Ngare Ndare means goat waters in the Maa language. The forest was recently included as an extension of the Mount Kenya UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ngare Ndare forest hosts 200 year-old trees, giving a home to a variety of bird and animal species. It is an important ecosystem that connects Mount Kenya and to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. The ecosystem has sustained the elephants for centuries.
Owing to fatal human-wildlife conflicts, the forest was fenced off in 1992 and in 2009 it was placed under the custody of the Ngare Ndare Trust after a concession with Kenya Forest Service.
After thirty minutes on Nanyuki–Mere road, the road unveiled a little mountain town of Timau. Motorbikes lined up in rows, typical of rural towns in Kenya. The town was what a village becomes with no prior planning.
Every building was different from the other, borrowing here and there from the architecture of another era. The rickety stalls, however, were full of farm fresh fruits, vegetables and cereals of various kinds. The air was cool and crisp, like a refreshing glass of cold water after hours in Kitui. The breeze fluttered around, gently caressing everything it touched with velvety tendrils.
The locals advised me to take a left detour that would lead me to the heart of Ngare Ndare. The landscapes were utterly breath-taking.
The landscape glowed orange with a spray of lavender all around. It was like a painting straight from a gallery. My eyes roamed, enchanted by the green hills and ploughed fields while the snowy peak of Mt Kenya glistened from afar.
A SERENE UTOPIA
An hour later I was at Ngare Ndare. A lush indigenous forest at the foot of Mt. Kenya. I was greeted by a whisper of an immaculate, meandering silvery stream, flowing in majesty and disappearing under canopy. Over the canopy was a skywalk board, perched high up, stretching an illusionary path to the gossamer clouds, gliding gently under azure sky.
The walkway ends at a wooden platform where one can have a meal, relax and enjoy a view of Ngare Ndare River from a vantage point. Buffaloes and Elephants frequent the river to drink and wallow.
They say there is an adventure always waiting in the woods. Like yams I ate the three ruby hills of Ngare Ndare. Huffing, puffing, and lost in the trail, snaking under the canopy. The shade and colours were graceful, all the while inhaling the essence of the forest but being spooked by feral sounds at the same time.
After thirty minutes, my guide and I arrived at the cascades of Ngare Ndare. For a moment I was in a trance, lost to the turquoise-coloured pool which seemed to give way to deeper, darker aqua-coloured water. I felt enveloped in the most serene, loving, utopia. The pristine water drooled over lush green shrubbery and splashed on rocks. The splashing cascade made a moderate unending laughter, the sound that reigned in the jungle.
At one point, a string goat smell hit me with a procession of the same appeared from the bushes shortly after. Seemingly, the goats had had a quench from the cool, pristine pools of Ngare Ndare. Uncharacteristic of goats however, they made no bleats. I suspect they had their fill of nature's sustenance. The herds-boy trailed after, offering guidance and protection.
QUENCHED MY THIRST
In the twilight, I arrived at an immaculate brook. I was panting and thirsting for a quench as a deer would. There I scooped some water while Bamuriat watched my back for the Elephants. Soon I felt a cool rush coursing through fevered veins. Thirst quenched.
We returned from the pools in twilight splendour. A swirl of orange and lavender transfigured the sky as the perishing ball of light slowly sank below the horizon, leaving behind a spray of dark orange. Slowly the forest was robbed of its brilliant hues and replaced with a faded out khaki-grey. By this time, there were newly pitched tents that looked like softly glowing globes, the light from lamps. Hundreds of unseen frogs were rioting and croaking, a symphony of the primal evening.
In the Ngare Ndare river, swimming and diving is allowed; for those willing to brave the chilly waters. The visitors can take guided forest walks, mountain biking and camping.
Rock climbing at the falls and at Nugu Rock as well as canopy walks are also offered.
WHAT IT WILL COST YOU
The daily fee in the forest is Sh 500. There is an additional Sh 1,000 for camping and a further Sh1000 for armed security. The guides are very professional and profoundly knowledgeable about Ngare Ndare.
The walk, the hills, the breeze, the forest sounds, the sky, the solitary evening was like a treasure found and voluntarily, surrendered. I returned to the city renewed and reinvigorated.