Team building trips and activities are a necessary addition to the growth and development of any team. A lot of companies and work teams regularly engage in team-building activities to build on communication and cohesion amongst colleagues.
Hiking, for instance, is an excellent way to improve leadership skills, trust and communication within a team. All of these skills can be translated into your everyday working environment, and help to achieve the goals of each specific team-building trip.
When COVID-19 hit, majority of people were locked in their homes, especially when the government put in place restriction measures to curb the spread of the virus. But, after a few months, people came up with ways to keep fit, interact with others and experience nature. This time saw a lot of people engage in hiking activities in different parts of the country. The Aberdare ranges were a hotspot of hiking activities during this time.
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This past weekend, the whownskenya team, led by our boss, Mr. Eddy Omari, participated in a record-breaking team building hike at Mt. Satima, one of the highest peaks of the Aberdare ranges. I say record-breaking because we were all able to summit the 4001m asl peak in less than two hours! Even the wardens were surprised.
The journey to the Aberdares National Park was long and bumpy, but the scenic views along the way made up for it. Unlike most times during the year, the day was warm. We were all excited to make it to the summit, although some of us had never hiked before.
We arrived at the park very late, just past 2 pm. Slowly, we began the hike up the well-defined trails, as we sought to conquer the third highest peak in Kenya. We had been told that Satima is a tough one, but we were determined to at least make it close to the summit.
Leading us was George, one of the locals who guide visitors through the trail. George was quiet, only speaking when spoken to. He was also soft-spoken, and had the look of someone who knew the park very well. As we walked up and down the beautiful trails, George filled us in on how he started working at the park and how he could do up to three trips in a day up the summit. Three! We were shocked.
“I come here to the park to guide hikers through the trails and up the summit. I was born and raised here, so I know the park very well. I have always admired how the KWS wardens do their job, so I decided to join the scouts’ program at the park,” he narrates, not minding our regular halts to take pictures and admire the scenery.
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“Oh, so you are a scout?” I ask.
“Yes. I’m still in training, but in about two years I will complete my training and join the KWS as a park warden. It is a life long dream of mine. I am excited to see myself in the green uniform, guiding tourists inside the park,” he answers.
At this point, my knees were weak and my throat was dry. So we take a small break under a huge rock, as we wait for our colleagues who had been left behind. If you have hiked before, you know the gap between hikers is bound to expand at some point.
George stands up, while my colleague Ezra and I sit down, sipping water amid heavy panting. George looked like he had just started at this point. No heavy breathing, no nothing. I kept asking if we were close to the summit every twenty minutes, and he kept saying, “Ni hapa mbele tu. Sio mbali.” (It’s not too far, just around the corner) But it wasn’t. It was not around the corner. It was many more kilometers ahead. Or maybe I was just really exhausted.
Two and a half hours later, we all make it to the summit. I remember lying down to catch my breath, and having this very good feeling of victory. I felt like I had won something. Like I had accomplished something. It was a great feeling.
Our way down the great Satima was fast. Perhaps the fear of the approaching darkness and the looming rain motivated us. Unlike going up, our way down was quiet. Barely anyone spoke. We were exhausted. And cold. Very cold. I could not wait to get to our van and change into clean clothes.
In less than two hours, we saw the white van in a distance. It felt like the end of a marathon. Again, George, unfazed, looked at us strolling through the last few metres. He too, was surprised that we had made it back in such a short time.
“Kawaida watu hupanda na masaa sita,” he said. Everyone was elated.
That night, we stopped by a small centre outside of the park to warm ourselves up with a cup of tea. George joined us, showing us around and telling us how lucky we were that we did not get rained on.
Just a few minutes past 9 at night, we left for Nairobi, grateful for a successful hike. George waved us goodbye, and we waved back, grateful for his warmth and patience throughout the hike. Next time you go to the Aberdares, make sure to ask for George.