What is Scouting?
Most swaras have wondered how the memorable trails they run every Saturday are discovered. Others have posed the question to Chairman. Therefore the ‘Scout masters’ decided to drag along a few of the curious ones on one such engagement.
So scouting is, ‘agreeing on a geographical area to be scouted, run around it looking for trails, getting lost, hitting dead ends, and if lucky getting back to where you started from. At the end of it, a run route is born (loosely chairman’s words)’. In retrospect, it is a ‘dark art’ as a Swara (Shem) had correctly speculated.
The fifteen Scouts were composed of two steely ladies Loise and Ferrah, some next generation elites Victor, Davis, Elvis, Shem and Yasin, the old guard Chairman and Wahome, the crowd pullers Ashok and Ameet, an undefined Joshua, and finally the elites Ben, Otora (support role), and the host Lopua. Some fit into more than one category.
The Scouts met for a heavy breakfast at the Delamere place in Naivasha to load up for the task ahead.
Eburu is about 20 kms off Naivasha Nakuru road, branching off into the road leading to ‘The Great Rift Valley Lodge, approximately 4 kms from the Delamere Petrol station. Scouting started 30 kms from this turnoff at Lopua’s front yard.
Driving to the start point was in itself a scenic and rewarding side-show. Driving in rugged terrain most of the way to the top of the hill, and another 10 kms downhill to the start point. One would be forgiven for thinking this was an off-road driving expedition in the Swara calendar. The Swara convoy of 7 cars drew lots of attention in the reserved and detached neighborhoods.
Not to miss a thing, roles are assigned; Paparazzi, support, observers etc. At 10 am, scouting begins with a steady hill run of 5kms to the Songiroi Township uniquely built almost exclusively with reeds. The Scouts regroup here as they take in the views below and wait for the ones behind.
Another 3 kms beautiful incline ensues, followed by running through some undulating terrain of farmland and along the edge of the forest on the outside of the electric fence. This section of the run offered one of those rare steep climbs that Swaras would die for, and a subsequent steep ‘downhill’ that requires quite a bit of manoeuvring.
The Scouts regroup at a vantage point that offers unrivalled views of Lake Elemetaita below and an outline of Lake Nakuru way yonder. On the other side you can see the top of Longonot rising higher than the Scouts’ location, in a clear affirmation that she is still the giant of the Rift Valley. You can also make out the Mau ranges.
The run then veers from the forest edge towards humanity who, it is soon discovered, live amidst pockets of steam wells. Now, these steam wells are actually sources of water, with the residents employing ingenious ways of trapping the steam, which then condenses and flows down some pipes as real liquid water and collected in containers.
Swaras get distracted a great deal by the geysers, some wanting to take a sauna there and then, some trying out the condensed water in the hope of a ‘loliondo’ effect (medicinal), some marveling at the ‘bubbling’ ‘gushing’ sounds coming from below the ground.
The next attraction soon comes up in the form of three mammoth water tanks at supposedly the highest point on the hill (citation required). Word is that they hold water from Lake Naivasha, which supplies the towns below. More work for the Paparazzi.
Downhill a ‘lil bit, then another steady climb, and what is this here if not a crater! What we are trying to say is that the Scouts find a crater, they take in the view lustily; it has one of those seductive mermaid/Delilah effects. You want to go down but know it’s dangerous. The Scouts are convinced that the crater is undiscovered and a few names are hazarded. But there is another angle. Once you turn your back on the crater, you take in the breathtaking view of Lake Naivasha down below, the various flower farms hugging her shores, and in the poor visibility you can still make out shadows of the Aberdares slightly to your left, and the Mau ranges to your right.
You’ll notice that the Scouts have been kind of skirting the hilltop, starting from the Elementaita side all the way round to the Naivasha side. From the crater, the scouting goes inside Eburu Forest. Another distraction; just inside the gate is a watchtower rising to great height. Davis and Ashok want to go up the tower.
The forest starts with shrubbery and lush greenery of the grass kind. A few false starts and the Scouts get to a trail that runs through the forest. There is a break here. The Scouts exchange stories, crack jokes, gang up against Chairman who apparently painted too rosy a picture of scouting. Something like a hike with picnics, the good trappings of life, and round tables over a map with every one giving an opinion of what direction to take. Food becomes a topic.
The Scouts have so far covered 16 kms in a time of 3 hrs 36. Some in this herd would have dispensed of a full marathon by then. After 1 km into the forest, Otora shows up with goodies. The picnic dream could come true after all. There is a big steel contraption at our picnic site. No one knows what it is.
The forest is now the real thing with grown up trees. There are a respectable number of hikers doing their thing, accompanied by armed rangers. Curiously, Chairman never mentioned the forest could harbor any dangers. The forest trail is not to be missed; peaceful, serene, beautiful, and runs through sections of thick carpets of fallen leaves and a long stretch of elephant grass so tall that we the short types may have to learn running on stilts. It is said the Ndorobo inhabit this forest.
The forest then thins out into shrubbery, signifying a change of climactic zones, and the Scouts got out of the forest 10 kms later. The forest run is basically a one-way slice right through the jungle. Outside the gate, the Scouts are able to espy their starting point way down the valley. Their homing instincts take charge and the nearest route possible is soon charted. The route down takes them through an eroded landscape, a picturesque gorge, and little lakes of dirt colored water. The author is yet to find out what these are, and why they are ‘colored’. There were quite a number. One was clearly a Crater Lake up top where we veered off the forest edge.
The scouting has clearly taken a toll on some of the scouts. Case in point, close to the end, there are some healthy looking goats. Instead of goats, Davis sees meat and calls the boy herding them to negotiate a purchase. The boy takes off like he’s seen a ghost. Davis is taken aback; he thought people like him. It has to be the scouting…
Yasin, having been a perennial laggard, gets his energy and after coming from way back, zooms past everyone at the last stretch. The Scouts conclude the day out after discovering what is bound to be one spectacular run in a hotbed of geographical phenomena, should it make it into the swara calendar.
6 hours 50 minutes is the time the scouting took; 34.8 kms is the distance covered as per Ferrah.
After feeding, Ashok, who probably comes from the long line of Beans (descendants of R Atkinson aka Mr. Bean; they clearly look and act the same), offers a befitting and moving ‘thank you’ to our hostess, with Lopua translating. The Scouts then drive off through a different route, and sadly the darkness makes them miss a scenic drive that passes through the neighborhood of Ugali Hill and Lake Elementaita.
Over to the Calendar crew… their lines are now open for bribes… eh proposals 🙂