I have now eaten licorice at the top of Mt Longonot. And I am proud. There are some hiking routes that will stick to you mind for many years to come. For me one of these is going to be Mt Longonot in Kenya. It will stay in my mind as I think I have never been so tired after a hike. Ever. Also Mt Longonot is beautiful, which of course helped the experience.
Highest I have been…so far
I am from Finland. One thing Finland is known for is that it is flat. Very, very, very flat. Finland does not have many mountains. This is why Mt Longonot is now the highest I have ever been. The mountain’s peak rises upto 2780 metres. Mt Longonot is a volcano which has not been active since the 1800s. The volcanic region around it is beautiful and scenic.
Mt Longonot is found about an hour drive from Kenya’s capital Nairobi. The drive there goes along a mountainous road. The driving culture in Kenya will make the weakest of us fear for our dear lives. Which is why you should find a secure and sensible driver to take you to the mountain. Also, unless you are Kenyan, you should avoid driving yourself. You will just endanger the locals or be in danger yourself.
Google Maps may not be your friend
We had not previously been to the mountain and the only person who had was unable to come with us. This is why we had to rely on the trusted friend, Google Maps. We placed Mt Longonot in the search section and began driving. A tip for you, who plan to hike the mountain. Research your route before going.
The area before the entry point to Mt Longonot’s hiking trail is not very clearly signed by the road. This is why we trustingly followed Google Maps. We faced trouble when we were told “you have reached your destination”. Hint, we were not at our destination. We were basically on a road somewhere around the mountain. Well once we turned back there was a man on the road waiting for us. Long story short there may have been some trespassing claims thrown but in the end we were fine. If you can, always travel with someone from the country you are in. I was lucky as I was travelling with Kenyans, who of course sorted the situation out whilst I just sat in a car confused.
Exercise before you climb Mt Longonot
Mt Longonot is not a joke. It is properly tough hike. Once we eventually got to the gate, paid the entrance fee and got ourselves a guide to fight off any potential unwanted buffalo attention we began our hike. After the first 100 metres you start walking upwards. And that upwards walking continues for the next hour. The climb up is 3 kilometres. Filled with flatter sandy ground and high steps it is a workout. Remember to walk at your own paste. I think our biggest gift was that I was living #touristlife and taking pictures of the scenery. Stopping at every possible photo-op allowed us to calm our breaths and let our heartbeat even.
As Longonot is a inactive volcano it has a crater at the middle. Which means that once you have finally managed to climb to the “top” have you actually only reached the crater. At this point our guide was asking if we wanted to actually walk all the way to the peak. The peak was in the other side of the crater and walking around it would add another 7 km to our hike. I had turned to a fresh pink tomato at this point, but this did not stop us from continuing our walk.
Walking around the crater is not for the faint at heart
The route around the crater is not an easy walk. The route is constant climb up and walk down. The volcanic rock ash rubble makes the walk at times quite tough and even a bit scary. My travel partner is not a huge fan of heights which made some parts of the hike scarier for her. The view from the top is though worth it. Being able to look at the forested crater and listen to the blowing wind is an experience not-to-be-missed.
We even snacked on some licorice at the top, which of course was one of those Finnish moments one has to have. Taking candy or other sugary/energy-filled treats with you for this hike is important thing to remember as taking heavy snacks is not advisable as it makes your hike harder. Just remember to take water and some light but energising treats to help you climb down.
If the climb up was tough coming down was definitely more difficult. Climbing up may be physically challenging when the route down was actually quite scary. The path is quite narrow and the volcanic rubble makes the ground less than steady. Which means that you have to bend your knees and step-run down. Running down on a narrow crater path is a good adrenaline rush.
At some parts of the crater hike the trail literally trails the edge of the crater. When you are concentrating not to miss your steps your heart is beating faster than when you have to give a presentation at school. It is worth it though as the views are just breathtaking throughout the hike.
The walk around the crater takes around 2-3 hours as a whole. In the end you might see the clouds roll into the crater like we did. The run down the crater takes only 45 minutes as you literally run most of the way. Gravity kind of does half of your work.
Mt Longonot is a great hike for anyone, as you can always regulate your speed. If you are hiking with kids though you might want to only hike up and leave the crater walk to when your children are bigger as that walk might not be the best with children running around. The view down from the crater and out of the volcano is beautiful and will for sure make a great photo to your album or wall.