Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Posted by Richard Trillo at Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I thought I'd start posting up some favourite places from recent travels. We really loved Castle Forest Lodge. It's exactly what you hope it will be. It's been in the Rough Guide for a while but I'd hadn't personally visited before - it was included by my Central Highlands researchers on the last three editions, since 1999. Here's the proposed text for the forthcoming 9th edition of the Rough Guide:
A private home built for British royalty before World War I, Castle Forest Lodge nestles in a fragrantly piney forest clearing at 2100m on the southern slopes of the Mount Kenya. Remotely sited, personally managed by its Dutch leaseholder, far from the main road and overlooking a waterhole regularly visited by most of the usual suspects, this is what Treetops might aspire to be if the famous tree-hotel hadn’t already destroyed its environment. Even if you’re simply passing by, there are few nicer ways to spend an afternoon than sitting on the veranda with tea and homemade cakes.
The old house has several modest, comfortable rooms (“King’s Room”, “Queen’s Room”. . .) with camphor-wood floors. In the grounds there are three bungalows each sleeping four, an arc of stylish, individually decorated double and twin cottages with fireplaces, and also the option of DIY camping (Tel: 0721/422908 or 0722/314918 website; $88BB for two, camping $8 per person). They use solar panels for electricity, but most lighting is by kerosene lamp. Good-value meals are available to order and there’s a well-stocked bar. In between sleeping and eating, you can walk in the woods, sit by the waterfalls of the Karute stream (a short walk from the house through beautiful thick forest), fish the stream for trout or take a horse out for a ride.
If you’re keen to try an unusual approach to the summit of Mount Kenya, the seldom-used Kamweti route begins at the road-head, a steep 8km north of Castle Forest. This southern part of the mountain shelters the last remaining wild bongos on Mount Kenya, as researchers’ night-surveillance cameras proved in 2008. The lodge can arrange a hiking trip for you for $120 a day all-inclusive, regardless of the size of the party, via Mackinder’s Camp and Point Lenana, terminating either in Naro Moru (4–6 days) or Chogoria (6–9 days).
Castle Forest Lodge is 40km from Sagana via Kagio. Take the C73, direction Embu. After 18km, reaching Kutus, continue east on the C73 for 400m, then turn left on the tarmac D458 signposted “Castle Forest Lodge 22km”. After 2km, turn left onto an excellent road which eventually becomes a forest track in reasonable condition. En route, 5km before the lodge, you pass the moribund Thiba Fishing Camp.