The mountain of Shompole dominates the landscape in this part of the world. It rises steeply out of the flat plains that lie to the south and north of Lake Magadi and Lake Natron respectively. Once down from the hills this whole area is a shimmering wasteland of dry thornbush and broad salt pans where a few Maasai eke out a difficult existence and outsiders are a novelty. Shompole's mass seem far greater because it is free standing. It is in fact about 100 metres lower then the viewpoint at Enchorro Naibor, where we start the day at around 1,800 metres before dropping down nearly 1,200 metres to the floor of the Rift Valley. 

There are a number of permanent rivers flowing out of the Loita Hills and making their way into the lakes. The biggest, the Ewaso Nyiro, feeds into the northern end of Lake Natron. A temporary camp on the riverbank is the destination for this final day. The day's route starts near the Enchorro Naibor viewpoint where it follows an old cattle trail that is used by the local Maasai to walk their cattle down to the market at the village of Shompole. It is also used by the Maasai, living at the bottom, to bring donkeys up to the top and buy maize.

The route down can only be done on foot so porters are used to carry the camp kit and bikes to the bottom. The path down to Mbakasi and on to Shompole and the road on towards Lake Magadi passes through an area of thornbush where there is a good chance of seeing some of the wildlife living in the area. Wildebeest, zebra and Grant's gazelle are common and there is also the chance of seeing a number of dry country specialists like gerenuk and oryx. We have even heard lion and leopard, close to the camp, during the night.

For the first three hours we drop over 1,000 metres in about 8 kilometres. The path down is steep, very slippery in places, and passes through cool, thickly forested slopes before it starts to flatten out as it approaches the floor of the Rift Valley and the forest gives way to thornbush. It is at this point that it then becomes possible to cycle again and head for the small town of Mbakasi, where there are a handful of small shops serving the local community. The people here rarely see visitors and when this safari was first tested some of the local children ran away, screaming in terror, as they had never seen white people before. Even with an early morning start it means we tend to arrive at Mbakasi as it is approaching the hottest time of the day and it is worth stopping for a drink and a bit of rest in the little shade that is available.

Between Mbakasi and Shompole lies an area of swamp where the Ewaso Nyiro flows into the top of Lake Natron. This wetland area is an important habitat for a wide range of waders with the lake itself being one of largest breeding sites for East Africa's Lesser Flamingo. The area between Lake Natron and Lake Magadi lies in a depression in the Rift Valley and can be scorchingly hot at certain times of the year. 

From Mbakasi the route crosses the salt flats and swamp for about 8 kilometres, including a few stretches of open water that have to be waded through, before arriving at the bridge over the Ewaso Nyiro River. It then heads south, for another 5 kilometres down the river, to the new campsite, under Shompole Mountain and should not take much more than an hour from Mbakasi. We have moved the camp up the hill, slightly away from the river, to try and catch a bit more breeze, provide a better view and avoid the swarms of mosquitoes that come out of the swamp in the evening.

Apart from having cleared a bit of ground the camp here has nothing in the way of facilities. It is totally wild and has been established purely to support this safari. The first time it was used we heard a lion calling from about 1 kilometre away and a leopard came very close in the night. As with our other camps we use local guides and camp guards when we are staying and also pay a community fee. The nearby river provides the camp with its washing facilities and despite its name, Nyiro meaning brown, it is a refreshing place to sit in, relax and let the day's dust disappear downstream. The Ewaso Nyiro flows quite strongly between the bridge and the campsite and we are looking into the possibility of tubing this last section. It would be a welcome relief from the heat if it does prove feasible.