Sagalla Hill overlooks the agricultural area where our field station was located and where I did the majority of my field work in Kenya. Every morning, I’d jog on the red dirt road and watch the rising sun stain the hill, usually wreathed in clouds, from down below.
I wanted nothing more than to hike the hill myself, but I was told it would be dangerous for me to go alone because a) I don’t speak more than a couple words of Swahili and b) there are plenty of dangerous animals that could do some damage to me if I was alone and far from camp.
I finally managed to persuade a local friend and a Brazilian researcher to hike the hill with me. I had trouble getting a reliable estimate of the distance, but my guide, Paul, told me in the morning that it was 15km each way. I don’t know how accurate that was, given that it took us just under 2 hours to get to the summit (albeit at a breakneck pace). As a veteran hiker, I know it is not trivial to cover 15 km up steep slopes in under 2 hours. He later said the whole trip was 25 km, which might be more accurate.
The other confusing thing about this hike was that my Kenyan friend, Esther, said, “Okay see you tomorrow night!” before we went to bed the night before. She’s not an early riser, so she wasn’t expecting to see me before we left at 6am the next morning. But I couldn’t do the calculations…even a 30 km hike wouldn’t take me 12 hours.
My hiking buddies
We set a blistering pace up the mountain in the morning, so I don’t have many photos from the hike up, but I can tell you that I was sweating an embarrassing amount. I’m a pretty good sweater normally, but this was beyond ridiculous. I was wearing a wide-brimmed hat and the sweat was just pouring off the brim. I have no idea what was wrong with me, other than the fact that it was oppressively humid, but Paul actually asked me if I was okay. I felt fine, aside from the fact that I couldn’t keep my glasses on because they fogged up like I had just opened a hot oven.
Crops at the top of the hill
All the dogs followed us up the hill. I wasn’t planning on them coming. They followed me everywhere, but I thought they would head back before long. I ended up giving them half my water and food.
These guys, good hiking buddies in a pinch.
Classic SOIMF* boot shot
After we reached the summit and rested for a bit, waiting for the clouds to clear enough for us to see the land below, I learned why Esther had said “see you tomorrow evening.” Because, of course we had to stop in and see Paul’s mother, who lived on top of the hill. Then we had to have tea with her (because you just have to have a cup of tea when you visit someone in Kenya). Then his sister-in-law invited us for a cup of tea…then his auntie. Before I knew it, we had spent four hours drinking tea with Paul’s friends and relatives on top of the hill.
So, yes. In the end, we spent about three and a half hours round trip hiking…and four hours drinking tea. A true Kenyan hike. 🙂