Iten Kessup Falls, Kerio Valley: A Dramatic Hike Through An Unofficial Trail with Magnificent Forest River Views
Four years ago, I went on a drive through Iten Town to Baringo. It was a fantastic drive through twisty roads and the dreamy Kerio Valley. I’ve always wanted to explore the beauty of Kerio Valley, and the brief stopover didn’t do much to satisfy my exploration need. So, when my big sister asked if I wanted to go for a hike down the valley from Iten town, I jumped at the opportunity.
ELDORET, Saturday, 10th, 5:30 am, we were packing our lunch boxes, ready for what would be the most mind-blowing hike of my life. We hopped onto a moped, to the bus stage, and took a ‘Matatu” to Iten town. It costs $1, and 1 hour later, we had arrived at Iten Town.
Iten Town is approximately 36 Km from Eldoret Town via C51, Eldoret-Iten Road. The road twists through expansive farms, and forests, elevating as you get to Iten Town. The Highest point in Iten Town is 2,744 meters. Due to its elevation and high altitude, Iten is perfect for athletic training, is popularly known in the region as the “Home of Champions.”
ViewPoint Cafe Iten Town – Hike Planning
As self-proclaimed as that title might be, Iten town was buzzing with athletes when we arrived, all trying to clock their best time in the morning fog. I was here to hike and was already feeling intimidated by the caliber of athletes.
We stopped over at Kerio Valley Viewpoint, a famous landmark in Iten town, and had a well-deserved steamy cup of tea (It was 11°C) at View Point Café as we planned our hike route. I must admit, the view from View Point Cafe is breathtaking, and in the morning sun, it is possible to have a clear view of lake Kamnarok, which lies on the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo County.
The Trek Down Iten –Kessup Road
After enjoying the expansive views and failing to decide on the activities of the day, we started walking down the road, hoping to stumble upon an exciting trail that leads to nowhere. And after 5 Km walking down the road, we got to Kessup Village. Right in front of us was the magnificent Kessup falls, thundering down the hill. July has been a cold rainy month, and the waterfall was a sight to behold right from the road. So we decided to go check out the falls before continuing with our hike down the valley.
We walked into one of the shops and asked for directions to the falls. It is at this point that the hike takes an unexpected turn. Ideally, for one to visit Kessup falls, you’ll need to access it from the foot of the waterfall. That’s right next to AIC Kessup (African Inland Church) or from a short trail from Kessup falls resort.
My sister and I must have gotten the directions wrong and took a different trail that passes behind the shopping center into a small settlement at the foot of the hill. Going up the hill towards the waterfall, we met Julius. Like the clueless tourists we were, asked once more for directions to the waterfall.
The Unofficial Kessup Waterfall Plumber’s Trail
Julius leads us through a bean farm and into a forest trail. The hills are filled with indigenous trees, and the path looks like something out of NAT GEOs Amazon escapades. We also notice bundles of water pipes going up the hill. And Julius quickly explains to us that the pipes feed off the mouth of the waterfall into individual homes.
“Just go straight, and when you get to the pipes, turn right,” Julius explains. “Watch out for monkeys too,” he adds.
We look up ahead, and the trail seems scary. It’s narrower and thicker as we hike up. Julius had mumbled something about a man falling to his death a few days ago on the edge of the waterfall. He’d gone to fix a loose water pipe that runs down from the waterfall into someone’s home.
We ask Julius to be our guide up the falls. He’s very excited at the offer, and for a split second, I start to doubt if anyone had died on the trail recently. He calls his young brother Kosgei, who shows up holding a machete. Koskei looks younger and more agile than Julius, and after a few minutes into the overgrown path, we conclude that Kosgei knows the trails better.
Going up is not a walk in the park. The trail is muddy and slippery, winding through the edge of the hill that turned out to be steeper than we’d anticipated. It was also untouched, and the thicket was growing back, which meant not many people used this route.
“Why don’t the locals visit this waterfall more often?” I asked. “The waterfall is quite popular, but this is an unofficial trail, only used by guys fixing the water pipes up on the waterfall,” Kosgei answered.
Kessup falls: Majestic Canopied River with Magnificent Natural Pools
It then dawned on me that Julius might have been serious about the man who’d died a couple of days. And looking ahead, I noticed the trail got more dangerous as we hiked up. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to use this trail up the falls since dozens of sections are steep and slippery. One mistake, and you’ll be falling 2,000 meters below.
After 50 minutes of hiking through the dangerous trail (I cursed a dozen times why I made this trip), we were finally at the top. There wasn’t much to see, the rapids were intense, and every second on the ledge felt like we were risking our lives.
Kosgei wanted us to cross the river to the other side of the falls, and I felt that was a suicide mission and politely declined. We were satisfied with the trail and asked if there was another route up the hill back to Iten town (there was no way I was going back down that steep, slippery trail). We followed the river up. This trail was manageable and quite fascinating. It wasn’t steep, and the scenes looked like something out of a mystic storybook.
All that sweat and worry finally paid off. There were two other waterfalls up this trail that drained into a pool covered by trees. It was almost like what I had seen at Ndare Ngare in Nanyuki, but with a jungle feel. The forest canopy covered the entire skyline over the waterfall. It is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen in my life. We stood there for a couple of minutes just watching the water pour into mother nature’s pool.
Later, we crossed a pole bridge and got onto an all-weather road that leads back into Iten but back through C51 Eldoret – Iten Road. It was 3 pm, and after surviving one of the most dangerous excursions in my life, I was looking forward to a heavy lunch and a Matatu ride back home.