Monday, September 1, 2014

Trip Report : Olokwe Sapatchi

The long road North as the sun comes up North of Isiola 
Gun Shot Groove, Toby 
After spotting a gap in the planner Toby, Maina and I headed North in search of a giant cliff. We led
Ollokwe or ‘Sapachi” sits to the North of the Laikipian plaeux in Northern Kenya a stunning peak rising up from the plains with dramatic giant granite walls. Driving north to reach this area the striking landscape gives a feeling of real Africa and a sense of adventure quickly grabs you. We met John and John our Samburu guides at the Wamba junction just north of Archers post and headed round into a small valley nestled between giant granite wall and boulders. A nice basic campsite set in amongst the numerous acacia trees with their shock and awe thorns. Definitely make sure you give your tent pitch a good sweep as these thorns are particularly sharp. We headed out for the rest of the day having a look at the various crags and boulders in the area some great bouldering to be had, Toby ticked of one corner which we shall name ‘Gunshot Corner’. As he was about to start a sudden volley of rifle and AK47 fire broke out not far from us. We later discovered it was the Turkana warriors who had come to visit the Samburu who had previously rustled their cattle. This is very common cattle rustling and was once done with spears and subtly but now its more serious with the unrest in neighbouring Somalia and South Sudan lots of guns have come from there and the tribes are all armed to the teeth with AK47’s. No issue for tourists unless of course you get caught in the crossfire. I was told that there was once a few cases of people being robbed but that the elders had sat people down and said if anyone is caught stealing anything other than cattle they would be killed. 
After a comfortable night we emerged to find various donkeys and herders who where preparing to take us up to the top to camp. With the gear loaded we set off winding our way over dry river beds through the bush. Its a sharp up hill to reach the top steeply pulling up through dense bush and the occasional large boulder. Every so often the path would pop out giving some idea of the incredible views that awaited us at the top. Stopping for the odd water break along the way we where able to chat with John about the traditions and various issues the Samburu Masai face, the main one in this area seemed to be water. A rare commodity here and when coming you should bring it from Isiola or home as there was none to be seen once we reached the area. 
Once we reached the plateaux we wound our way towards the camp over granite slabs and bit of bush but much less steep and a relief to the calfs. The occasional person appeared herding their cattle as up here there is a bit more for them to eat. Just before we arrived at our campsite we passed a tree chock full of stones. John explained that tradition has it that whenever you pass this tree you have to place a stone it with you left hand. Legend has it that there was a man born from the mountain and on his passing went back into the mountain, his name was ‘Sapatchi’ which is what the locals refer to as the mountain. Its a mark of respect to Sapatchi to place a stone in his memory on passing. 
We reached the campsite nestled in between the trees which offers some welcome shade in the middle of the day. We set the tents around an open fire and headed off to the highest point. Walking round the granite slabs above the huge cliffs was spectacular huge views almost to much for the eye to take it. A vast area of flat plains and mountain ranges. The ‘Cat and Mouse’ which are actually huge granite fingers looked like tiny dots from the top. We wound round scrambling about and taking photos before a few scrambling steps landed us on top. At the top two granite noses stick out giving dizzying views down the cliffs. The cliffs which in areas have lots of white patches and streaks which come from the vulture nests. This is one of only two places in Kenya where the vultures nest, huge birds circling below us looking for food. We sat for a while gaping at the view, Toby remarking it was possibly the best view he had ever seen. 
Watching the vultures circling below 

The top of the main wall just under the top 
Returning to the camp that evening we got the fire going and prepared dinner. There is something quite special about being in the wilderness and cooking on an open fire, it gives a feeling you are free from all stresses and strains of everyday life and brings everything back to the simple things. 

Spag bowl the old fashioned way 
Its worth getting up early to see the sunrise here and we did just that and walked down watching the sky turn all colours before the day broke. By then it was a quick rattle down the steep path all the while the head of the day starting to rise. As we hit the bottom we loaded up the truck and quickly headed back to Ol Pejeta for a new group arriving that day. 

A truly great area huge empty plains and adventures to be had all over in remote mountain ranges and bushland. The Samburu people who where with us where very friendly and more than happy to share their traditions and even fire with us. We dropped them back at the junction we all shook hands and went our separate ways although I shall see them again as we start to develop more trips there and also my own personal trips as I certainly want to be returning to the area. 

An area with huge potential for more fun !