Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site

Inspired by yet another Living in Nairobi listing, T and I went on another hiking adventure a couple weekends ago to the Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site.  

The Route
As is usually our routine, we left early in the morning on Sunday and despite facing relatively light traffic, it took us almost 2 hours to get there, making it among the farthest of our day hike destinations (~67 km).  From Nairobi we went south on Langata to Magadi Rd from which we turned left at the sign for Olorgesailie.  Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves in the parking lot of the "museum." 

Apart from the road leading from Magadi Rd to the museum, most of the way was paved, though riddled with potholes throughout.  Nothing that a regular saloon car couldn't handle though.  Compared to some of our other trips, this was a piece of cake for our X-Trail.


The Museum
By appearances, calling it a museum seems a bit of an overstatement as it is literally a one room open banda.  But it was only 500 shillings for non residents so we decided to take a look.  I'm glad we did though because I found the exhibit to be quite informative and despite the modest presentation, also found that it was home to some astoundingly ancient artifacts.  We quickly learned that Olorgesailie is famous for the large deposits of ancient tools left here by the earliest human species.  But I was further fascinated to find that the use of these tools spread across the world, reaching as far as England and India.  My favorite part however was getting to see the crazy looking skulls of the earliest humans, many of which were excavated in Kenya.   

Excavation Sites
Included with the cost of admittance into the museum was a guided tour of the outdoor excavation sites.  As mentioned, we understood from the museum exhibit that Olorgesailie was a prominent site for ancient hand axes but I don't think we fully appreciated what that meant until we visited the excavation sites.  Site after site, we were shown thousands of hand axes either strewn along the ground or heaped in piles.  The sheer volume of tools was impressive in and of itself but then we learned that their ages spanned across a million years of habitation by early humans!  Having once entertained Hollywood inspired childhood fantasies of becoming an archaeologist, I was especially excited to also see the bones of animals scavenged and butchered by ancient man.  

Hiking Mt. Olorgesailie
From the information on the Living in Nairobi website about Olorgesilie, it wasn't clear to us whether a guide was necessary to hike the volcano.  As additional online research proved to be inconclusive, we decided to just show up and see what happens.  Unfortunately, upon arrival we learned that a guide was in fact necessary but the folks at the museum kindly directed us to a path that we could follow for a short walk around the mountain.  So while we didn't actually get to climb up Mt. Olorgesailie, we did walk towards and a little ways around it.  I suspect that even if we had been with a guide to climb to the peak, we would not have taken our car any further than the museum parking lot in which case we would have had to take this route towards the mountain anyways.  

After trekking through a short stretch of scrubby bushes and tall grass, the trail descended into a dried up river bed which we followed for some time.  The riverbed provided a strange and almost alien landscape with a sense of desolation and eeriness akin to abandoned lost cities.  I of course love this kind of environment and had a ball until it was time for us to turn back lest we be late for an appointment with a friend.     

Olorgesailie Prehistoric Center certainly isn't one of the most impressive sites here in Kenya but it makes for a day trip that's a little bit out of the ordinary and unique in it's own right.  Having failed to climb Mt. Olorgesailie, we definitely plan to return.  Stay tuned. 


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