Published Nation newspaper Saturday magazine 11 Feb 2017
To counter the pulsating rush of adrenalin from white water rafting, l cross over the suspended bridge over the Tana at Sagana Wilderness and head out with Samuel Maina Muruiki to hike the hill in Sagana.
The magnet for the hill is that it has a forest on the crest.
Muruiki points to the huge rock near the top of the hill. “That’s what we’re heading for.”
It looks far away and tiny and with the day turning hotter, the temptation to return to base is strong.
“Persistence does away with resistance,” urges the young man. Humm..
“Ten years ago we had a lot of wildlife here,” he continues as l step over a bare boulder and begin the ascent to the peak. In the ten years since, much of the forest on the hill has been cleared for farming. “Now you will see only wild chickens and dikdiks.”
“What’s a wild chicken?” l ask.
“There it is,” he points to a yellow-necked spurfowl in a pen constructed of thorn bush. The ‘wild chicken’ unable to escape run around its enclosure.
Black cinders on the ground point to charcoal kilns –there is not a single tree left.
The hill gets steeper. We stop for a breath. Below us in the distance, Muruiki points to the flow of the Tana and the rapids that we have tackled doing white water rafting. The Kiringete waterfall even from this far afield looks impressive. It’s one of the more difficult rapids for white water rafting and labelled grade 5.
Finally we’re on the huge rock on the shoulder of the hill from where we can see Masinga Dam in the distance, Ol Donyo Sabuk, the rice paddies of Mwea and if the clouds weren’t there, Mount Kenya.
The descent is much easier and back at Savage Wilderness, the group is scaling the ten-meter vertical ascent on the climbing wall. For safety everyone’s fitted with a harness. The trick is to keep your body close to the wall. It’s an intense workout, growing in popularity as people look for diverse and challenging sports.
It’s a real struggle for the novice climbers, concentrating on the footwork and the grip, using the thigh muscles for leverage while every vein in the arms bulge and tendons are tested. At some point, the hands are so sweaty that the grip is impossible and despite being so close to the summit, the climber falls off.
Luckily, he’s safe thanks to the rope attached to the harness. The teenage girl is struggling and ready to give up, but with the team encouraging her to take just two tiny steps up she just brushes the top before being belayed down by the belayer. It’s new terminology – the person controlling the rope is a belayer and the art of controlling the rope is belaying. The beauty of climbing walls is that one can climb in or out doors, use them as training grounds for rock climbing, mountain climbing, hiking hills or just simple fitness.
Near the camp, climbers progress to a sheer rock face close the hill we hiked up. In Europe, websites are dedicated to wall climbing and best spots to finding them.
With the sweat and the heat, it looks like a great idea to enjoy a quiet time kayaking – it looks easy sitting in a little canoe just paddling down the quiet river with birds chirping here, there and everywhere when the instructor begins to show some skills that are very useful in case you capsize and don’t want to remain capsized, stuck under the kayak because you’ll simply drown. It requires a skill that’s very useful. I suggest keeping the inflated jacket on and listening very closely to what the instructor says.
Being in the river where adrenaline-seeking white-water rafters seek the amazing rapids down the waterfalls, zip-lining seems a little less dangerous. So with harness fitted the team try their antics attached with a hook to the cable flung across the icy waters of the Sagana. I watch from over medieval-styled bridge of planks and stately towers on either side when a scream makes me swivel around to see a person in mid-air free-fall into space. It’s the 60-meter bungee-jump from the tower over the river.
A comfortable two-hour drive from Nairobi on the Thika Super highway.
Everything you want to know about white-water rafting and bungee jumping
in Kenya – log onto: www.savagewilderness.org
You can camp or stay in ensuite rooms full board.