Standing between Nature’s dual paintings, a vast blue sky above dotted with clouds and possibilities, and the speckled moraine below revealing intensely clear tarns (mountain lakes), you can understand why porters of Mt. Kenya call this magical place Paradise.
Not many reach the peak of Mt. Kenya. You must be fit. But not just physically fit. Your muscles, lungs, endurance, stamina, and mental toughness all must be work together in order for you to reach the top as the sun rises above the second highest point on the continent.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself…
Before the peak are the settlement areas, the rain forest zone, encounters with beasts and flora and fauna whose beauty not even the best camera can truly catch. After all, the pixels of the eye naturally capture more light than the best technology invented.
And nothing can replace the sights, sounds, and smells which your memory will hold for decades after you leave this place.
The rainforest beneath Mt. Kenya is exceptionally tranquil. Little sunshine can penetrate the thick canopy above, keeping the forest floor cool and bringing a sense of reverence to the natural cathedral sprung up from the earth, built from hardwoods of all sizes, shapes and varieties.
Stay alert among the trees. You may encounter monkeys, did-diks, buffalo or elephant, depending on the time of day. You’re more likely to see the paw prints of a leopard rather than the elusive animal as you drive through the forest.
Don’t be surprised if you come upon the enormous legs of a bull elephant standing in the road blocking your path. They are slow to move, having little care you are on your way to somewhere. They will stand their ground until they arrogantly shuffle off into the trees.
Continuing on, you cross the bamboo forest. It is here where the grade becomes very steep and you may choose to get out of your car to stretch and walk. Cars move slowly here and you can easily catch up with your ride as the engines work tireless to ascend the land.

Your first destination is the lodge sitting at an altitude of 2950 meters which is where the moorland begins and where some may end their journey, leaving the Mt. Kenya peak ascent to others.

The valley below the lodge offers plenty to see. Sometimes the wardens lay out salt to attract animals for your viewing pleasure. You can almost imagine all species are gathering two by two as told in Biblical tales.

However, in modern time the water you see will not be falling from the sky. It lies tranquil in the icy depths of Lake Elise which sits behind “The Table”…a hill named for its plateau-like top. It’s cold. Very cold. If you put your feet in too long (more than 5 minutes) they will begin to burn. If you drink it straight, the capillaries on the mucus membrane lining your mouth can rupture on contact.

Bottled at the source doesn’t begin to describe the crystal clear perfection of these waters. The lake resembles flat blue glass that has been crafted perfectly to fit inside the surrounding embankment.

Look closely and you can spot a hare coming out of the shelter of their burrow to stare unabashedly at you and your camera only to turn and run, carefree, like a high-school senior after graduation day.

You will be captivated by the rivers that cut through the moorland. They are very narrow, less than a meter wide. You can easily pass right over them without taking a closer look. However, stop. Peer into the water and you can see perfectly to the bottom as if looking through a window. Fish, stones, sand, vegetation, fish hiding under stones, and insects walking on the bed of sand at the bottom of the river come into sharp focus.
The landscape is decorated with flowers. Vibrant flowers. Not what you are used to seeing from a carefully tended garden or greenhouse. Somehow, the reds are more red; the greens more green. It’s as if all the nutrients in the soil have remained unadulterated by “modern” farming methods and chemical so they can nourish the plants with the best antioxidants yet to be discovered.
Even the most rugged trailblazer becomes a poet the moment he encounters the beauty and allure of Mt. Kenya’s moorland.

Beyond the moorland is the prize. Mt. Kenya. The mountain itself. Many won’t experience a mountain-goat selfie and will be satisfied with their moorland experience. But for those who go on to “the temple” a flat rocky area that ends in a cliff overlooking Lake Michaelson, Paradise awaits.

The temple is about fourteen kilometers from the lodge. This is where a determined few gather to scale the mountain at 3am in hopes of reaching the peak in time for the morning sunrise.

You’ll need the right gear to withstand the rough terrain and weather which seem hell-bent on knocking you out head, foot, and breath.

You will begin to wonder if rolling out of your bed while it’s still dark to go slipping and sliding your way up 5000 meters altitude will reward you with anything beyond sore muscles and chapped lips

But, alas, African sunsets and sunrises are known for their awe-inspiring presentations. So, you’ll continue on.

Just like when you wait in line for hours…even days…to see your favorite band for one last show. You still wear that t-shirt, don’t you?

When you reach the peak, you’ll wait in hushed silence, anticipation, with only the sound of your lungs pulling in as much oxygen as it can.
As the sun rises, the rays slash through the chill of the morning to reflect on the ice forming light glares, patterns, and reflections which words are insufficient to describe.
It’s just a sunrise, some may say. But for those lucky enough to experience it, it’s a new day in Paradise.

Photo attribution-creative commons license:

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