17 – With Daniel in the Lion’s den

17 – With Daniel in the Lion’s den

A month and a half after setting foot in Africa, we finally organised ourselves a safari. We chose Hell’s Gate National Park because, as scary as it may sound, there are in fact no predators there. Thanks to the lack of scary beasts, this park can be toured on foot or bicycle! We decided we would do it on bicycles. Free to run around all day, Free to do it all my way!

Another reason why we chose Hell’s Gate: the producers of Lion King based the décor of the film on this park. Oh, and also, the entrance fees are cheaper than most other National Parks!

We left our campsite super early in the morning, hoping to see lots of animals during the coolest hours of the day. When there’s a calm surrender to the rush of day, When the heat of the rolling world, Can be turned away. It was not far from our campsite: a quick pikipiki ride later and we were at the entrance. Well, nearly. Our driver had stopped two kilometres before the entrance, at his friend’s bicycle rental shop. His friend, however, was not very friendly and his prices were too high. We asked the driver to continue driving to the entrance gate (that was, after all, our original request!). We crossed all our toes and fingers that there would be bicycles to rent there too!

We arrived at the park’s entrance. A dozen bicycles were sat there waiting to be rented. Perfect. The lady at the reception, dressed in a fabulous animal print uniform, informed us that the gorge (one of the main attractions of the park) was out of bounds due to an incident last month. We were expecting her to say that. The incident had not gone unnoticed, it was plastered all over the local news. The bad news did not stop there. The lady announced that a pride of lions was currently roaming the park.

Just to be clear: YOU ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!!

Obviously, this meant tourists could no longer cycle alone in the park. They must now be followed by a car. Alas, we did not have a car in our bag. The lady’s first solution was for us to be followed by a ranger. Fine, we agreed. We got on our bikes and were roaring to go  😉 . She stopped us. She looked worried. She admitted that the ranger would not be with us all the time, so it was better to find another solution. Let’s be honest, she was probably more concerned about another incident occurring in the park, than us being eaten by lions! Her second solution was for us to be followed by a local guide on a bicycle. Fine, we agreed. The guide was not armed. We struggled to see how he could help us if we bumped into big kitties, but hey, it was better than being followed by an invisible car. No one saying do this, No one saying be there, No one saying stop that, No one saying see here.

Bad news: We had not intended to pay for a guide (and his entrance into the park). Good news: the possibility of seeing lions close up. 😂

Our guide was called Daniel. Our very own Daniel in a lion’s den? We started to pedal. There’s more to see than can ever be seen, More to do than can ever be done, There’s far too much to take in here, More to find than can ever be found.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle

Along the roadside, animals grazed on the yellow grass in the morning sunlight. Zebras, buffalos, impalas and warthogs mingled and munched away. The peace the morning brings, The world for once in perfect harmony, With all its living things. We were lucky to see a giraffe who crossed the road in front of us.

Everybody look left
Everybody look right…
…Everywhere you look I’m
Standing in the spotlight!
The buffalo have got a beef
About this season’s grass
Why, when he was a young warthog…
Chimps are going ape, giraffes remain above it all
Elephants remember, though just what I can’t recall

A bit further on, we spent ages watching two vervet monkeys fuss over their new-born. They were right beside us, not bothered by their spectators at all. They had a problem-free philosophy! It was definitely the cutest moment of the day!

It was amazing to tour the park on bicycles. The animals barely battered an eye-lid when we approached. It was so peaceful being right next to the animals, far from any vehicles. The landscape was incredible – marked with jutting out rocks (just like Pride rock!).

Fischer’s Tower (Pride rock!)

Though the gorge was out of bounds, we were still able to see it from above.

Near the gorge, the calm was disturbed by the constant grumbling of a geothermal power plant. This plant, built only a few years ago, is the biggest of its kind in Africa and has unfortunately scared a lot of animals away from the area. Energy update: Kenya, like Ethiopia, produces all of its electricity from renewable sources (75% hydroelectric, 10% geothermic, 15% wind and solar). If we follow their example : A shining new era, Is tiptoeing nearer.

We spent the whole morning cycling around the park. We did not spot any lions, but we did hear lots of people talking about them. Every time Daniel passed a guide (all followed by cars haha!), he asked for updates on “Simba?” (He really is a mighty king, so enemies beware!). Lots of words in Lion King are Swahili (one of Kenya’s official languages). Other than “Simba” meaning Lion, “Pumba” means ignorant, “Rafiki” friend and “Nala” present. Even Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase, is Swahili. Though I don’t think we need to remind you of its meaning?!

We had brought a picnic with us (Be prepared!) which we ate in the shade of Fischer’s Tower (i.e. pride rock) and were joined by dassies (Rock hyraxes). These bear-like animals are closely related to elephants! Anyway, they seemed to like the smell of our lunch! Come on down and dine, All you have to do is get in line.

After picnicking, the sun was rolling high, Through the sapphire sky, and our bums were numb from the bumpy roads, so we made our way back to the park gate.

Having finished exploring the park and managing to come out alive, we left Daniel and headed back to our campsite. Our trio’s down to two, Oh. Our safari by bicycle was an extraordinary experience and it was so fun to be able to go so close to the animals without disturbing them!

P.S: Are the songs in your head now too?

P.P.S: Below are Heather’s paintings of some of the animals we saw that day. (Inspired by Joy Adamson of course!)

Kori bustard (Largest flying bird in Africa)
Warthog (Pumba!)
Superb Starling (they really are superb!)
Buffaloes
Zebra
Giraffe

6 Replies to “17 – With Daniel in the Lion’s den”

  1. 😮 glad you safe and were not lion grub. Love the paintings Heather and what an amazing experience a bicycle safari. Roll on next adventure. 🤗🤗to you both. Lxxx

  2. Yes. Thank you. Songs firmly implanted in my head bow!
    Fabulous paintings. What will you do with them all?
    What an adventure, thank you for sharing 🙂 xxx

  3. Wow, your paintings are amazing! I reckon you could sell them – in Europe, anyway!
    Great to see the monkey family and all the other animals. Probably a good thing you didn’t see lions – I don’t think they eat bicycles!
    Lots of love, Dad.
    XX XX

  4. Wow! What stunning paintings! Your verve amazes me. Always up for a new adventure, and then still the time and energy to transfer your wonderful encounters into art! Well done!

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