We were training for the Victoria Falls marathon when we heard about the Shompole Marathon. Despite its name, it is not actually a marathon and that is probably a good thing. To get to Shompole you drop off the escarpment all the way into the bottom of the Rift Valley where you find soda lakes and geysers. As you drop down the meters it gets hot, until you reach the soda lake Magadi and Shompole where temperatures soar into the high 30s in winter.
The Shompole marathon starts at 6AM to give you the first half hour of relative coolness before the sun rises higher and the heat soon gets intense. Running through the soda lake and in the rugged surroundings is tough. The organisers managed to find a beautiful, but hilly route making the hot run even tougher. We picked up half a liter of water every 3-4km and finished each bottle before we reached the next waterstop. We even carried some extra water and were very happy we did, sometimes we picked up an extra bottle to re-fill our own supplies. We must have drunk approximately 6 liters of water and sweated out an even larger amount!
We ran the 30km together and really enjoyed the beauty of Lake Magadi, but cursed its many hills. In a little over 3 hours we finished the 30km and Jude was the first female across the line.
Our driver drove us back to the lodge where we were staying. A beautiful spot next to the Ewaso Nyiro river where huge branches of mature trees hang over the slow moving river, perfect for just sitting in the cool waters, floating downstream in an inner tube or kayaking up and down the shallow waters. We hoped they were right when they said there are no crocs or hippos in this river! Paddling upstream we found loads of monkeys in the trees, vervets, sykes and even some colobus as well as a whole range of water birds. It was a welcome change after the heat of that morning’s run!
When you stay at the Shompole lodge you can also go for game drives and we were pleasantly surprised with the amount of animals we saw on our drive. We didn’t have time to explore the other side of the river, but enjoyed a morning and afternoon drive , even spotting some new birds for us.
The rest of our time we relaxed and ate, and even found some time to get our books out. That doesn’t happen very often…
On the drive back to Nairobi we decided to stop at Olorgesailie. One of the Leakey family’s first archeological digs. They explored here for many years, finding large numbers of ancient tools and bones. The site is very impressive, but looks a bit deserted now, although apparently every year students still come here to continue the excavations.