The following day would bring more adventure. We were promised a hike up the hills to view a cave which offered magnificent views of the entire conservancy and perhaps just as spectacular, ancient cave paintings from a by-gone era.
We set off reasonably early and as we made our way through the landscape, we passed a giraffe with a calf at foot. The baby was incredibly young, perhaps only a matter of weeks old and the mother was very nervous, fleeing from our clunky vehicle and the nearby shepherds moseying along nonchalantly with their herd of sheep.
We were heading to the northern area of Lolldaigas and on our way, we passed a wealth of wildlife including zebras, gazelles, impala, warthog, eland and even a couple of dik dik’s who being timid, also fled as our vehicle trundled along.
We also caught a fleeting glimpse of an Oryx. On the numerous cliff edges, we spied a species of antelope called Clip Springer which we had never seen before until now. They were perched incredibly high up, precariously hovering near the cliff edges, watching intently for any approaching predators.
Upon reaching our desired location, we alighted the vehicle which was simply abandoned on the road but such was the remoteness of Lolldaigas, there was little possibility of any other vehicles or even human beings coming close by. And so our trek up the largest hill ever commenced.
We had to be accompanied by an armed ranger as we were on foot in an area which contains very wild wild life. Our ranger was called Peter and he was known as ‘the beast,’ a reputation which he revelled in with this nickname being carved into the handle of his knife which was trustily tucked into his belt. He carried with him a large firearm which was for our protection, should any dangerous animals approach us. Peter explained to us that the main fear was threats from buffalo and he regaled fables to us of near misses. Buffalo, particularly lone males, are known to be extremely aggressive and I’d much rather take my chances with a lazy lion than a hulking big horned buffalo.
Peter marched ahead of us ensuring that the way was safe, informing us that he wished us to keep our distance from him by at least a couple of metres. I thought that this was some form of social distancing but he told us of a time when he was with another group of tourists and a buffalo charged at them causing a horrified lady behind him to grip him in some scared embrace, adding to an already terrifying situation. Peter explained that he had managed to unattach himself from this terrified tourist just in time to stop the buffalo in its tracks but this was an experience that he had no desire to repeat so to be extra safe, we had to maintain a safe distance from Peter to ensure he could clear the way but also to allow easy access to the gun should it be necessary.
Alfred was also with us clambering up this mini mountain and all the way up, he pointed out the amazing plant life including a bush which smelled of eucalyptus. I was huffing and puffing, no longer acclimatised to the altitude so we were encouraged to rest for a minute and inhale the eucalyptus to open up our airways. It was fascinating to me that everything in nature has a purpose and this plant was allowing me to actually breathe.
We proceeded on and after Peter had halted us to check the cave entrance was clear of animals, we arrived at a cave with the most intriguing paintings. These ancient drawings have been in situ since between 1000 and 4000 years ago and are tribal markings and brands used for cattle from the visiting tribes. Some of the rocks within the cave were smooth and polished almost to a varnished perfection and Alfred explained to us that the tribe members would have created this as a smooth surface to sit on. They would not have worn any underwear so the smoothness was for comfort on bare bottoms.
Many tribes in Kenya are semi-nomadic and would have driven their cattle through Lolldaigas, and sheltered in this very cave. The cave is known as Mawe ya-Ngorai in Keswahili which translates in English to ‘rock shelter.’
Alfred and Peter knowledgeably informed us that some of the markings were from Turkhana tribe, and the Maasai, and even a Sudanese tribe perhaps. Alfred was incredibly proud to explain that he was from the Turkhana tribe and he showed us the brand which would have been apparent on their cattle, to prove ownership of the said cattle.
I was utterly intrigued by this rich history but also astounded by the striking differences in our respective cultures but in addition to this mystical cave and its paintings, the vista was spectacular. The scenery was stunning, with the amazing landscape rolling on and on as far as the eye could see, with no apparent end in sight. It was breath taking and I could have spent all day there, taking in this fantastic scenery. It was like a dream as we stared out across the land, with huge eagles flying overhead adding to the African experience often only seen in the movies.
