the 'host' is not home...
We lingered around taking some pictures not missing the prominent signage proclaiming the place’s name before we head back to the main gorge.

We returned to the volcanic plug where we paused to take pictures of the ‘Central Rock’, now somewhat prominently featured on the return journey.
The impressive looking Central Rock

Yes, it's a somewhat 'bent' sun warrior... ;)
As we trekked back, the wind brought whispers of a language I have not heard since I left Malaysia almost 2 weeks ago, CANTONESE! Three middle aged Chinese women, along with their guide were negotiating their way through a small gap in the rocks and reflexively, I greeted them ‘Zou San’ (Good Morning in Cantonese). ;)
Negotiating thru the small 'gap' in the rocks... and no, that's not the 'aunties' from Hong Kong, It's Ping. :)
Hearing a familiar greeting made them light up and I paused for a while to chat with the ladies who are on a holiday from Hong Kong. On hearing that they’d be going to the Maasai Mara next, I gave them a friendly heads up, that is to watch out for the ‘souvenir selling segment’ of the Maasai Village visit. That’s where they will separate us into the different huts and then ram down our throats VERY EXPENSIVE trinkets (opening price up to USD50/each) for us to buy on pain of ‘insulting’ the hospitality of our hosts. Well, it's really up you but if I want to do a 'donation' at least, I'd prefer to do it sincerely, instead of being coerced. :p

Bidding them goodbye, I joined the rest at the intersection between the side gorge and the main gorge. 
The view of the main gorge... hot water flows under our feet...
Here, sulphur laced hot water flowed from between stones, heated by volcanic magma deep beneath the earth.

Feeling the hot water... and yes, I couldn't resist the temptation to wash my face with it... ;) 
A herd of goats skirted along the sides to avoid the afternoon sun. We paused for pictures before Peter urged us to move on.

A little ways down the gorge, Peter motioned us to move to the side, climbing up one of the ‘emergency’ escapes to the top of a rocky outcrop.

The view up here was stunning. A good section of the park can be viewed along with the gorge below. Another tower of rock loomed in the distance and Peter pointed out the outlines of a ‘cave’ on a far distant rock face. Apparently, that cave can also be visited although it would take a few more hours to trek from the place we stood to the cave and back.
Stunning view of the gorge
The sun was already at its zenith and the heat was starting to build up. The locals have somewhat anticipated the regular arrival of tourists at this viewing point and have set up makeshift stalls to sell trinkets and Africa’s favorite drink, Coca Cola.
Finally! Coca Cola, Africa and ME! ;)
Giving up to the urge to quench my thirst, I resorted to getting me a bottle. Having bought my souvenirs earlier on in Nakuru, I skipped the trinkets.

Going 'native' at one of the trinket shops, after the locals have left.
After taking our fill of the view as well as the photos, Linus forwarded a rather halfhearted case to proceed to the cave at the far end of the valley. Feeling a little tired from the heat I suggested we skip that in which he surprisingly agreed. He however, descended back down to the gorge floor along with his girlfriend and our Canadian tag-along. Our guide, Peter followed while Ping and I remained up at the outcrop.

A short while later, our Canadian friend suddenly returned, hastily bidding us goodbye and saying that she is heading back by herself. I was somewhat surprised until Linus returned to tell us that the guide asked her for some money for what she thought must be a ‘free’ tag-along. Her abrupt haste meant she refused to give any.

From this point, we headed back but not before Linus decided to ‘paint’ my face with some ochre which he found at the base of the gorge.

On this day, the 31st of August 2012, is the 55th anniversary of Malaysia’s national day, and Linus and girlfriend did not miss the chance to make a political statement. Selamat Hari Merdeka! :D
Selamat Hari Merdeka!
The walk back took us to that arch which I had thought was the start of the trek. We skipped moving through the gorge and walked along a dirt road back to the ranger’s office. Along the way, I picked up some obsidian stones, that were scattered conveniently all over the place.

I took the opportunity to bite into some cheese I had brought from the plane as we stopped at the park to catch our breath. We also decided to give our guide a USD3/each tip for services rendered.

After this, we reclaimed our bicycles and rode into the grasslands.

If you want to get a tan, now is the best time. All along the way there is nary any shade and the bicycle ride took us about 45 minutes to reach the front office, inclusive of time pausing again to take pictures of the animal herds that dot the landscape. Thankfully, those menacing tractors that plied the roads in the morning were now gone although there were still a dogged group of muzungus clambering up Fisher’s Tower in the fierce afternoon sun, seemingly oblivious of the heat.

Laying in the grass on the vast plains of Africa! What a dream!
The front office has a souvenir shop which we visited, finding once again very expensive souvenirs. Postcards here costed KSH50 while T-shirt prices range from KSH600-KSH1000. We did not buy any but instead settled for another round of drinks again. I avoided Coca-Cola, settling for a pack of Lucozade (KSH50) instead. Linus had another swig of Coca Cola and Ping had Africa's own Tangawizi for KSH50/each.
Need Buffalo?
Outside there was this huge skull of a buffalo mounted on the wall. I took a picture of it before heading out back to Crayfish camp and the promise of a warm, cozy bed for the night! 
Sitting outside the verandah after a long bike ride... now this is the life... :)

Overall the trip to Hell’s Gate National Park was wonderful! It was a great experience finally freeing oneself from the confines of the safari bus. The bike ride through the park makes it all the more unique and for me, wading through the tall grass, feeling the rush of wind in through my hair, makes this African experience all the more REAL. A definite recommend for anyone visiting Kenya! :D The relatively short distance (90km) from Nairobi also makes it easily accessible as well.

Until next time, Safari Njema! ;)
A Bike Safari is definitely a recommend! :D