This is Mount Longonot, one of several old volcanoes in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. The caldera was formed in a series of huge explosions around 20,000 years ago. Can you imagine it? Any humans standing on the Great Rift escarpment, where I was standing to take this photo, would have had an absolutely astonishing view. And indeed, there would have been people around then – East Africa’s indigenous hunter-gatherers, small statured, fine-boned people whose presence long preceded the 16-17th century arrival of Bantu farmers and the Nilotic cattle herders.
The volcano is officially ‘extinct’ though Maasai traditions make report of fresh lava sometime around the 1860s.There are also active steam vents which Kenya is hoping to exploit to produce clean geothermal energy. You can see more about this HERE with some excellent photos of Longonot. (The smoke on my photo is most likely from stubble burning).
As I mentioned in an recent post about the Maasai Mara, until the arrival of British colonial settlers in the early 20th century, the entire Rift Valley was Maasai grazing territory and the landmarks thus have Maasai names. Longonot derives from oloonong’ot meaning ‘steep ridges’ in Ki-Maa. A fitting description.
But to my mind (and in true Conan Doyle The Lost World style) the most magical thing about Longonot is the hidden forest on the crater floor where zebra, giraffe, buffalo, hartebeest, lion and gazelle may roam. There is a path to the top, but it is quite a hike, nearly 2 miles to reach the rim and a good 4 miles around it. Back in our day you also needed to enlist the services of a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger to go with you, which didn’t always work out. It’s a big regret that we never did do this climb.
Here’s another view of it showing the oloonong’ot .
And the highest point of the cone seen from Lake Naivasha (2,776 metres; 9,108 ft): a seine fisherman and papyrus beds (where hippos may lurk) in the foreground.