Off The Beaten Path: Caving and Off-roading – Gatune Hills

Its always the dream of any 4×4 car owner to test the limits of their machines in harsh and extreme terrains. Most 4×4 fans never get a chance to experience this thrill, and when such an opportunity cropped up, I couldn’t resist.

Having limited activities due to the COVID-19 restrictions gave me time to slowly service the old Suzuki Vitara. I’d driven the four-wheel drive car for years, but I rarely take it through grit and dirt roads.

Looking for spare parts online led me to join a unique group of Suzuki enthusiasts. Apart from mechanical and technical advise members help each other in sourcing spare parts and other gadgets necessary for the ultimate off-roading vehicle.

I had never heard of Gatune Hills, or Nachu Caves before, but owing to my interaction with the group, I was about to get familiarised.

Leaving Kikuyu Town, we drive past Lusegetti in a convoy of odd looking “Zuks”, driving through shrubs and thickets of both exotic and indigenous trees. The area residents, especially the children, stare in amazement from their scattered settlements at the odd column of Suzuki SJ410s, SJ413s, the Samurai and Jimny series; 2 Escudos (I counted!), an LJ50 (?), and a Grand Vitara!

Providing much-needed backup were other tougher 4x4s.  

After about 30 minutes of navigating through rocky roads and loose soil, we descend and head for the seasonal dam shadowed by the Nachu Caves and a picturesque Ngong Hills.

A few of us test the speeds of our machines on the rough terrain, while a small group deliberates the depth and severity of the mud in the dam. The location looks perfectly prepared to offer requisite level of complexity in terms of terrain, as well as offer enthusiasts panoramic views of the skyline. This was going to be the testing point.

But first, our attention was directed towards the cave, its outside looking like an elephant head looking angrily at us from a 45-degree angle. 

The climb is steep, and after a few minutes I begun questioning my decision to explore the mysterious cave. Securing the camera, I trudged on, twice slipping and grabbing the shrubs, not daring to look down. Ahead, several guys were urging the rest of us and finally…

The aura takes you back in time during the mau-mau wars of the 50’s. I overhear someone mention that the cave is still used for traditional worship, and indeed, there’re remnants of a recent fire in the middle of the cavern.

The views are amazing. Down below, more “Zuks” arrive and in the middle of the dam, a vehicle can be seen tackling the mud, its engine voice hardly audible from the height.

There’s a second cave, but I opt to scale back down and join in the mud fun. The descent is equally challenging, making me wish I had on hiking boots.

At the dam’s edge, “Zuk” owners reeve their engines; engage their 4×4 and charge at the mud their rear tires spewing mud mixed with the cloud of exhaust fumes!

“Zuks” seem to fair better than other mini SUVs, especially the older series with their tough suspensions. The right types of tires are necessary for this kind of activity, so I choose to spectate. Those that get stuck are assisted by the heavier off-roaders – Land Rover, Land Cruiser – and then they try again.

Towards evening, there was an impromptu tug-of-war with no clear winner.

Leaving  the rest of the crowd still cheering the mud maniacs and their beloved “Zuks”, I certainly forward to the next mud fun!

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