Dan Goodwin has been coming to Rift Valley Adventures over the last seven years and Kenya has become a second home for him. Dan looks back at how our little camp at Ngare Ndare Forest has grown over time and reflects on the Rock Climbing Foundation courses we run…
Popping shorts on a bit bleary eyed after a long day in a plane seat…We read the note in Nick’s guesthouse with accompanying car keys that we could have a slight lie in and then drive up to camp to meet the group. We quickly loaded up the car and headed up-to camp. We stopped en route at One Stop to pick up a takeaway coffee and get some phone credit. Kenya feels like home having spent so many years here; it’s also very nice to feel so at ease somewhere. Driving on through Nanyuki town on the hour long drive to camp, I notice everything – which shops have changed, where things have moved about new buildings, etc.
I remember many years ago joining Nick and Dipesh to take a drive up to Ethi, a village on the edge of the Ngare Ndare Forest overlooking Samburu and the Northern Counties. We were visiting a Dutch couple who’s time in Kenya had come to an end and in their old age along with health meant they wanted to return to Holland and were looking to sell their plot. Aside from the main house it was a blank plot but a big one stretching down to the lugga (dry river bed) below and up the other side. The plot was purchased and Forest Camp was born. Over time the plots to the side were bought and a camp that can sleep over a hundred was built. The activity sites in the forest and surrounding area were all developed with the camp offering rock climbing courses from taster to advanced; a mountain bike skills course and the surrounding area developed to deliver taster to instructor courses with multiple canyons deep in the forest all serve for a wide range of courses from a jump in and get wet to technical rope work and canyoneering journeys.
Leaving the tarmac just north of Timau a town just north of Nanyuki, the old road to Isiolo takes you past ranches and wheat fields all under the shadow of Mt Kenya, Africa’s second highest summit. Giraffes wander back and forth with buffalo at the moment looking for what little there is to eat given the current situation . Plenty of memories for me on every stretch of this dirt road. Stacking my various motorbikes in the mud or shuttling out from camp to rescue the a stranded group during the rains. The road has now been covered in a sort of stone to make it an all weather (just) road.
Pulling into camp, it’s a far cry from the first visit where there was just the one bedroom house on a large plot of land. The gate opens to reveal a nicely thought out camp often with various colourful plants in bloom and a network of paths linking it all together. Its also a camp that is well set up – although out in the sticks its got full wifi across the camp, solar heated showers and plenty of simple safari tents cut into the hillside looking out to Mt Kenya and delivers a great BBQ in the evenings! All of this just a stone throw from all the main forest sites. It also looks best full of people and now the Covid fiasco is a thing of the past, its full again with people on different courses instructional to taster and the schools trips returning.
A quick hello to the team and it was quickly off to meet the group and crack on with the five day climbing course. RVA has been accredited as a provider of rock foundation courses recognised in the UK by the client group which is a great thing to be able to provide in Kenya. This doesn’t just reflect using well qualified instructors but the whole package of well maintained and equipped stores, operational vehicles, camp standards and accommodation, food and hygiene assessed to internationally approved standards.
It was a great first trip with some good days at the crag and also into town to the climbing wall which has some good walls, bouldering and perhaps the best cappacino in town. The course coincided with the rains which are much needed I have seen things in all seasons and at the moment it was looking very very dry. Although the rains here can mean a sudden stop to play on account of how torrential it can be it’s often also accompanied with thunder and lightning but they where short-lived bursts and the African sun soon dries the rock and play can resume.
We ticked numerous routes with the group covering lots of topics relevant for those building a foundation to build upon in the sport. We finished off at the crag yesterday but just before driving back up the hill to camp I drove everyone down to the bottom of the hill through the long sweeping bend above the fence for Borranna conservancy to see whether there was anything to have a look at and there was, a herd of Elephant making there way towards us, Buffalo roaming about on the hillside and the usual plethora of zebra and antelopes. Then back up the hill for tea and BBQ. Not a bad office to have for delivering your work in.
A couple more to go and an unfortunately a short and rapid trip but we have to be back in the Highlands to pick up on the spring season which looks to be setting in. For now though we shall enjoy the sun and warmth in place where the rock is dry and exceptional quality and the outlook consists of wildlife and huge skies.