The Ngong Hills view from Serare
South West of Nairobi, there is an isolated ridge that is the remnant of an old volcano that partly slid down with the large mass of land that stretches from the Jordan in Israel to Malawi before entering the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. That extensive land is the Great Rift Valley floor and the remnant became shaped into the hills locals now known as Ngong Hills. Ngong is the anglicanization of the Maasai dialect phrase “enkong’u emuny”which means knuckles. As anyone who gets to see a direct view of the towering isolated hills, they resemble your knuckles.
So what is the fuss about these hills? Well, I am here to claim the title of the only cyclist in the world who has climbed Ngong Hills from Ngong Town all the way to Kona Baridi. Well in this century only. Sounds too bold right? Yes it is, and though I do not have pictures to support my claim, I have done this twice in this century. Here is my knuckles story.
I used to see them from the bench adjacent to the hockey pitch in Highway Secondary School back in 2004. During my explosive stage of testosterone bursts and snail paced stature specialization, I’d always come to this wooden bench and stare at the hills as light aircrafts would arc above the background from Wilson Airport. There was such a mystery that the ridge held. How was it really formed? Did Azazael punch his fist from beneath the earth’s crust? I’d say this because only a celestial can form such a perfect geographical feature. I guess I loved viewing them hills because they stood noticeable West of Nairobi, nothing to compete with them. I learned about the sense of standing out and tall from these hills. My fascination became an obsession, from drawings to stickers and a research article in the newspaper concerning the deforestation of the hills, my compassion for a masterpiece of the earth went on until one school trip up the slopes on October 10th 2007 got me nearly 2,300 meters above sea level and almost a kilometer above the lands below. I was on the raised earth I adored. The view was breathtaking; I was about to part ways with my body in astral projection fashion. The small dam along Kedong River, the other mountain farther South West towards Ole Polos, the Western escarpments stretching one hundred kilometers away, I was so fixated at the view that I failed to realize that to my right heading North West were two sister mountains I loved to draw during my Naivasha school trip days in primary school: Mount Suswa with Her massive crater and Mount Longonot further up the valley. My classmates sought out to climb all hills and so we went, following the path set out by Count Teleki of the 19th century. I got stuck at the first major hill as I saw the behemoth of the next hill, I gave up. I assured myself that someday I shall finish this conquest.
Towards the second hill top
The making of The Rider The Rebel label began here, the seed was sawn. Time will tell and surely did when I came back as a nineteen year old young man, wearing Manchester United track suit and Bata PE rubbers, a one strap blue Kings bag with an apple mango & orange plus 2 bananas and a bottle of water inside. Its was October 4th 2008, cold weather, gusty winds that would carry Davy Ngigi away into the Rift Valley floor but I was muscle bound from Mum’s nutritive cooking. I climbed from the bottom at the KWS post a kilometer from Ngong Town at 4:15pm and I touched the tarmac of Magadi Road at Kona Baridi at 6:38pm. I did what I said I would and I walked into the darkness of Kajiado County, oblivious of the fact that this is hyena and lion territory. I never told my mum about this, for unknown to her she knew that her first born son went to Jamhuri Park for the annual Nairobi Show and was not walking in another county’s wilderness without a drop of care about his own safety past sunset. At this point in time, I was aware of a Kenyan competitive cyclist who went training up Ngong Hills back in 1999, never to be seen again.
After his disappearance, many people were advised not to climb the Southern hills unaccompanied. I’m not sure if he went up there with his bike but I wanted to do this again, this time on a mountain bike, alone. So come November 27th 2009, I and Spaceman headed out to make history. I left the city at 1pm, arrived at Ngong Town at 2:10pm and began the ascend, following the murram road. I passed two thug-looking young men halfway up the 1.9 kilometer rise to the KWS gate. I could smell their intention and I was right as they started chasing me up the stiff climb. I was on to them, 28*28 gear ratio, I pedaled as fast as I could. The pair had weak useless legs that could not compete against a kid who already had warmed up 26 kilometers ago. The first two flat hills were rather easy but long, then there it stood in front of me like a 5 storey ogre. I pushed on till the gradient was peaking upto 40%, my arms had to do the carrying up the loose soil of the path. I made it to the top and stood exactly at the same spot I stood first and secondly. One hill down, three more to go.
I conquered the second and noticed a ten minute per hill time segment. Towards the third mighty hill there is a smaller one at its base. As you head over it, the path snakes to the leeward side into the forest of dusty dry thicket. Here, maneuvering the petrified branches is a heavy task with my bike. I met a group of climbers heading back North, snobbish pack they all were. No matter, I resumed my nutcase adventure, scaling the back of the hill till I came to a very scary spot: a 10 meter stretch at the edge above a very steep drop into the thicket forest dropping to the valley’s floor. One wrong move and Spaceman and I are dead history. How many have fallen to their deaths here? My youthful mind generating fearful thoughts and raising my heart rate higher than it would be in an attack from a chasing peloton. I closed my eyes, looked at the safe end and took about a minute before I cycled across the loose soiled path to the safe side. I did not want to look back at the 1,000 meter drop to death. To this very day, I still get a heart attack thinking about that section, even right now as I am typing this, I have just felt it. I pressed on through more thicket as I rose up to the last hill’s top, the highest of them all at 2,459 meters above seal level (A.S.L). While my friends were getting ready to get drunk and high with uncouth females, I was on top of the world with my bike in the wilderness. It was 4:08pm, the sun racing West across super blue skies to hide behind the western escarpments 100 kilometers away.
The dam along Kedong River
Ever crossed through a tunnel of green leaves and branches? Only in Ngong Hills, last time I ran through it, this time I ride through it as I shouted in rebel iteration. The windward winds at 40kph kept swaying me West, limiting my descend as I passed through the boulders field where two Maasai men were herding their cattle. I finally came to the car tracked road descending 4 kilometers to Kona Baridi. I tell you all, it is Enduro worth it. Spaceman’s red-black wheels zoomed down the brown road unbothered till we came to the sudden corner right to the tarmac, a beautiful end to an extreme adventure for a city boy. Now I had 38 kilometers of tarmac to cover and it took me upto 8:50pm to reach home that day.
I came back to conquer, knuckles up!!
I came back for my second edition with The Tourist on July 17th 2016 to see if I still had the guts to do it again. I haven’t gone there yet and with this bipolar weather of today, I will need an opportunistic day to rebel again up the lone hills due southwest.