Having sucked this experience up, we descended the enormous hill to then be taken in the vehicle back out into the bush where we again alighted the vehicle. This time, we were treated to a ‘bush walk.’ I was pleased we were not ascending this time as I was feeling worn out but the treats in the bush gave me a good dose of adrenalin!
As we quietly made our way through the dense bush, we came across a herd of elephants. For the second time that day, I was stunned into silence. We had to make minimal noise so as not to attract the attention of these magnificent beasts and we went into stealth mode, and stalked the elephants to try to get just a little bit closer to them. Mr Nomad and I were spell bound…this was an experience like no other.
Peter and Alfred were on edge and subtly kept us at a safe-ish distance but this was truly humbling. We were in the middle of the bush, in a land that is owned by the wild life and we were privileged that we had been allowed to get as close as we did to such unpredictable and very wild animals. What a privilege to be walking amongst such giants.
We went on our way to slowly amble back across Lolldaigas to find our lunch site. We stopped to drop Peter off and so he could return to his lodgings where Alfred showed us the most intriguing plant called a Candelabra tree. It looks like an enormous cactus and Alfred explained that if you cut into it (so if the plant comes under attack), it leaks a milky type fluid as a defence mechanism. This was fascinating!
Alfred demonstrated this to us by gently nicking a woody branch and this milky substance dripped out. It is actually a milky white latex with a rubber content of 12.5% and is extremely toxic as a skin irritant and carcinogenic derivatives. I have never seen anything like this! It was as if the plant was crying milky tears! Alfred also explained that if it was to get into an eye, it could cause blindness. I had no doubt about this. Again, I was mesmerised as this toxic fluid seeped out of this strange tree. Alfred pointed to another plant which could be used to counteract the toxic milkiness but I for one did not wish to take any chances. Nature really is amazing.
As we continued along, we noticed a rather strong pungent smell emanating from the side of the road. The vehicle came to a stop and we jumped out, curious to see what was causing such an abuse on our senses and it was evident from the fur patches left on the road that there had been a battle. The stench was overbearing but upon closer inspection of the land around us, the carcass of a hyena was discovered. Alfred surmised that there had been some form of epic fight between the hyena and perhaps buffalo, and then the poor creature probably mortally wounded had crawled from the road, collapsed into the nearby bushes where he embarked upon an eternal sleep. The ground was packed down and hardened and the only visible tracks were that of buffalo so it appeared that the deceased hyena had met his match with the creature that is number one, the highest on the list of the Big Five. Buffalo are ruthless and when we eventually continued on our meander through the bush, we witnessed a large herd of buffalo not far from the scene of the murder. They had lots of young babies at foot and Alfred explained to us that this was enough to make them extremely protective, certainly in the face of a scavenging predator.
By the time we arrived at the chosen spot in the bush for lunch, the putrid smell of death had evaporated from my nostrils and I was able to tuck into a delightful meal washed down with a glass of white wine. Who knew that such luxury could be found in the dense African bush. What was spectacular was the trumpeting welcome of an elephant hiding in this bush. He kept his distance while we were eating and yet again, Mr Nomad and I marvelled at the days events.
We made it back to camp after a slow drawl of a ride in the car and of course, witnessing the amazing flora and fauna en route and we had a cosy evening around a fire pit, regaling to other guests at the site the fantastic day from the best views from an ancient cave over the African plains, to the getting up close and personal with the world’s largest land mammal, to the gory and macabre but curious remains of a fierce battle lost.
Mr Nomad and I were overwhelmed with the sights, sounds and smells that Kenya has to offer and we constantly remind ourselves just how lucky we are to experience the world around us. We will most definitely be back to Lolldaiga Hills for another amazing adventure in the wilderness.