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Exploring Tugen Hills is pure bliss

By Jayne Rose Gacheri | May 23rd 2021
Tugen Hills. [Courtesy]

Every day is a new dawn – an opportunity to learn something new and see a place in a different way. Travel can combine relaxation with exploration, as I did when I took an adventurous breather to the land of star athletes and spectacular endless hills – the Tugen Hills.

Before setting off, I did some background check and found out that there is an earnest attempt to make this a tourist destination, especially within Baringo and Koibatek. The area is home to Lembus Forest and National Reserve. The forest sits in the middle of the Rift Valley and is an extension of the Great Mau ridges.

Travelling through the Great Rift Valley is therapeutic and I took time to stop and take in the natural scenery of this huge geological fault-line that stretches round one-sixth of the Earth’s circumference.

From the Marigat-Nakuru Highway, we join the Marigat-Kabarnet turn-off, 18km from Marigat town. We drive through Kimarel, popular for its annual goat auction (disrupted due to Covid-19), and all the way through Koriema centre famous for its delicious goat meat.

From Koriema, the attitude drastically changes to a stiff climb (4,000-7,500) as we drive through the winding road of Pat Kawanin to Sesya. From here, the view, suddenly changes; to the east are the spectacular Murop and Tarambas hills that take my breath away.

Antony, the guide, points out the hills. The first one, he says is called Katip Kituro (the neck of Kituro in Kalenjin). The never-ending hills number over 200 and Antony tells us that there is a joke here that everybody in the land of the Tugens has a hill, a ridge or a valley to themselves. It is here too, that deposits from the period of over six million years ago have been found, making hills an important location for the study of human evolution.

Tugen hills are indescribable – there are simply not enough powerful words to convey their beauty to what seems to be the end of Kenya. A Swiss landscape and wildlife photographer, Stevan Holderrager on one of his visits, described the Tugen Hills as Kenya’s own Swiss Alps.

As a result of his stunning captures of the hills and the amazing landscapes, the people from his Astatine St Gallen, village in the Alps established close ties with Timboiwo, a village in Kibasis.

From the viewpoint at Katip Katuro, we venture into Kabarnet. The town of Kabarnet is perched on a rocky hill overlooking Kerio Valley. From here, you get to see the full view of the valley that is commonly known to the locals as “world’s-end-view” subsequent to the belief that this is the end of the land.

From Kabarnet, we take a detour to Kabarnet airstrip through Kabarnet showground. Before leaving the town, you must check the condition of your car’s breaks as the road is a scary steep, downhill stretch. From a distance, you can see Lake Kaparok, a forested area that is home to hundreds of elephants.

After the descent, we head for Sacho, (the original home of the late President Daniel arap Moi), our final destination for the day.

By now we have lost count of the viewing points. At Kinyo forest, we are fascinated by hundreds of colourful butterflies.

I counted over 10 species. As we sojourn on, we notice the kindness and humility of residents who are more than willing to help us even though we are strangers. No wonder they call this place “a place where the sun rises forever”.

At Kipongochoch, our highest point for the day (7,600ft), Antony has another surprise. The network and band reception is exceptionally clear! Below us, the scenic views are endless. We set picnic and enjoy our packed lunch as we take in the stunning beauty of our surroundings including Lake Bogoria and Baringo, and Laikipa escarpment.

After lunch, we tour Sacho town. From here, on a clear day, you can see the towering peaks of Mt Kenya and Mt Elgon.

Finally, after a 235-kilometre excursion, we touch base at Lake Baringo Hotel, exhausted but totally satisfied with our encounters for the day.  

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