Before I forget, I’d like to capture some core, rugged back-packer routes that a friend and I used to experience Lake Naivasha region and Hell’s Gate National Park and Green Crater Lake. They were fairly easy and showed us a slice of traveling local Kenyan style.
Hastily written entry but here goes!
What: Hell’s Gate National Park is located about 2 hours north of Nairobi in the Lake Naivasha region. It’s picturesque beauty is only magnified by the fact that a visitor can take a bike within the park and literally bike alongside wild zebras, giraffes, and buffaloes. The few KM bike ride culminates with a trek of the gorgeous gorge that is the signature of the park. Recommended to take a ranger/guide on your gorge walk – they weave in and out of spots one would have a harder time to find otherwise.
Green Crater Lake is a boat/mutatu ride away in the direction away from Hell’s Gate. One of the only few parks where one can actually walk alongside the wildlife mentioned above. A beautiful slice of nature in all its majesty only a few skips away from the hustle of Nairobi.
Use 2 mutatus. Every 10-15mins or so, a traveler can find a mutatu going up to the Lake Naivsha region from the Nairobi taxi depot. Ask locals to point you to the right mutatu stop for this area. Get off at Naivasha and then take another mutatu towards the lake (going towards Fisherman’s Camp). Get off, spend the night at either Fisherman’s or the better quality Camp Carnelley’s (~$20 for a tent).
Eh, what’s a mutatu? The most frequent form of transport in East Africa – it is formally a 14-seater van that can informally take upto 20 people. Usually the longer duration rides abide by the 14-person rule but you may be lucky (or rather unlucky) and find yourself seated on a local or having been sat on by a local 🙂 I exaggerate – you are merely just squeezed.
However, if you are claustrophobic then I do suggest that you take caution.
Mutatus are the quite inexpensive – especially when compared with personal hire taxis.
Nairobi-Naivasha: KSH 200 one way/ $2.5. This is a fixed rate and there shouldn’t be any bargaining involved. You should be able to get a fixed price ticket from a ticket window. Should touts come up to you and start shooting off different rates – they are probably taking you for a ride. A long-winded one.
Naivasha-Fisherman’s Camp: KSH 80 one way/ $1. Again, fixed rate. No more, no less.
Some parting words:
Is it daunting traveling like a local? Yes, in the beginning – it is. However, it is extremely do-able and one can easily find a few locals who will help you sort things out. If you are surrounded by touts, just move away (most of the touts and the peers that surround them are generally in on the scam) and ask some other passersby for help.
Is it worth it? Yes. Since English is a common language, one can find regular locals to converse with on the mutatu. Definitely should be sensible and not eat/drink anything offered to you but pure conversation is absolutely fine and quite enjoyable. We ended up meeting grandmas and local University students!
Happy traveling – carpe diem.