After living in Nairobi for nearly three years, finally I got to the Ngong Hills in January this year. The full Maasai name for the hills is ‘Enkong’u-e-nchorro-emuny’, which simply proved too difficult for the explorer Joseph Thomson (look out for a future article about Thomson’s Falls, which this explorer discovered, coming soon!) to pronounce and so he named them “Ngong” for short. The Maasai story of how the hills were formed tells of a giant who was stumbling north from Mt Kilimanjaro, who tripped and as he fell stuck his knuckles in the ground leaving the formation we see today.
The first thing to greet us after we entered the reserve area was a wind farm. We continued up the hill to the large radar from where aeroplanes flying into Nairobi’s international airport get their navigation signals. This is where we parked and started our walk.
The Ngong Hills seem to form a boundary wall between one environment and another. To the east lay bustling Nairobi and her suburbs while the west presented a larger drop to the dry and under-populated Great Rift Valley. The differing amounts of development on either side was contrast enough, but what struck me stronger was the difference in colour – as we walked south, it was green on the left and brown on the right.
I’ll have to confess right now that we did not get very far! Our intention to get all the way to Corner Baridi certainly didn’t come to fruition. There are buffaloes roaming the hills so it is a good idea to hire a guide if you are feeling energetic enough to go all the way. We weren’t and were happy with the birdlife we could spot in the trees on the closer hills. We tried to sneak up on an Auger Buzzard for a nice photo, but he didn’t allow it.
So instead we sat atop one of the “knuckles” and put together a marketing plan for OTA. What a wonderful place to get creative and let the mind be free! It will probably become our regular “thinking place”.
It is chilly up there, so if you do plan to take a hike on Ngong Hills then it’s wise to wear layers – climbing up of course breaks a sweat, but the wind on top as you marvel the view cuts right through you.
It’s also a good idea to pack some snacks and water before you get into the reserve as there is nowhere to purchase food up there. Ngong town has supermarkets and is the last stop before entering the reserve. Carry a trowel and toilet paper as there are also no toilets up on the hills.
If you want to hike all the way from Ngong to Corner Baridi you should allow four to five hours and organise someone to pick you up at the other end.
Denys Finch Hatton, Karen Blixen’s lover, is buried up on the Ngong Hills and your guide should be able to point to the exact location. The hills were a favourite place for Blixen and Finch Hatton to go hunting, especially for lions. The lions are gone now though, so it is safe to walk and enjoy the same beautiful scenery the couple enjoyed 100 years ago.