Monday, July 6, 2009

Kenya Series - Mt. Longonot

A fantastic slide show, complete with funny captions, follows this post.

Our team from The 1010 Project spent a few days visiting with a partner in Western Province, then headed to Lake Naivasha in the Central Highlands of Kenya. Naivasha is big and beautiful - it's in the bottom of the Great Rift Valley - and the entire area is covered by flower farms. Apparently Kenyan roses have a huge market in Europe. The lake has hippos and monkeys and storks and whatnot, but I wasn't all that interested in such beasts. My goal was to climb Mt. Longonot, an extinct volcano about 20 kilometers from the lake.
I recruited The 1010 Project's Development Coordinator Emily Ruppel and we planned the trip. Before long, word had spread that we were going to be awesome. Our team grew. Our buddy Josh came along, as did two people from Northside Christian Church in Houston, Texas. The Houston team was traveling with us for part of the journey, visiting our partners in Nairobi and Vihiga. Aldo and Pastor Dave would be joining us on the climb.

We started a bit late on Friday morning because we had some difficulty finding cheap transportation. By about 9:45 am, we were ready to start what by all estimates was a four-hour climb. It's actually only 630 meters (2000+ feet) from the base to the top of the crater, so we weren't entirely certain what to expect; I had (unlike most other outdoor things) done scant research on our climb. As it turns out, that 630 meters is fairly strenuous because it's NEARLY ENTIRELY VERTICAL. There is only one path up the side of this monster volcano, and it is S-T-E-E-P, let me tell you. Further complicating our climb was the omnipresent dust. It's all super-old volcanic ash and such, so the minute you put your fit in it, you sink two inches. It was like climbing in sand - my legs were getting beaten up.

Pastor Dave, a young man in our minds, was still about a decade and a half older than the oldest of us, and as we climbed, he grew increasingly short of breath. After one particularly grueling section, we took a break and he mused that he would likely not be able to reach the summit with us. At that point, we were close enough to where the rim of the crater was within another two or three strong drives. We told Dave that he could definitely make it, and that we weren't that far from the top. It was like a motivational speech or something.

Well, Dave cowboyed up and as we crested the top and stared down into the crater of a MASSIVE EXTINCT VOLCANO IN THE GREAT RIFT VALLEY IN KENYA, Dave collapsed to his knees and let out an "Oh my..." The view was amazing - on the one side we were looking back over the Rift Valley and its endless expansiveness. On the other side, we were looking into a giant crater full of forest. It was amazing. The photos following this post cannot do it justice.

Dave thanked us for inspiring him to go those last few hundred feet and we walked around the rim for an hour before heading down. If the climb was tough, the descent was pure awesome. We ran down large sections, kicking up massive dustclouds as we went. In fact, the powder was so fine that we were even able to "dirt ski," as it were:

Yes folks. That is Kenyan dirt skiing.

By the time we reached bottom, the sun had really started to heat up. We sat in the shade and waited for a ride. I had to shower with my clothes on and it still took two more washings to get all the dust out. We had conquered a volcano in Africa and had a great time of it. We found out later that day that where we were on the rim stood at about 8,000 feet above sea level. This would explain why Pastor Dave, a man who is easily active in Houston, might have had a rough time of it. He laughed when we told him. All in all a great day. Here are some shots to back up the post:

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