I took a breather last Saturday and decided to go hiking. I joined a group of good humans with itchy feet and headed to Elephant Hill in the Aberdare National Park. It was a chilly morning in Nairobi and it got colder and foggier as we approached Njabini, a small town in Nyandarua county. I was seated at the front of the van and it seemed like we were driving in the clouds. Visibility was poor. I questioned if this was a good idea. The baridi made me miss my warm bed.
This hike was significant in two ways. First, it was an opportunity to get away and attempt to think and recharge after the roller coaster since my dad passed on. The desire to get (more like run) away has been simmering. One could say I was running for the hill in this case. They say a change is as good as a rest. I needed to rest while climbing hehe.
The second motivation was a personal challenge to conquer Elephant Hill. I have heard that it’s a difficult climb. After making it to the summit I now understand why it’s called Elephant Hill. The hike was quite elephant. It peaks at twelve thousand feet above sea level and the board at the summit is inscribed – the ultimate hiking destination. I couldn’t agree more.
We went through dense forest, thick bamboo maze and marshland as we climbed up. The weather also changed abruptly so it was key to dress appropriately and adjust accordingly. If I was to narrate the entire experience It would be a short film. There is just too much to share including being caught out on the road after curfew hours on the way back.
That hike felt like the beginning of a turnaround to a new life without dad. Like that external thing you need to do to face your new reality. It is not like I have been in denial since May but I needed a get-me-up activity to start noticing the abundance that still is found in the land of the living. Nature is paracetamol to life’s fever. A friend sent me a quote in the week. It said that “people tend to believe that grief shrinks over time. What really happens is that we grow around our grief”. If that’s the case then being out in nature may help us grow around our grief. What that grief may be.
I took this hike not just for my body. My mind and spirit have also been trying to hike life without my mzee. We (body, mind and spirit) did it together and the feeling I got when at the summit was encouraging. Despite the harsh terrain we find ourselves in, I felt like it’s possible to move on and even thrive as dad would have wanted. Sometimes we have to stretch ourselves to jumpstart our lives.
The climb down from the summit was much harder than I expected. The ground was uneven and slippery. Then add the force of gravity pushing you down. I overworked my eyes and knees fully because I had to calculate each step to avoid an injury. I slipped and fell down a few times but thankfully nothing serious.
Photography was a key motivation I took up hiking. I was excited about reuniting with my camera. I find it therapeutic. Elephant Hill did not disappoint. The climb may have been elephant but so were the views. I remember one particular sight as we made our way through the forest. The sun was out and I saw its rays pierce through the tree canopies as if insisting on warming our cold faces. I stood there in the rays both to enjoy the warmth and marvel at the view. We live in a magical country.
I got the feeling that my Mzee was charging my batteries from above with those sun rays. Like he was reassuring me through those warm rays that I have what it takes to move ahead even when it’s a day at a time. I also felt that He and Sir God have my back and we shall all be well somehow. That was a sacred moment. I might be able to fit in his shoes. They have seemed huge since he departed yet we wore the same size.
I have struggled to pray since my dad passed on. Praying came naturally last Saturday as I did this hike. Sir God and I had a good long chat. It was personal, practical and alive. I felt heard and what a relief it was to bear it all out to Him. Only the trees would have heard us and I was ok with that. Wangari Mathai taught us that trees are lungs to the earth. They cleanse the environment. They cleansed my heart too in a sense. Nature is both a power bank and a doctor. It will heal you and recharge you at the same time if we allow her.