To Hell & Back

Actually, to Hell’s Gate.

I went there on the Sunday before Madaraka Day with a friend to camp over one night.

It was my first time camping without a large group (Scout/school group) and I was filled with anxiety. What if it didn’t work out & there we were; stranded in a national park? I shudder to imagine.

We took public transport till the road to Elsa Gate. It was slightly under KSh 300 to get there (Ksh 200 from Nairobi to Naivasha Town, KSh 80 to the Elsa Gate bus stop) and then KSh 100 for a boda boda to the Elsa Gate.

We had thought of hiking to our campsite but the urge to cycle was strong so we thought of renting a KWS bike. There were none (they rent bikes out at KSh 600) so we got one from one of the bike rental guys at the bus stop for KSh 500 and paid the KSh 250 entry charge to take them in.

A word to the wise: get to the gate early so you can get your choice of KWS bikes. Use your negotiating chops to rent the bike overnight at a day rate (24 hours!) as they’re usually returned by day’s end.

We had bikes, entry tickets (KSh 350 apiece) and had paid the KSh 500 camping charge (for a 2 person tent). Great, we were in…but how would we cook? We spoke to the lady at the entry and she recommended the resident firewood guy, Wafula. He dithered for a while but it’s safe to say a pile of firewood will cost you KSh 200. That’s about enough for dinner, breakfast and getting toasty…or roasting marshmallows 🙂

We rode till the Buffalo Circuit Road but we were weighed down by our backpacks and we were going up a gentle slope so we ended up pushing our bikes till our campsite. We had chosen to go to Oldubai campsite (on the cliff top south of Fischer’s Tower) as the Nairburta campsite was full and Endchata campsite (across the gorge on the northern cliffs) was a tad too far. One more reason to arrive early; you have a choice of sites though on this weekend groups had arrived early on Saturday.

Wafula helped us set up a fire, we set up the tent after I was done being The Kenyan Camper‘s superfan (that site got my friend & I stoked about camping, check it out!) and set about dinner in this place where there were less than 10 people in sight (a family of 4 and ourselves).

To give you a sense of the campsite: it doubles up as a picnic site so there are benches all around. There is a communal tap, a banda where you can prepare meals, a hearth with a grill (nyama choma fans!), a rubbish pit and washrooms (2 units, one of which doubles up as a bathroom, for both women and men).

This post is proving to be quite utilitarian (I usually gush here) so I will say these things: the views are amazing, there flora and fauna make you stop and stare and the nights so quiet you can hear the Ol Karia geothermal plant like it’s next to you. Though the closest sound may be a hyena…or your camping neighbours.

Head to Hell’s Gate one of these weekends…you’ll enjoy it 🙂

Some more utilitarian stuff:

You can get matatus to Naivasha at the end of Ronald Ngala Street at the petrol station. The fare is KSh 200 except for holidays, when it goes up to KSh 300 or more

Naivasha is a small town, the matatus to Oserian will get you to the Hell’s Gate bus stop and are easy to find as the bus stop is under 5 minutes from the main Naivasha bus stop where you get off when you come in from Nairobi

Check out the bikes before you pay. My friend’s bike’s brake failed on the morning after but thankfully the slopes are not significant. This would otherwise have been a dangerous situation.

There is a charge for bringing in cars, too. Should have checked it out (and asked if they charge you for bikes in your car!) but plan with that in mind if you intend to drive in. Last time I was there in a car we paid KSh 500 but I’m not too sure.

Get there early so you have time to pitch a tent, ride/drive/walk around, and take it all in 🙂

Correction: An earlier version of this post had misstated the cost for a 2-person tent as KSh 200; it is actually KSh 500.


7 thoughts on “To Hell & Back”

  1. I just started a Nonfiction Creative Writing Workshop and the professor swears by the profit in writing travel articles just like the ones you’ve posted. So, it was timely that I came across this. I like the way you’ve linked to other blogs in your text.

    Viola! You have several blogs you author too. The gift that keeps on giving… 🙂


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