I never felt so out of shape in all my life as when I did hiking Ngong Hills months ago before the rains came.
Ngong Hills are the peaks of a ridge formed along the Great Rift Valley. Ngong Hills refers to the 7 peaks found there; however there are most notably 4. These 4 explain the meaning of the Maasai word Ngong, or knuckles. The stories we were told, tell of the Maasai people who lived on the hills doing something displeasing to God. God eventually punched the ground expressing his feeling to the Maasai. This action gave the peaks their knuckle shape while making the sound “ngong”.
Like the city of Nairobi, Ngong Hills are at a high altitude, and each peak is a steep climb upwards. It really is surprising the effect altitude can have. I could not help but think of this as I caught myself breathing heavily fairly early on. Even though I knew I wasn’t in the best of shape I’d ever been in, anywhere else these Hills would have been no problem. It was great for our self-esteem afterwards, however, when we found out that most people don’t climb all 7 hills, and if they do, they have their cars meet them at the other side. Not us. We had invited the driver to join us, so after the first 7 steep and high peaks into the hike, we had a brief picnic before making our way back across all 7 for a second time. Actually, we more likely struggled to make our way back as the last two peaks were quite difficult on the return. By that point you are out-right exhausted. Of course, there was one of us who ran the last few peaks, but let me say that our dear friend from Madagascar is constantly training, and didn’t have a backpack to weigh him down (not even lunch for that matter, so we had shared).
Standing tall, Ngong Hills provide a great view overlooking Nairobi as well as over Maasai land. From the peaks of the Ngong Hills it is amazing to compare the differences visible in the terrain and to think that these Hills are the only things separating their drastic opposites. Nairobi is green and luscious with city skyline full of skyscrapers. Maasai land is brown and dry with the very odd pond to store water and with the outline of a family compound here and there.
The first few peaks we climbed took us to a place where birds were singing and flying around us. They were so close to us and seemed so peaceful. It was quite the beautiful setting, making it easy for me to understand how people could climb all the way up here every couple Sundays for church. We happened to see a church meeting on the top of one of the peaks. People of all ages (I have no idea how the hobbling elderly got here) – reading the Bible and praying up where they felt closer to God. It must have been so serene before the tourists come traipsing through with their guards (mandatory for small groups to protect them from the increasing number of thugs in the area, and from buffalo). We didn’t see any wild animals however there were plenty of sheep, goats and cattle. The cattle we always heard before we saw because of the bells hanging around their necks.
Our driver had teased that he would have to carry us back to the car by the end of the hike. Well, as it turned out we almost had to carry him back. He was just as exhausted as the rest of us. He even sent a message the following day to check in on us. He was concerned for our health as even he had trouble getting out of bed the following morning. Don’t worry, we were fine and at work the following morning.