Thoughts of waking up in a forest, to the bird choir are enough inspiration to have me pack my bags for a budget weekend getaway to the Castle Forest Lodge. We set out from Nairobi at 3 pm and embark on our weekend getaway 155 kilometres away.
The Friday traffic notwithstanding, we arrive at the Castle Forest Lodge in Kirinyanga Country a few minutes after 6:30 pm. It is advisable to arrive before 6:00 pm as are the forest rules. Luckily for us were are allowed in as we had called earlier to inform the management of our delayed departure from the capital.
We choose to use the scenic route of Mwea home to lash rice-growing farms before turning off at Kutus onto the Kianyaga-Kimunye Road. The road is all-weather and in good condition through the rural and agricultural environs. The tarmac abruptly ends at the forest gate. We are ushered into the castle forest by tall trees and cold air of freshness. A short distance past the main gate, we can hear the waterfalls rumbling downstream as if they were having a conversation with nature. We check in ready for a weekend at the foot of Mount Kenya.
A Historic Castle
Built-in 1910, The Castle is said to have hosted the British queen during her younger days. The original main house is today used as the main dining area with the veranda overlooking the valley into the forest. At the top floor of the house are three budget rooms with simple art downing the walls. The rooms share common amenities; bathroom and toilet and are located above the kitchen area, which was a downer for us.
On the expansive land stands other accommodation options that include Chalets, cottages, bungalows as well as a camping option. We opted to stay at the cottages.
There are eight cottages all named and uniquely decorated themed with a fireplace.
The staff lit the fire every evening as the night is very cold. These are ideal for the budget traveller and can accommodate one to two people. Guest are warned about the wildlife that may sometime wonder close by.
There are two Chalets available for booking. Guests have the option of self-catering or request to have meals at the main house cum restaurant. The bungalows have two bedrooms and a sitting area with a fireplace and a bathroom. We retire to bed well after 9:00 pm anxious to experience the next day’s activities.
After a relaxing night that was relatively silent apart for the sound of the forest and birds, we embark on our day’s activities. Immediately after our breakfast, we are off for our four-hour trek cum hike in the thick of the forest.
Our first stop is at the Kathiba river. It said to be a tributary of the larger River Thiba, as we are informed by Munene our guide. We are in awe as we look at the vegetation; shrubs are intertwined, with the tall indigenous trees watching us coupled with flying and singing birds in their natural habitat.
Our guide Mr Munene has been working with the Castle for several years and has guided lots of guest at the lodge. He understands the terrain, can imitate bird sounds and be able to spot paths that had been used by wildlife the previous or earlier that morning. He also doubles up as the Chef. We are in amazement as he whistles tune after tune and the birds respond. It’s interesting to witness him get habituated to the birds.
After three hours we are at the waterfall, the water is sparkling clean and extremely cold. I couldn’t help but quench my thirst. It’s a sight to behold. After taking time to chill and regain our strength, we are on our trek back in time for a homely cooked delicious lunch.
We spend the afternoon, enjoying the cool forest ambience. We wander down a hill a few metres from the restaurant to the other smaller waterfalls. Every step down the meandering path got us closer to the roading sound of the waterfalls.
The two waterfalls are more frequently visited as they are closer to the hotel. The is a swimming pool as well, however on this weekend swimming was a no for the squad as it was cold.
On a good warm day, a dip would have been part of the plan. With prior arrangement, a tea tour can be arranged at the near buy Kimunye Tea Factory.
We used the Mwea route and branched off at Kutus. It is easily accessible with all type of vehicle.
What you must carry
Ensure you have warm clothing as the nights get very cold. Early mornings are mostly misty should you choose to wake up early and catch the peak of Mount Kenya and the sunrise. Also, park some comfortable shoes to tackle the walking trails.
An ideal getaway for a chilled out weekend. It’s a bird haven ideal for bird watchers. It is a hiker route (Kamweti) to Mt Kenya’s point Lenana. Days trips are a favourite with a majority of budget adventure enthusiast. The three waterfalls within makes this a worthwhile getaway a few hours away from the capital city. The expansive grounds are ideal for family getaways as kids will enjoy wandering away on the vast grass. The staff are friendly, ensuring your stay at this historic Castle that’s pocket friendly an ideal budget weekend getaway.