Hiking Companions In Kenya
I have been doing a lot of solo hiking in the Chyulu Hills of Kenya recently. I mean a lot, like 270 miles in the last month, almost every mile by myself. Or so I once thought. As it turns out, I’m never hiking alone, I’m surrounded by hiking companions. The more time I spend hiking around the Chyulu Hills, the more I realize I’m never alone. Every time I go out, I see the signs that animals were exactly where I am, just a short time ago. It’s either matted down grass, animal tracks, even the musky smell is sometimes still present. It’s sometimes scary, sometimes invigorating and always amazing.
When I decided to start hiking alone in the Hills behind my tent, at first I was apprehensive. I’ve heard tons of animals calling, I’ve heard scary stories of how mean some animals can be (Cape Buffalo), I’ve always hiked with a tracker or someone with a BIG gun. The problem with all of this is I don’t always want to be with a tracker, I certainly don’t want to carry a BIG gun nor could I hit the broad side of a barn if I did. I just want to enjoy this incredible landscape on my own, so I decided to take the risk. With a little education on animal behavior, a fair amount of respect for my environment and armed with a rudimentary Maasai spear, I’ve decided to go it alone. The fact is I’m never alone, I truly believe if these animals wanted me gone, I’d be gone already. I’ve startled Giraffe, spooked hartebeest, scared many snakes, shared a small plateau with a Buffalo and I know I’ve been close to lions, I just haven’t seen them yet.
While out hiking, I ofter wonder how close I am to some animals that can easily hide in sometimes 6 foot tall grass. I know they are out there, I’ve seen very fresh tracks, I can often smell them, yet they allow me to saunter by. I have an absolute respect for the animals that call this land home and I believe they can sense that. I’m just a visitor, out making a few small footprints in their dirt and grass. I also believe if I give them the room and respect they deserve, they won’t bother me, animals are not like humans, they only attack for a reason. I plan to never give them a reason.
It’s amazing, the feeling of hiking around in a land where you are not the number one predator. Every step I take is calculated because I know the land is controlled by nature. There are not a lot of places left on the planet where you can hike around and feel like this, I hope everyone gets the chance to experience it.