What you need to know:
- Mr Kariuki told the Nation that he spends at least one month preparing before he embarks on his journey.
- The trips, he said, are an adventure as he gets to see new places and meet new people and their cultures.
As preparations for Mashujaa Day celebrations continue, one man is also racing against time to mark this day in style.
For the last one month, Mr Stephen Kariuki Mungai, a resident of Nakuru County, has been preparing for his annual ritual of covering hundreds of kilometres to get to the venue of the event.
While a majority of patriotic Kenyans chose to drive to the venue or simply follow the celebrations live on TV, Mr Kariuki has made it a norm to walk there irrespective of the distance from his hometown.
For the past four years, the 67-year-old man has traversed different counties just to attend the celebrations that are so dear to him.
And for this year, things will not be any different as he has already covered tens of kilometers from Nakuru town on his way to Kirinyaga County, where the event will be celebrated on October 20.
He bade farewell to his friends in Nakuru on Wednesday morning to embark on his 225km journey to Wang’uru stadium in Mwea.
At 7am, about 60 of his fans had already gathered in Nakuru town, near the railway station, ready to see him off.
He arrived 30 minutes later as a pillion passenger on a motorbike to the exuberance of the anxious crowd.
Having successfully covered four trips in previous years, Mr Kariuki has managed to attract quite a number of fans, who were amazed by his actions.
Clad in heavy clothes, including two jackets, khaki trousers and a slouchy beanie, Mr Kariuki arrived at his starting point carrying a brown backpack containing a bottle of water and a raincoat.
In one hand he held a traditional three-legged stool painted with the colours of the Kenyan flag while in the other was a stick affixed with a flag.
After a session of interviews and selfies with friends, it was time to leave as everyone wished him a merry journey.
In an earlier interview with the Nation, Mr Kariuki explained that his mission is driven by the love of his country and the need to spread a message of patriotism among Kenyans.
Born and raised in Nakuru, Mr Kariuki says he has seen the good and the bad side of Kenya but has chosen to promote the good.
His mission began in 2017 after the highly charged General Election that saw dozens of innocent people killed.
He revealed that after the elections, he decided to attend the swearing-in of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was declared winner by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
He did not have transport money so he decided to walk to Nairobi’s Kasarani stadium, where the event was taking place.
“I could not believe that President Kenyatta was going to be sworn in after his first election was nullified by the court. So I had to be there physically to witness,” Mr Kariuki said.
At first the mission appeared impossible, but after gathering courage and psyching himself up he managed to trek to Nairobi, about 167km away, in four days.
That experience motivated him to start attending Mashujaa Day celebrations every year.
The following year he walked to Bukhungu stadium in Kakamega County to attend the festivities and to Kisii County in 2019.
Last year, he could not travel to Mombasa, because of the lockdown imposed by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19.
So when the government announced the venue for this year’s celebrations, he started planning his trip.
Mr Kariuki told the Nation that he spends at least one month preparing before he embarks on his journey.
“I walk at least 50km daily in preparation for this journey. After walking, I take my normal meals and rest for some time,” he said.
The trips, he said, are an adventure as he gets to see new places and meet new people and their cultures.
“I get to learn many good things about my country and appreciate the way of life of other communities,” he said.
In the course of his journey, Mr Kariuki explains, he gets to share with the people he meets the importance of peaceful coexistence.
“I spread the message of peace and love for our country with the people I meet along the way,” he said.
He said he sleeps at fuel stations or at market centres. He gets support from the well-wishers that he meets along the way, who sometimes provide him with food and water.
Mr Kariuki worked as a tout for 18 years until 1992, when he was detained alongside veteran politician and former Subukia MP Koigi Wa Wamwere for two years.
After his release from detention, he rented a stall in Nakuru town before it was brought down by the county government.
A hero, Mr Kariuki says, is anyone who is ready to fight for the rights of any Kenyan and willing to help other Kenyans in need.
His hope is to see a united Kenya where all citizens are free to visit and live without fear of being discriminated against.