A party in Hell

By Elly Gitau
Thursday, February 27th, 2020
Thousands of fans at Koroga Festival at Hell’s Gate on Valentine’s weekend. Photo/PD/COURTESY
In summary
    • The main setting of the 1994 film, The Lion King,  the film lead crew members toured the area to study and gain inspiration from the environment.
    • The park is accessible via tarmac road from Nairobi (90kms) via Naivasha town on the Moi South Lake Road at a junction 5km south of the town. Aircraft land on Naivasha airstrip. 
    • Wildlife here include African buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelle, baboons and  over 100 species of birds —vultures, Verreaux’s Eagles and augur buzzard
    • Spectacular scenery include towering cliffs, gorges and stark rocks.

Elly Gitau @ElijahGitau

For a traveller, nothing beats a road trip with an enthusiastic crowd. Ask anyone who has been on one and they will concur that the feeling of riding for fun with fun lovers is unparalleled.

A fortnight ago, a friend called me up. I was on leave. “Hey! What are you up to? I got a deal. Can we go to Naivasha next Saturday and come back on Sunday?”

I was on the couch munching some groundnuts while watching the thrilling TV series, Wild District. I have a thing with films set in Colombia. They give me an unusual thrill.

I love road trips. I told her I was on leave and more than ready to go to ‘Vasha.

I was flashed with the itinerary and that was it; I had made a decision not to attend the ‘Men’s Conference’ where most men were gathering the entire Valentine’s weekend.

On the material day, I was at the agreed meeting point in Nairobi on time. Unfortunately, we waited for over an hour for a few dudes and chicks, who were coming from as far as, Roysambu. 

We left the city at around 10am in a 38-seater Mercedes Benz bus. Our host? East African Breweries Limited’s beer brand Tusker Malt.

The green bottle had just been relaunched, bringing back its beloved original look. 

Now, there is a trip and then there is a journey in a bus full of crates of booze, with more than half the occupants being partakers.

After picking the last two passengers somewhere near Uthiru, along the Waiyaki Way, brunch was served.  

“Ladies and gentlemen, there’s chicken, beef and water. And a lot of beer!” Nick the team leader announced.

A Tusker Malt brand ambassador started handing out the food packages. There were those who preferred their food accompanied with water, others beer — before 11am! 

Our first stop was at the Great Rift Valley Viewpoint, along the Nairobi-Mai Mahiu Road. No matter how long you have travelled along that corridor, you’ll always be in awe with the views of the valley.

They are simply breathtaking! Cameras clicked, people posed for selfies. Bottles cranked as beer lovers toasted to new friendships and the spectacular views. 

The party begins

Half an hour later we were spiraling down the narrow,  two-way road towards Mai Mahiu town. We stopped at Karagita Beach on the fish-rich Lake Naivasha. 

Tens of boat operators were negotiating with potential customers as fishermen emerged from the lake with their catch.

Photographers were busy wooing people to take photos as vendors called out to potential buyers . 

The beach was a beehive of activity, with the aroma of roast fish wafting from makeshift kiosks.

“The lake receives hundreds of visitors daily. Similarly, thousands of fish leave the waters on daily basis. The lake can choose to reward you with a bountiful catch or send you home empty handed,” a fishermen told me. 

He had just caught 462 pieces of fish of varied species. An hour later, our stomachs were rumbling like a regiment of Ashanti drums.

With lunch on our minds, we set off for the majestic Lake Naivasha Sawela Lodge, where we quickly freshened up and hit the restaurant for a late lunch. 

At 6pm, we left for Hell’s Gate National Park where the final leg of the 29th edition of music picnic event, Koroga Festival, was going down.

It took us around 20 minutes to get to the designated parking outside the park’s main entrance. Only a handful of vehicles were allowed inside the park.

The music

We trekked for 10 minutes to get to the gig venue. Tens of baboons dotted the pathway, curious to see so many of their distant relatives enter their abode at that late hour. In Kenya, park gates open at 6am and close at 6pm. 

 Mugithi ,star Mike Rua was on stage, taking over from DJ Protégé, who was doing all the hype from the ones and twos.

Rua, only backed up by his guitar and a drummist, went on to perform all types of renditions and own compositions for about one hour. 

Next on stage was music group H_art the Band, who electrified the mammoth crowd with thrilling performances to some of their hits including Nikikutazama, Usiseme No and Uliza Kiatu. And they set the place on fire!

But it was bongo crooner Diamond Platnumz who caused a buzz. Storming the stage with his agile dancers, the Wasafi Classic Baby boss spent the next two hours belting hit after hit much to the joy of the thousands of revelers.

They included jams such as Kwangwaru, Tetema, Kanyaga, Baba Lao and Marry You. Then the DJ took over the helms to entertain the partygoers till the wee hours of the morning.

On the trip back to the city the following day, the majority of revellers were nursing hangovers. Most took a nap as some ‘ninjas’ were still downing some cold malt lagers.

A broken down trailer caused a massive traffic jam.  Nairobi has never seemed so far away! Still, it was fun.