Lake Chala

We started this day with the intention to visit both lake Chala and Lake Jipe as they are less than 50 kilometers away from each other. I’ve spoken about the morning visit to lake Jipe here

But one thing I didn’t mention in that post about our morning is that we encountered a herd of buffalo as we were leaving Taita Sanctuary to go see the lakes. When I say a herd, I don’t mean tens of buffalos, neither do I mean hundreds, I mean that as far as our eyes could go, we were surrounded by buffaloes. And also as far as our small camera could zoom in. 

That was single handedly the largest herd of any animal I’ve seen. I’ve seen hundreds of goats and sheep if not thousands, but it doesn’t come close to the number of Buffaloes that were in one place that day. It was so damn shocking that we had to Google if that phenomenon was possible, that a thousand buffaloes be gathered in the same place. Google did confirm what we saw, and that Serengeti is the park that is famous for having herds of buffalos of over 5000 of them. Well, seems like they should add Taita Sanctuary to that list. 

I don’t even know how to explain that. But it’s the kind of thing that you see and you know that you may never see it again in your entire life. And it’s dependent on pure luck that you can’t help but think that the universe did truly plan a surprise for you to experience that when you didn’t even know that it’s scientifically possible for animals huge as that to move in their thousands. 

Anyway, as you can imagine that really did fire us up for the day. Like it made our hearts swell. It’s the kind of things you have no explanation for. 

Such that even after experiencing a rough road to Lake Jipe, our spirits were still up. So we left Lake Jipe, came and joined the main road again and drove towards Taveta town. 

And this day must have been blessed because we finally saw Mount Kilimanjaro. A few months ago we went to Amboseli. It was such a beautiful day. But cloudy, and so we never got to see the glorious mountain. Of course we promised ourselves that we would be back because who goes to Amboseli and doesn’t get to take a picture of an animal with the snow peaked mountain as a background? 

So you can imagine our delight as we are traveling towards Taveta town, to see the mountain unveil itself in all its glory. It felt like we were being blessed in so many ways that day. 

But nothing beats Lake Chala. I remember trying to capture words to explain to my partner what to expect. I was trying to explain that feeling of seeing something out of this world in your own damn country. It’s like Lamu. No matter how beautiful someone explains it, you just won’t get it until you experience it for yourself. 

So we did go to Taveta town, but were told that we had left the turn to the road that’s supposed to lead us to lake Chala behind. Remember all along we have no guide. 

And lake Chala isn’t under KWS or any management as far as I was concerned. And unlike lake Magadi where you find eager Maasais ready to take you around, we were going to seek a lake that exists without much of the community’s fanfare. There is literally no signboard to how one can get there. 

The last time I went, I was with a travel group. They had organized everything. But this time we were two of us. In some sweltering heat looking for a lake with absolutely no directions and scanty settlements on the way such that one can’t even ask for directions. 

But luckily I remembered the hotel we had slept at during the travel group visit  and googled it. The hotel was a few kilometers from the lake. And from google maps, it showed it to be 11 kilometers from the main road..meaning the small path to hike so as to see Lake Chala, that happens to be a crater lake, must be in between, somewhere at around the 8th kilometer. 

And this murram road was way better than the one to Lake Jipe. I presume because it’s used by those who wish to connect to Kimana and get to Nairobi via Email, than go through Voi to Nairobi. 

So after around 8 kilometers, we decided to ask a boda boda person where the trail to hike to Lake Chala is. And as I was saying about the blessed day, the young man on a motorbike, not only offered to take us there, but to also hike with us and stay with us. So our problems got solved instantly. 

We drove for a few minutes behind him, and then started hiking. Again, to say the sun was toasting us senseless would be a joke. It was oven kind of hot. But we had some snacks that the hotel had packed for us, so we carried that to go enjoy a picnic by the lake. The hike took a few minutes. I would say around 30 if I’m not wrong. The trickiest part isn’t getting on top. It’s going down to the lake’s level once you get on top. 

And just as the first time, seeing lake Chala again, took my breath away. It’s like seeing a piece of heaven relaxing in the middle of nowhere. I really have no words to explain it. But all I know is that there are 3 places I would do anything to have my friends and anyone I love experience from Kenya. The first two are Lamu and Lake Chala. I just think that if one loves themselves enough, these are two places that you should allow your soul to behold. Third one I haven’t been to yet. And though that’s absurd to love a place I haven’t been to, it is in my fantasy that Lake Turkana is as beautiful as I imagine it to be. 

Anyway, so we started going down and got to the bottom where one can swim if they wish. Last time I was here I did swim, but this time none of us felt like swimming, so we just relaxed, ate and beat stories. 

According to the guy who took us there, who is a student at Catholic University, the story in the community is that Lake Chala didn’t exist 200 years ago. According to the elders, it’s a recent lake. As recent as their grandparent’s grandparents. And they don’t associate it with volcanic activity either. According to what they were told, there was a hill there. And one day it sunk, and a lot of water appeared. I would say it’s credible given that there is no evidence of volcanic activity there for the last few hundreds of years. And the lake does behave weirdly. 

For one it has such strong waves that last year alone it killed 3 residents. So parents are really cautious about letting their kids swim there or hangout there. 

We were also concerned about the lack of tourism development on the Kenyan side. Like there is literally no hotel on this mountain. Which just doesn’t make sense. Well, turns out that there used to be one on the left side. The owner had even created some staircase to the bottom of the lake. And a infinity swimming pool on top. But he killed himself by throwing himself out of his building in Taveta town. And since he left no children behind, no one has taken over the establishment. 

There is a resort though on Tanzania’s side. And people, mostly white people, use it when they visit the lake. 

I would really appreciate it if anyone, especially from the local community took advantage of the touristy potential of this beauty. Plus it would save Kenyans like me coming to visit it a whole lot of hustle. 

Anyway, so we asked about the community around. Mainly the Taveta people. And kambas who migrated there. The main economic activity of the people around is farming. And no they don’t get their water from the lake, turns out that digging a well a few meters deep will have you getting water. The water table is that near. 

We stayed for around 2 hours, gawking at that beauty, and then decided to head back. Our day had been fruitful. Our guide took us to where kenya’s border with Tanzania is and from the top of the crater lake one can see Kenyatta’s farm. 

The ride back back was a little silent. Lost in our thoughts, just like I was the first time I saw lake Chala, we knew that we would be back. That damn lake is enchanting. 

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