By MARION MAINA
I have fond memories of growing up on the slopes of Ngong Hills. My earliest memories of hiking the hills was during a kindergarten school trip. I was more than happy to assume the role of tour guide since the trip was in in my home-turf.
As the van filled with screaming kids flew past the murram road and made its way to the entry point of Ngong Hills, I pointed out key landmarks, including our home, to my friends.
On arrival, we parked in a clearing at the base of the hills and begun the hike. It was such a fun-filled day, one of the highlights of my childhood.
As I grew older, the hills continued to have great significance in my life. It was there that I nursed my first heartbreak as a teenager.
My crush was being teased by his friends for a having a plump bowlegged girlfriend and so he decided to end things. Oh, I cried!
It was in these same hills that I went to pray for success in my KCPE exam the Sunday before rehearsals on Monday.
I pleaded with God to help me attain the sacred 400 marks and go to Alliance High School. Well, that prayer wasn’t answered verbatim.
Much later on when I decided to make a drastic lifestyle change and lose weight, the hills was where I sweated it out, one kg at a time. I could go on and one but am pretty sure you get the picture.
The hills have transformed greatly over the years. In 2008, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KENGEN) begun the Ngong Hills Wind Farm project- the only wind farm connected to the national power grid- and set up six Vestas V52-850kW Wind generating 5.1 megawatts of wind power.
When the constructions begun, we curiously thronged the hills to witness these strange developments, wary at first because we thought we were losing our safe haven. We haven’t lost it; not yet anyway. Over time, more and more turbines were set up with the aim to increase the power generated from the farm. The gentle slopes of Ngong Hills are now dotted with white turbines making the view picturesque.
Recently, I came across a post on Facebook about a restaurant that had been set up right in the heart of Ngong Hills called Kompass. I scrolled down the post, gaping at each photo with utmost wonder and not believing that such a development had occurred right below my nose without me catching a whiff of it.
The breath-taking view from Ngong Hills. PHOTO| MARION MAINA
It has been a while since I last visited the hills despite them being within a 3km radius of my home. I did further digging online on all I could find about the hotel. The pictures blew my mind. In this age of heavy filters, I knew I had to check out the hotel.
The following weekend, I dragged my friend Meg to Kompass at Ngong Hills for late lunch. I was itching to see if the place measured up to what they had put out online. The whirring sound of turning windmills welcomed us to the restaurant which stood elegantly against the backdrop of Ngong town and Nairobi city in the far horizon.
We walked up the dirt path that led to the hotel’s entrance all the while taking in the expansive view of green vegetation under the cloudy sky. Several cars in the parking bay made me realise that this new joint was steadily getting popular.
The first thing that caught my eye the instant I walked in into the restaurant was the rustic décor with a Maasai theme. Wooden tables, seats made of Maasai fabric and a mazeras floor made me pause for a second and just soak in that splendour.
The sitting area was spacious with plenty of natural light emanating from the top to bottom windows on both ends of the room.
There was a wooden snack bar counter on one end and the alcohol section on the extreme end from where orders were made.
I fell in love with the decor at Kompass Hotel and found the seats quite comfortable. PHOTO| MARION MAINA
As soon as we settled in our seats, a jolly waitress brought us the menu and welcomed us warmly. I smiled discreetly, still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that a fine dining joint with courteous staff now stood where we once played kati and bladder during weekends and school holidays.
Whether you are a local or a visitor, it is nearly impossible to place a meatless order in Ngong or its environs. Unless you are staunchly vegan. The menu supported this fact as most meals included meat.
We settled for the goat curries that went with ugali and kales with the option of chapatti. The waitress let us know that the order would take –45 minutes to be ready and invited us to check out their other services. She said this with a twinkle of confidence in her eyes that said; You are gonna like what you see. We loved her.
A few metres from the dining area, we came across an archery open space. It had seats around it from where people watched as others attempted to hit the bull’s eye. There were lots of kids in that area and I could see several parents cringe nervously whenever they attempted to shoot the target. No parent wants to look bad in front of the kids plus, kids are terribly blunt. If you miss the target, they will not only laugh about it but will take great pleasure in narrating the story to anyone who cares to listen. We all know that embarrassing stories from children are painstakingly detailed.
The archery area has plenty of sitting space where people can relax and watch others try to hit the bull’s eye. PHOTO| MARION MAINA
Next we went to the zip line area. I wish I could testify of how I conquered my fears and hopped on that zip-line like Tarzan. That testimony is a long way coming. I’m still working on my fear of heights starting with high-heeled (anything above two inches) shoes. I watched as my heroes of the moment take up the challenge.
A rush of adrenaline coursed through my body even from my safe place on the ground. The zip line attendant kept throwing suggestive glances my way but I snubbed him because this was not the day for conquering fears.
I steered clear from the zip-line area and watched from a safe distance…on the ground. PHOTO| MARION MAINA
What I liked most about Kompass is the plenty of sitting spaces, both indoors and outdoors. Besides the archery area, there was more outdoor sitting space on the other end of the resort with the wind mills in the background. Again the seats were wooden with Maasai quilts draped over them for the customers’ comfort.
A guide told me that most hikers stopped over at the restaurant for a bite before resuming their hiking escapade. We had not yet had enough of the sightseeing but our rumbling tummies led us back inside the restaurant. It was an hour later, time had flown!
The food was sumptuous. I loved that they incorporated so many organic ingredients in their curry which gave the sauce a rich colour and deep aroma.
Goat meat curry served with chapati and greens at Kompass Hotel, Ngong Hills. PHOTO| MARION MAINA
The portions were huge that for a moment I felt like I was eating from my mother’s dining table. We dug in, and for the first 10 minutes there was little conversation between us because both of us are such foodies.
The food had this home-made taste, nothing exotic about it but delicious all the same.
Fried goat meat served with Ugali at Kompass Hotel, Ngong Hills. PHOTO| MARION MAINA
With lots of fun activities and great food, Kompass is a joint I will visit again as I resume my tour-guiding role for all my Nairobi friends.
The only thing that went amiss was the fact that I forgot how cold the hills can be. While I was clearly slaying with my chiffon and black-lace top, my body was covered with goose bumps. The place is so chilly that the staff wear red hoodies as part of their uniform.
A waitress clad in a red hoodie. Be sure to carry some warm clothing while coming to Kompass Hotel as it is quite windy. PHOTO| MARION MAINA