I don’t consider myself so much of an outdoor person — I mean, I do love some adventure, but definitely a slight dose at a time. So hiking up and down Mt. Longonot was certainly out of my comfort zone, but nevertheless, an experience from which I drew a couple of important life lessons.
Mt. Longonot is a stratovolcano mountain located in Naivasha, Kenya, within the Great Rift Valley that cuts across several countries in Africa. It gets its name from the Maasai word Oloonong’ot, which means ‘mountain of steep ridges’. Thus, as much as the distance up the mountain is only about 4 km, conquering it is no mean feat given that it’s very steep. In addition, if one wishes, they could then go ahead and hike around the 7 km crater at the top of the mountain.
On my way to Naivasha, seated at a window seat in a minibus with about 20 other equally eager and optimistic hikers, I’m ecstatic to finally be leaving Nairobi to do something exciting — a break from my monotonous lifestyle. I’m also nervous, but I remind myself that this indeed was going to be my second time climbing it. I’ll be just fine, or so I thought, ignoring the fact that I had barely done any vigorous physical activity in the last 2 months. At the foot of the mountain, a 1 liter bottle of water in hand, some snacks in my backpack, and my hiking gear on, I’m bursting with energy — I can make it to the top. Halfway, I’m exhausted and out of breath, but I’ve still got some energy in me — I can make it … to the top. Two-thirds up, my energy is rapidly waning, I’m climbing much slower, and I’m taking more frequent water breaks — can I really make it to the top? Almost there and among the last in my group, I begin to give up, but with a little push from myself and help from a fellow kind hiker, I make it to the top!
And once at the top of the mountain, then back at the foot, along with breathtaking views of the Rift Valley and Lake Naivasha, as well as a further appreciation of nature, I took away three important life lessons in the most unexpected of moments from my strenuous yet rewarding hike up and down Mt Longonot:
Don’t give up: At some point during the hike, as we approached the top, I vividly remember nearly giving up. I just could not move another step — my heart was racing, the sun was high and hot, and my muscles were worn out. A few people pushed me on, reassuring me that I was almost there, and oh trust me, I could so clearly see the top, but I just could not move another muscle. Out of the blue, though, I remember thinking: I’m not just a couple of steps in or halfway there; I can literally see the top. I only needed a little extra push from within me to help me make it through that final steep hill, which was, by the way, one of the hardest physical activities my body had ever been through. With some help from another hiker, and that extra push from inside of me, I held on to whatever little energy I had left and I made it to the top. It’s funny, though, because while I was descending the mountain at long last, I had completely forgotten the strain that I had just put my body through. It was all behind me — the pain was gone and there was nothing but adrenaline and pride coursing through my veins. I had made it to the top, and that’s all that mattered. I had done it! And so, even when things seem too tough, don’t give up. All you need is a little push, and you’ll make it to the other side, to the greener pastures.
That being said, don’t push yourself further than you and your body can handle: It’s ok to give yourself a little push when you can see the end, which I could. But sometimes it’s ok not to go on when you’ve already been through so much. On the way down, I met some people who made it about a third of the way in and decided to go back down, and that’s perfectly fine. I, too, had pushed my body to its limits. At the top of the mountain, though proud that I had made it, I suddenly felt so sick that I threw up all the food that I’d eaten that morning and along the way, together with the painkillers that I had just taken to curb my then still pounding head — there was absolutely no way that I was hiking around that 7km crater. So after taking in the beautiful view and catching my breath, I began my descent down, which had its own challenges, but was relatively so much easier. Echoing that sentiment, this summer I decided to take a break from my constantly busy life, recover from the strenuous year that I had just had, and mentally prepare myself for the busy one ahead. I tell myself everyday before I sleep that it’s ok if I didn’t do everything that I had planned to, as long as I had tried and done my best — it’s ok to just let go sometimes and rest. Your body will thank you later. And so, listen to your body, and as I learned that one of the other hikers likes to say, “It’s never that serious.”
And finally, you shouldn’t compare yourself to others or do something solely because everyone else is: We all have our own goals that we hope to achieve and our own physical limits. As much as most of the people in my group managed to climb the mountain, hike around the crater, and make it back down, I was absolutely content with what I had achieved because I fully understood that that was all I could handle at the moment. Unfortunately, one of the hikers who decided to go around the crater got a serious leg cramp halfway around the crater that rendered him temporarily immobile and he had to be aided down the mountain. Others pass away climbing the mountain just because they have this pressure to make it to the top and hike around the crater. And so, just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean that you should too. Listen to yourself, do what you can, and be happy with your own little set goals and achieved milestones, whatever they may be.
I went to climb Mt Longonot expecting a wild adventure, but instead, ended up reflecting upon three crucial life lessons, and I hope that you too reflected upon and learned something through my experience. I will definitely be attempting that crater — I haven’t given up! — but perhaps at a time when I’m more prepared to tackle it. Click here to reach out to me with any queries, qualms, or comments, and be sure to check out my other blogs as well!
– Dashushka ♥