A team that works together hikes together. The Edutab Africa team decided to visit West Pokot for a team building adventure away from our office monotony. Our goal was to hike Mt Mtelo which stands at 3360M ASL. It is the 5th highest mountain in Kenya after Mt Kenya, Mt Elgon, Aberdare, and Cherangani hills.
Before we left, different team members had divergent opinions about West Pokot. A majority being their very first time adventure to the northern corridor, their initial perception that it was a dry place, prone to cattle rustling and disputes was slowly debunked, as we descended the beautiful slopes of Kamatira Forest to deep into West Pokot.
The view of the beautiful Sekerr ranges and mountains was evident as we drove there, not to mention the vegetation covering them accompanied with appetizing juicy fruits vendored along the highway, magnificent is an understatement. This was going to be the hike adventure of the year.
We arrived at a small town center called Marich Pass at around 10:30 AM with our first car. Due to the terrain ahead upto our camping site, the next available means was a pickup that only a designated driver could navigate. We went uphill on a steep road that took the form of a railway line, famously called ‘reli’ by the residents there. On arrival, we were welcomed by our host John Yoposiwa Ywalasiwa at Mtelo Eco-Lodge and then pitched our tents at a site that was overlooking the beautiful mountain.
On 27th November, 2021, the moment we were waiting for had arrived. Knowing that we would hike all day, we ate a very heavy breakfast. Maxwell and Sharon joked about how their hands were criss-crossing; they grabbed sweet energizers at the same time. We left the Mtelo Eco-Lodge at around 8:00 AM, energetic and excited about the hike. Alex and Steve were our tour guides and they told us that it would be an easy hike, but that we would find out on the way.
We packed our hiking bags and off we left. The beginning was nice and everyone was engaging in conversations. Before we began the hike, we noticed some deep gullies caused by soil erosion following the amount of wood that has been cut down. Unless action is taken, these galleys can lead to serious damages and loss of land.
We crossed a river and the hiking began. It started off steep and our first stop over was at a wooden granary. Mercy was quite tired and Maxwell helped her carry her bag. After several minutes of rest, the climbing continued. We passed through some maize plantations, something that we noticed is dangerous for the forest land because the population is continually encroaching it.
Our second stop over was at a grass-thatched granary. By this time, Ivy had finished her first bottle of water, forcing Evans to regulate her drinking water rate. Mercy on the other hand wanted to be left behind claiming she could not continue. However, we encouraged her and told her we all had to get to the top.After a few minutes of rest, re-energizing and taking some pictures for a memorable adventure , we continued with the journey. At this time, almost everyone had an extra walking stick to help with the climb.
At around 12 noon, we reached halfway, at some nice grasslands where we rested for around ten minutes, enjoying the beautiful view of the ranges.
This was already an achievement. Alex and Steve showed no signs of fatigue compared to some of us who were sweating all over and panting. They told us that they had hiked the mountain more than 30 times.
We refilled our bottles at a nearby homestead and kept going. At some point, we were forced to climb up on fours like baboons.
Patrick kept encouraging us saying that in a few more minutes we would be at the top. A few minutes would turn into a few more minutes, and another few minutes. We realized that his almost will always add up to another almost and a final almost. Reaching the top of one hill and seeing the beginning of another heart broke Mercy, but the going continued. The goal was to get to the top.
We arrived at the top at around 3:40PM. Mike, Sharon, Maxwell and Faith were the first group to get to peak. One by one we all reached the top. Mercy had a quick jog at the peak celebrating the achievement. Ivy arrived and was teary. She was also happy she made it to the top. We learnt that no matter how hard it was to get to the top, a positive attitude can always do wonders. We were all persistent and determined to reach the top, which we did.
We rested for around thirty minutes, taking photos and enjoying the view of the famous Turkwel Dam. The journey down began shortly after we had taken some snacks.
Our way down taught us several lessons. Endurance was the key lesson as we navigated the steep ridges of Mt. Mtelo. Somewhere along the way, Mercy’s feet could no longer cooperate. Mike and Maxwell offered to carry her but she resisted saying she was too heavy. Maxwell gave her two options which she had to choose from. One was to be carried and make the descent easier, or walk and take forever to arrive. After she made a quick thought on the matter, she agreed to be carried. They took turns in carrying her, something that brought out teamwork and problem solving.
The journey down was slow, as some of the team members were struggling. However, we stayed together as a team and supported one another. We opted to be slow but ensure that we all made it down without leaving anyone behind.
At the foot of the mountain, Mercy and Ivy took the lead back to the lodge on a bike, and the rest caught up with them on foot. We arrived back at the lodge at around 9:30 PM.
At the end of this hike, we learnt several skills that we can always apply in our day to day lives. When life gives you mountains, put on boots and hike. It might not always be easy, but the end of it will always be worth it