High on the plateau of Africa’s Great Rift Valley exists a world shrouded in mist, which few get to see. A jurassic landscape filled with cascading waterfalls and towering valleys, it is a land where mysterious creatures still lurk in the shadows.
I was lost. I was sure of it. The muddy roads all looked the same. I came to an unmarked crossroads, stopped the car, looked left and right. It was getting dark and I was running out of time. I chanced left…
Only an hour beforehand, I had entered Kenya’s spectacular Aberdare National Park. Established in the 1950s, it protects one of the last remaining virgin rain forests in the country. It is a true wilderness, and a stunning diversity of wildlife call its undulating moorlands and dense forests home. It is also one of the two most important water towers of Kenya — without which Kenya would be a barren wasteland.
The fog continued to descend, the day drawing to a rapid close. I was starting to contemplate spending the night in my car, but I pressed on for the time being. My car climbed steeply, leaving the Salient behind, and the elephants, spotted hyenas and buffalos I had encountered along the way. I headed for the Aberdare plateau, which levelled out at a breathtaking 3,000 metres. All I needed to do was make it to our accommodation before nightfall to link up with my friends who were coming from Nairobi.
“You made it! We didn’t think you’d stand a chance!” They exclaimed once I emerged like a gorilla from the mist.
Those are my friends for you. I was warmly welcomed into the wooden hut, but this might have had more to do with the fact that I had brought along all the firewood that we would need to protect us from the evening chill. The temperature was easily approaching the lower spectrum of the single digits.
We hadn’t thought as far ahead as making a detailed plan for our three-day stay on the plateau, but we had decided that our time there should revolve around catching and releasing trout, and general exploration activities.
The beautiful high moorlands covered in subalpine vegetation are a stark contrast to the prehistoric forests that you have to travel through to get there. We spent several days driving across the marshy roads in search of wildlife, waterfalls and fish. And while we came across elephant dung at altitudes over 3,000 metres, it was the waterfalls that stole the show.
Between breaks in the dense clouds we managed to catch glimpses of some of the most stunning waterfalls in the country. The Aberdare National Park is a true lost world where the imagination runs wild, wondering what it would be like to stand at the base of these plummeting falls and explore the rivers they feed.
We had also heard rumours about the elusive melanistic leopards found on the Aberdares and we were determined to find them. We crept ever deeper into the lush vegetation on roads we were lucky not to get stuck on. We listened to the sounds of the forest, looking for any sign indicating their presence. While I never saw any leopards, somewhere in the shadows they must have been watching us – melanistic or otherwise.