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Diary of an Explorer at the Tugen Hills…

I, Nasrin Suleiman, am delighted to share with you my amazing experience on an expedition along the trans rift trail to discover medicinal plants used by the Tugen community in the Morop/Tarambas conservancy. Joined by an amazing team, consisting of Bakari Garise the botanist from Mombasa and tea lover, his son Mohammed, Mathew Kipkemoi and Ester Jepkurui, the medicinal plant specialists/guides and Philip Ndungu the pilot/driver…join me for the next 9days and discover a new world of medicine and culture at the Northern side of Kenya at the great rift valley…

The team: from left William, Ester, Mathew, Nasrin, Bakari and Philip

The team: from left William, Ester, Mathew, Nasrin, Bakari and Philip

One of the most interesting features of the trans rift trail is the cultural dependence on medicinal plants for medicine. William Kimosop (Chief Warden of Lake Baringo National Reserve) invited us to document the various plants and their uses along the trail as a way of creating an attraction for tourism, as well as to preserve the details of this herbal knowledge by interviewing the most respected herbalists in the area, to create a database of their materials and methods and to also educate them in ways to preserve samples collected that will be utilized as a lasting document for generations to come. The best way to do this is to spend time with the very people who use and know about the traditional medicines.

Day 1: The start to our exciting journey

The team met for the first time at the AWF (Africa Wildlife foundation) offices followed by a brief induction by Dr. Paula Kahumbu on our objective, responsibilities and duties. We then geared up, fuelled up and left Nairobi at 12.15 heading north towards Naivasha. Driving along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway we were blessed with beautiful scenery of Mt. Longonot, Lake Naivasha and lake Nakuru. I made sure I didn’t fall asleep in the car so as not to miss out on the view. We then stopped in Nakuru to do some shopping and got extremely frustrated by lack of parking in the vicinity. Philip did a great job at that and finally got a safe place to park.

A Signpost showing that we are at the equator

A Signpost showing that we are at the equator

The Equator Educational Resource Center in Mogotio and William Kimosop's office.

The Equator Educational Resource Center in Mogotio

We proceeded with our journey up North and finally arrived at Mogotio Equator tourist center (right at the equator) and met William Kimosop. William gave us an informative orientation of the area where we will be working. This was extremely beneficial and made our work easier. He then directed us to our next destination, according to his simple yet very helpful map, we got the impression that the place was not as far as expected  but to our surprise it was 90Km ahead. We were absolutely convinced that we took a wrong turning and were lost, it was hilarious because we were looking for a cement wall as per the instructions on the map but couldn’t find it especially since we had been driving for over an hour and couldn’t contact William or Ester owing to very low mobile phone network signals. Just as we were about to turn back we managed to get through to Ester and she informed us that we were on the right track. We had a good laugh about the situation. More than 2 hours later we picked Ester up at Morop Junction and headed to the home stay in Kituro (3Km further ahead), owned by a bishop. The area is around 7Km before the town of Kabarnet.

We were accommodated at a beautiful house on a hill at kabilat farm meaning “the place where the thunder lives….”

Williams map: simple directions to our final destination

Williams map: simple directions to our final destination

We later found out that in the Tugen culture it is very offensive to inform someone of the exact distance of a destination, they believe telling a person just how far it is which is usually far, will demoralize them from perpetuating  with the journey. So whenever you ask for the distance you will simply be told it’s just around the corner yet it several Kilometers further on, strangely it’s actually a short distance for them to travel…now I understand why they are ranked the best runners in the world….

Welcome to the Trans Rift Trail

Over the last 5 years I have been working towards creating new and unique Tourist Attraction features that will add more value to the North Rift destination. Amongst them and as the most promising is a walking Trail that spans the breath of the Baringo and Keiyo County section of the Kenya’s Great Rift. It runs from Mochongoi in area in the Laikipia Plateau through Bogoria, over the Tugen Hills into the Kerio Valley and terminates at Chororget in the Keiyo Escarpment. Due to the fact that it runs right across the Rift Valley, I have christened it “The Trans Rift Trails”.

William Kimosop

William Kimosop

This feature has been designed along similar facilities found world over. Some of the most famous include the Euro-Trail that runs from the Czech Republic to Spain, The Inca Trail of South America the Appalachian Trail in the US and the just completed Trans Canada Trail. Ours is a very tiny bit compared to but runs across a famous land feature, The Great Rift Valley but nevertheless among the first in the Region. This feature utilizes the same footpaths used on a day to day basis by the local community but only opening it up for visitor use. Tourists and general visitors can disembark at different points and walk it for their own convenient length and time. I have designed to make use of existing facilities such as Reserve Out posts Community Trading and Market Centers, e.t.c. (see the attached sketch)

Cheploch Gorge - home of two friendly crocodiles

Cheploch Gorge - home of two friendly crocodiles

All activities can be coordinated from the newly built Information Centre and the Tourist entry points to start with and eventually extend to the other posts. I have personally surveyed the route in various areas while sensitizing the Communities and found it generally acceptable.

