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Mugged by monkeys and burgled by baboons

One of the best things about travelling around Kenya is the fact that there are so many little places where no-one thinks to look, so many areas which are completely off the beaten track and not in your Lonely Planet Guide. And then there are areas like Hell’s Gate which make it into the guides but are usually brushed over in favour of a safari or the coast. I had some cousins visiting recently which was great as not only do we get to do all the touristy stuff but it’s always refreshing having guests who aren’t used to Africa and jump at the sight of a monkey or lie awake at night worried about the screeching rock hyraxes outside the bedroom window.

We decided that it would be a laugh to take our visiting cousins to Hell’s Gate and walk the gorge there. Now those of you who know me know that I love hiking, trekking, rock-climbing – you name it and Hell’s Gate is one of my favourite areas for it, and true to form it wasn’t long before my sister and I were nicknamed “mzungu monkeys*” by our guide. This was due to the fact that we love nothing more than a challenge and were jumping up and down rocks as soon as they were in sight. I have been to Hell’s Gate quite a few times and with quite a few different people. Some took to it easily jumping over rocks and climbing up and down crevices, whilst others felt that it was too strenuous and couldn’t believe that there were no safety helmets or harnesses in case you fell. Easy Answer – Don’t Fall!! Africa is not known for its amazing health and safety checks and anything you do then you do at your own risk. Anyway we took our cousins and I am amazed at how well they did considering they have already gone over the hill age wise and are used to the quiet life in Sussex, England.
Family outing Hell's Gate NP
The gorge is located down in the Great Rift Valley and boasts hot springs and steam jets so although it’s usually boiling hot down there it is also really slippery (I vote going barefoot, but that’s just me). Its good fun and I reckon next time we’ll take bikes and bike round the park alongside the wildlife.

After our hike we sat down to have the bananas we had eagerly been awaiting. Only we didn’t -because no sooner had we got them out they were promptly removed from our hands by some monkeys lying in wait. Much to the hilarity of the rangers my dad’s shouts of – “you thieving little buggers” did nothing to rectify the situation. Counting our losses we headed to Elsemere for tea. For those of you that don’t know Elsamere was the house of George and Joy Adamson who were known for raising lion cubs – most famously Elsa. It’s an incredible story and even though the film ‘Born Free’ was made many years ago it’s still pretty timeless so if you haven’t watched it – do. We thought that having a nice cup of tea overlooking Lake Naivasha would make up for losing our own tea and that the adventures with monkeys had come to an end that day. How wrong we were.

140415hellsgate2They have a self-service table at Elsemere and the one thing you are asked to remember is to please shut the door after you have left. Needless to say some poor tourist had not read the sign and left the door wide open. Enter the baboons. These guys had clearly been waiting for such an opportune moment and no sooner had the tourist sat down they moved in quick as a flash and helped themselves to the sugar bowl. Although this was entertaining, it wasn’t nearly as funny as watching what seemed to be the entire kitchen staff give chase. If you have ever chased a baboon then you know how pointless this was.

Monkeys aside it was still a really good day and I can’t wait to do it again – though I am not having my picnic anywhere near the tourist points -sorry guys but the more you feed the monkeys the more aggressive and cocky they get – I think I will take my chances with the zebra and warthogs.

More by this author on her very excellent blog the Expat Diaries. Or follow her on twitter.

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