This duo will give you a new perspective on adventure. Grace and Victor ventured on a trip up Lake Ellis on two wheels. They are both off-road enthusiasts who will heed to the call of an adventure. Their trip is inspiring and one you can plan to do on your motorcycle too. So gear up and let’s throttle away…
What motivated you to go up Lake Ellis by Bike?
Victor: A friend of mine posted about her trip to Lake Ellis in 2016 and I thought it looked really lovely. I asked for details about her trip’s experience as well as how to get there. She however added the caveat that a good 4×4 car is required to get up to the lake. I told her that I wanted to go there by riding my off-road bike. She didn’t think a bike could hack the terrain and that was all the motivation I needed to bring along my motorcycle on this trip.
Grace: I am always motivated by the thought of pushing myself to the limits, and especially on a dirt bike surrounded by nature. So when Victor told me about the lake and the information he had gathered, I knew I would regret missing out on a good adventure.
What went into your preparation for the trip (Pre-trip essentials before your travel)
Victor: We divided responsibilities between us. I was mostly involved in research about the place’s weather, terrain as well as rules and regulations (e.g. Are bikes allowed?). Grace took care of the necessary equipment for camping and supplies in terms of food and water. Kelvin who works with KWS made arrangements to have firewood delivered to the KWS gate, thus reducing the distance we’d have to carry on our bikes.
What time did your trip start and how long did it take?
Grace: Our plan was to leave Nairobi at ten in the morning so that by 2:00 pm we would be setting up camp. However, because time goes by faster in Africa, we ended up leaving Nairobi at three in the afternoon. We got to the Bandas at Chogoria gate around 7:30 pm and spent our first night there.
How was the journey/ trip?
Having used Chogoria route to get to the mountain, we arrived at the post (also Mt Kenya Forest entrance) at around 7:00 pm. We had to ride through 22 kilometres of forest in order to get to the Chogoria KWS Gate. As security let us through the gate, they asked us to ride slowly so as not to startle any elephants or buffaloes on our way. Well, this is just….. GREAT!!! The ride through the forest started off fine. It was very dark but we had good lights. It didn’t take too long to spot buffaloes though. We came across three of them about 5 kms into the forest. The uncertainty that the buffaloes would give us a chase after we pass them and the fact that we could see absolutely nothing behind us made things a bit more “exciting”. The only other animal we saw along the way was an African skunk. After that the road started getting steeper and the fog grew thicker. Visibility was very low (less than 5 metres). We were riding through what felt like the middle of a nimbus cloud. We got to Chogoria KWS gate at 7:30 pm, cold and tired. This was our last stop for the day. We spent the night at the Bandas just after the gate. Luckily our friend, Topo, who had arrived before us, already had a fire going so we were treated to a warm welcome.
We were up as soon as the sun was out. After breakfast we had a quick peep at one of the elephant maternities in the area before heading back and packing up for the climb up to the lake. There was a 7 km-journey between us and the lake.
Topo was riding back to Meru so he wasn’t going to join us on the ride up. Instead, he trekked part of the way up as we packed. On our ride up, we met him coming back down. He had doubts about us getting up some of the hills he had seen (does this sound familiar ?).
As expected, the way up was very scenic. Everywhere we laid our eyes on was breathtaking. And so was the final hill before the lake, but in a different way. If you’ve read about Lake Ellis, you’ll see many mentioning that you can only get up there in a 4×4 vehicle with good clearance. I was deemed to conclude that it’s just the final hill that makes everyone say that. Although it’s not extremely steep, it has a lot of loose rocks and soil. So it’s definitely a bad place to lose momentum; which we both did and fell. After 15 minutes of helping each other we managed to get up the hill.
After unpacking our bikes, Grace started preparing lunch as I went back down to the KWS gate to fetch firewood.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the lake.
On the third day, we woke up to experience the amazing African sun rising. The other side of the lake presented a fascinating view of Batian, the highest peak of Mt Kenya (5,199 m). After a cup of coffee, we walked around the lake. We were joined by a friendly dog halfway into our trek. We had no idea where he came from but appreciated his company for the few moments he spent with us . There was another group of campers coming after we left; hopefully he got company.
Tips for anyone willing to go up Lake Ellis by motorcycle
- For the sake of the wildlife and yourself ride at a reasonable speed. The road meanders and you could easily be surprised by a huge mammal around the corner.
- Make sure your bike can handle the trip. Service it and carry tools. You don’t want your bike breaking down somewhere where cars struggle to reach.
- Pack a few layers of clothing. The weather changes a lot and layering will let you adjust for the weather.
- Do not go alone, and equally as important, go with fun company.
Brief itinerary breakdown of trip costs…
Camping: We already had the tents, sleeping bags and air mattresses.
Food: We brought with us bread, canned Bolognese, pasta, salami, cheese, yoghurt, muesli, canned tuna, fruits, sausages and lots of water. All this cost us about Kes 6000 for two and was enough for 2 days. For those whose stomachs have patience, you can catch trout from the lake.
Cooking equipment: We also got a cooking pan (set) at Decathlon for KES 2000 and brought cutlery from home.
Firewood: We spent 3000 for the firewood; fetching and delivery.
Bandas: We paid KES 1500 per person for a one bedroom (with 3 beds) in the self catering Bandas.
Park Fees: We bought 3 day tickets for KES 1290 and KES 300 per bike per day.
We also spent on fuel but this varied with the consumption of each bike.
About Grace and Victor:
Victor rides a 97 Honda XR 400. He has been riding for four and a half years and enjoys challenging rides. He is part of the Dirtmasters, a group that organizes off-road rides and races.
Grace is an off-road motorcycle tour guide at Offroad Adventure East Africa. She takes riders for safaris in little known places to experience wildlife, culture and the most spectacular scenery. She is currently the only female enduro racer in Kenya and has been riding for the last five years. Her first ride was the Leh Ladakh Ride in the Himalayas. She has ridden in South East Asia, parts of Southern Africa, Eastern Africa, Morocco and parts of Europe.