It is often easy to disregard the stunning views in our own backyard in favour of distant places, but as Harriet James discovers, even the most ignored places, such as the Ukambani region, have wonderful attractions to enjoy, whether you are looking to bag a peak or just want to trek the trails. For lovers of trekking adventures, Kenya is awash with magnificent gems where one can enjoy immersing themselves in the beauty of nature on foot. There are a range of treks from sedate hill walks such as presented by Ngong Hills, to high altitude terrains as offered by the famous Mt Kenya and the 160km long Abedare Ranges.\u00a0 Recently, I took a trip with Hikemaniak, a hiking, trekking and safaris company to Mt Kalambwani in Makueni county for a hike. I had never toured this part of the country before, so when the opportunity came to do it, I did not hesitate. Welcoming us to the trip on an early Satarday morning is Gitonga Wandai, the Hikemaniak lead adventurer and founder. He is glad that travel restrictions were lifted and that their business is slowly picking up with many adventurers desiring to go for hikes to keep fit and enjoy nature.\u00a0 Just before we embark on the two-hour journey, Wandia takes us through health protocals as required by the Ministry of Tourism. Offering each other a helping hand.\u00a0Photo\/PD\/HARRIET JAMES\u00a0 We have hand sanitisers on board, and a paramedic, just in case someone gets sick on the way. Most importantly, he tells us to strictly adhere to social distancing rules. On our way, Wandia lets me know that he has marked around five trails in Ukambani region, including Mt Kalembwani, Kiou or Kayata hike, Lovoto waterfall among others with the support of the county government. As a result they have created job opportunities for youth in the various destinations in the form of tour guiding. \u201cWe are ready to identify more sites and encourage Kenyans to visit and explore. We work with the county government, community youth groups and Kenya Forest Service,\u201d he says\u00a0 However, he desires that the county works more with the community groups to assist them map out other tourist attractions to be able to derive revenue from it. Brief trek of Kioi Hills Along Mombasa road just a few Kilometers past Salama town, we get a glimpse of the Kalambweni mountain from a distance. Our guide tells us that we will first trek Kioi Hills before moving on to our main destination. And what\u2019s more breathtaking is the beauty of the area, which consists of its Savanna environmental coverage seen way from Mombasa road to the top of the hill. Spectacular views standing at the heart of gigantic boulders.\u00a0Photo\/PD\/ HARRIET JAMES\u00a0 With a few body warming excercises, we began the hike, but not before we are taken another round of safety measures against Covid-19 on the trails, which entailed not interacting with locals and to maintain social distance. The hikers ranged from beginners to the experienced. I was in the middle, being not so experienced, but had gone to many hikes. By the time we began the accent, the hot sun synonymous with the region was already up and draining our strength. But we kept on moving, past the silent villages and curious onlookers who probably wondered what was so special about their area. To them, going up and down the hill in search of water isn\u2019t so much of a big deal. In a brief banter some villagers we met on the treks lightly joked that climbing hills was the only way of keeping Covid-19 at bay. We chuckled at their remarks.\u00a0 The terrain was tough with dry bushes and grass, which prickled our skin as we ascended. The huge rocks too made traversing the trails a huge task, I realised that having proper hiking shoes with a grip did magic as they kept you stable. Also taking plenty of water assists in regaining strength and keeps muscle cramps at bay. Before we knew it, we had arrived at Kiou hill at around 11am and the views were even more breathtaking. But we still had a long way to go as we had to descend again and head over to the other side, crossing the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, to climb Mount Kalembwani.\u00a0 We had lunch, observing social distance while at it, before we started the second hike. We started our hike by accessing historic caves located down the mountain. Residents refer to it as the Armchair mountain because it resembles one when looked at from a far. It carries a lot of history about the local community and their relationship with neighbouring Maasai. One of our guides Muoki Kioko tells us Kalembwani is a volcanic mountain that erupted at the same time with Kyulu hills. \u201cOn clear days you should be able to view Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Meru, Longido and Ngong Hills from the top,\u201d he says.\u00a0 He has been involved in community service and also in developing new tourism products in the region. He tells me that some of the activities that one can engage in here include include biking, hiking, paragliding, abseiling, rock climbing, marathons, horse riding, bird-watching and cycling. And says soon they will be introducing fishing in Kilome constituency.\u00a0 No institutional support \u201cThe tourism indistry hasn\u2019t picked up in this region because of the perceptions potential tourists have on availability of decent accommodation in this region. On the contrary, we have plenty hotels with accommodation to cater for people of all cadres. Prices range between Sh300 and Sh30,000,\u201d he explained.\u00a0 Due to its easy access from Nairobi as the whole way is tarmacked and easy to find, Kalembwani has been one of most popular hiking destinations in Makueni. However, it lacks institutional support despite it being active for over six years and having contributed to growth of the hiking industry in the country. It took us about one and a half hours to go up and watch the beautiful vistas that stretched as far as Kajiado county.\u00a0 Climbing down, one of us had an encounter with a snake, which freaked us out. Though fatigued, and the snake had gone its way, we hurriedly descended down for fear of encountering another episode of the crawling animal. Once we reached the bus, we took off to Nairobi before the curfew.