Poems, Travel

Knuckle Hills In Kenya

Ngong Hills, Kenya

The Ngong Hills are peaks in a ridge along the Great Rift Valley, located southwest near Nairobi, in southern Kenya. The word “Ngong” is an Anglicization of a Maasai phrase “enkong’u emuny” meaning rhinoceros spring, and this name derives from a spring located near Ngong Town. [1]  Though I hear the villagers describe it as the seven knuckles. 

The Ngong Hills, from the east side slopes, overlook the Nairobi National Park and, off to the north, the city of Nairobi. The Ngong Hills, from the westside slopes, overlook the Great Rift Valley dropping over 1000 meters (4,000 feet) below, where Maasai villages have been developed.

The peak of the Ngong Hills is at 2460 meters (8070 feet) above sea level. [2]

During the years of British colonial rule, the area around the Ngong Hills was a major settler farming region, and many traditional colonial houses are still seen in the area.

In the 1985 film Out of Africa, the four peaks of the Ngong Hills appear in the background of several scenes near Karen Blixen‘s house. Local residents still reported seeing lions in the Hills during the 1990s.

And now I am here with my co-workers  in May.  May is the rainy season and the coolest part of the year for Kenya. As we began our ascent toward the first hill, and Honey, these aren’t Hill Country, Texas hills! No comparison. Practically no switchbacks  and straight up a ‘hill’ that is mostly grass and moist red dirt that doesn’t provide the best of footing.

But oh, it is worth it! Lush vegetation and continual scenes of houses nestled into the hill on one side, and views toward the Great Rift Valley on the other.

We scaled the hills in the rainy season of Kenya. Mist and fog surrounded us frequently. Clouds moving in and out above us. Scaling the last hill, we came upon the Great Rift Valley- the end of our destination. Only a thick blanket of fog greeted us. My heart sunk a bit. Did I tackle these steep hills not to see the most amazing sight of all?

We stretched our tired bodies on the green slant of the hill and had lunch. Meanwhile our guard talked with another guard, their AK-47’s slung casually over their shoulder’s.

In Kenya, as in many places of risk, you pay for a guard to accompany you. For wild animals? No. For wild people-looters and people who would do serious harm or rob you. Yes, even on this mountain (I am adverse to calling it a hill) surrounded by beauty.

But this is Kenya and you come to accept it.  Patience is required in Kenya. They call it Kenyan time/Africa time. Unlike the good Ol’ USA, people aren’t slaves to their timers and alarms. It is more relaxed.

So we ate our lunch and waited for the clouds to drift and dissipate. And yes,thirty minutes later, the valley revealed itself. It was worth the wait.

I started jumping and asked my work colleagues to do the same. We were on a slope and as we jumped and jumped, laughing all the while, we captured photos of us with the valley behind us.


Photo opportunities abound-the valleys and the hills, the mountains in the distance, the small grasshoppers with butterfly wings, and the beauty of a tree that looks like it came straight out of a scene of Lord of the Rings movie.

I snapped a photo of all these. And a photo of a tree standing alone, it’s windswept branches reminding me of a girl’s long hair floating behind her.

When I came back home, I wrote a poem in regard to this photo, this tree. I hope you enjoy.




Solo on Ngong hill,

No duet, No pas de duex,

as you wave your body gracefully in the wind.

Alone, you have been for some years,

on this tall hill.

Rooted enough to let

the force of time shape, mold your branches

into a banner of beauty.

As I climb the crest of the ridge

I am in awe of your Brise’ Vole,

Your strength in dancing against the elements,

holding your ground  for one more storm.

Oh Dancer, dance with me;

Teach me your moves as

I traverse across your land,

A corps de ballet.

By Victoria Yeary

The Great Rift Valley, Kenya

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