More than 1 million flamingoes on Lake Bogoria

More than 1 million flamingoes on Lake Bogoria

Coincidentally Elderly members of the Community recall past trail activities from the Colonial times and even pointed out stopping area that are still set aside to date.

This will open a new window in the Rural Tourism Development Chapter in Kenya’s history. As a flagship product in Adventure and active Tourism, I have no doubt that it may become Kenya’s next sensational product.

It will also provide alternative livelihood opportunities in for remote and far flung Communities along this old trail in a number of ways. For example the provision of various goods as fresh vegetables and fruits, essential supplies and services such as Guides, Porters, and even donkey for luggage. This will also be a multipurpose area which the community can use it in many ways to promote Environmental conservation activities. Thanks

William Kimosop
Chief Game Warden
County Council of Koibatek/
Technical Advisor to the North Rift Inter-Council Forum.

To book an expedition just call Betty Kibet on +(254) 721 294 341,  email us on [email protected]

Or visit us at the Equator Visitor Center at Mogotio.

In the next few posts we will take you on an extraordinary journey – this is just the itinerary…

THE TREK ITINERARY

Day 1 – Depart Nairobi for The Equator Mogotio Tourism Information and Operations Centre
India/Kenya Flag Raising Ceremony
Trek Flag Off by the Council Chairman and The Area District Commissioner
Proceed to Nyalilpuch Trail Base Station and Outpost for the night.

Day 2- Morning Ridgewalk and descent to the shores of Lake Bogoria on the Hannington Trail. Explore Emsos and overnight at Fig Tree Camp. (Support vehicle leaves for the Overnight Camp Maji Moto)

Day 3- Morning take off along the Greater Kudu Trail to arrive at Maji Moto Village Camp.
Overnight at the Greater Kudu Camp. Tugen Traditional dance. (Support vehicle leaves for the Overnight Camp Maji Moto)

Day 4 – Depart for Kamar via the Siewa Donkey Trail
Overnight at The Crocodile Dam. Evening stroll in the Village overnight film show.

Day 5- Depart Kamar on the Honey Trail and the Molo River.
Explore the River and the Little Lake Kapnarok. Picked by the support vehicle for overnight camping at Perkerra River.

Day 6-Drive to Tenges via Tugen Ritual Camp for a short ridge walk along the Mountain club of Kenya 1969 hiking route. Afternoon exploration at the Tabagon Rock Tower. Late afternoon swim at Sacho High School Pool. Supper and overnight at the Royal Camp Sacho. Evening meal at Sigowo restaurant.

Day 7- The Kerio Descent.Turukwei Trails Torok Cliff Face and the Tambach Cliff face exploration.Drive along the Escarpment and enter the Chororget descent.

Day 8- The Sego Trail descent
The Full stop party at the Sego Swimming pool.

REQUIREMENTS

Personal effects
Camping gear,
First Aid Kit Box
Cameras and Binoculars
GPS
Audio recorders

Food and Drink
Water jerrycans
Cooking Materials
Utensils Coolbox etc
2Donkey Harnesses (KSPCA)

THE TRANS RIFT TRAILS©®

A.RESTING POINTS

Features
Good tree shade
Sitting spaces
Signage
Numerous and identified by trekkers.

B. TRAIL POSTS
Features
Radio Communication
Kitchen shade
Toilet / Shower
Proximity to Water source
Pack animal availability
Rangers
Porters and Guides
Link to essential supply sources
Link to local/ regular Transport or Matatu service
Trail Log Book and certification stamp

TRAIL POSTS
Mochongoi .Kapkelelwa Waseseges.Sego Nyalilpuch Chororget Fig Tree CampEmsos Community CampsiteMaji Moto Netbon Kamar Molok (Sirimta)Radat Bekibon Tenges

C. TRAIL CAMPS
Features
All of B
Community cultural centre
Fresh produce and general market day
Permanent Trail Camp with facilities for hire
Guide Books, Maps
National Reserve Sub-station.
Trail Camps
Sego Sacho Radat Tenges Maji Moto Emsos Nyalilpuch

THE TRANS RIFT TRAIL©®

TRAIL POSTS 12 Sacho
1. Mochongoi 13.Kapkelelwa
2. Waseseges 14.Sego
3. Nyalilpuch 15.Chororget
4. Fig Tree Camp
5. Emsos Community Campsite
6. Maji Moto Netbon
7. Kamar
8. Molok (Sirimta)
9. Radat
10. Bekibon
11. Tenges

Total Distance approximately 155km