For the next few days I was to be without a group to call my own. Usually people take a three- or four-day safari. I went for 12. A bit ambitious. Up until now I had been with a specific group, and now there was nobody booked in for another couple of days. Nobody but me.
As such, the lovely Erick from Ewamann's Safari company took pity on my and suggested he meet me to cycle through Hell's Gate National Park. Being an avid cyclist, having pedaled both the mountains of Vietnam and the entire Camino de Santiago in Spain, I readily agreed.
If you've read my previous entries, you'll have heard about charging rhinos, angry elephants, stalking lions, mauling cheetahs, and many more dangerous animals. So I don't blame you for maybe thinking me a bit loopy for wanting to go cycling through the wilderness here, devoid of a safari vehicle, totally exposed to the possibility of wild animals mistaking me for prey.
The thought, however, excited me. Erick assured me the area was mainly comprised of zebras, giraffe, antelope etc, and that seeing predator animals in the area was uncommon. Uncommon, but possible. Uncommon, but not exactly a rarity. Not quite. I thought it was a chance worth taking. And I was right.
Cycling through Hell's Gate was one of the most enjoyable days I had on my entire safari experience. I got to get up close and personal with all sorts of animals who would have run a mile at the sound of our safari jeep trundling through the dirt. It was a serene and calm experience, even despite the searing heat of the hot Kenyan sun bearing down on us. It's a beautiful and truly unique landscape. Even Hollywood thinks so - the park was heavily studied by researchers as inspiration for The Lion Kind, and the 2003 film Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The cradle of life was filmed here! And I'm not surprised, the place is stunning.
Erick was also a welcome addition. We cycled in comfortable silence a lot, and other times we talked. He told me about his life and his family and about growing up in Kenya. He described how he was clearing foliage near his house one time and was bitten by a poisonous snake. To my detriment I can't remember exactly the name of the snake he mentioned, though I think he said it was a Black Mamba. Whatever it was, he was rushed to the hospital and very nearly died. Thankfully, for both of us, he survived.
A few hours after the start of our cycle, Erick and I came to a gigantic ravine. Leaving our bikes by the trees, we made our way down to the bottom on foot, carefully stepping from one rock to another, trying not to slip when there was lose dirt, grabbing onto branches for balance and, eventually, wading through ankle deep water.
Having taken our fill of the geologically fascinating rock formations in the gorge, we scrambled back up, grabbed our bikes, and made our way back out of the park via Fischer's Tower.
All in all it was a very laid back, Pole Pole day in Kenya. I had become accustomed to just going with the flow, I think, which helped me deal with the African way of life.
I left Erick for the final time that day. I never saw him again. He was to go back to Nairobi, while I was onwards to Amboseli National Park to marvel at Mount Kilimanjaro for a night before crossing the border into Tanzania.
As luck would have it, it was a night of luxury. A gorgeous hotel in practically the middle of nowhere, complete with my own log cabin, fancy restaurant, and swimming pool. I was on top of the world.