Why you need to see the Aberdares this Madaraka Day
What you need to know:
Why not visit the home of Dedan Kimathi as we celebrate the day Kenya attained internal self-rule?
A fortnight ago as Mukami Kimathi - widow of the legendary Mau Mau fighter Dedan - was getting buried in Njambini, Kinangop in the Aberdares, we were in the same Aberdares, determined to find the main hideout of the man whose actions brought us ‘Madaraka’ in Kenya.
Rewind to Accra Road, 9 am that Saturday morning, as we got into the shuttles that, in three hours, cover the 150 Km between Nairobi and Nyeri Town, for Sh400; the KWS entry fees for Kenyan adults at Aberdares being Sh300 (and Sh200 for students and children).
The ‘One Day Tourist’ rationale is all about saving both money and time.
Entering through the Mweiga Gate at 1pm, after a short 15 km ride by taxi from Nyeri Town to Mweiga – where the State had built President Kibaki a mansion in the forested hills that he eschewed for the leafy suburbs of Muthaiga – we are met by Mutwiri, official driver-and-guide at the KWS (Kenya Wildlife Services).
And thus begins our several hours’ drive through the Aberdares, with lots of stops and sight-seeing on this sunny Saturday.
The Aberdares is a place of varied wildlife – there are buffalos and bushbucks, warthogs, black and white Colobus monkeys, olive baboons, the seldom spotted bongo (antelope) in the bamboos, spotted hyenas, leopards, black rhinos and non-sported elephants.
Aberdare skies have Jackson’s Francolin, sparrow hawks, goshawks, plovers, eagles and sunbirds over its canopy.
Not once in the five-hour game drive did I spot these animals!
But the Aberdares is truly a breathtaking landscape in its sweep and scope, with open moorland that gives way to steep forested ravines that contain quaint and picturesque falls.
I may have started with the serious historical purpose of exploring the Mau Mau caves, in honour of the widow of the man who got us a measure of ‘Madaraka,’ Field-Marshall Dedan Kimathi.
But once out in the fields, marsh and forest, all we ended up doing was chasing waterfalls!
We went to the bottom of the famously beautiful Chania Falls, and passed by the green-cloaked majesty of the Zaina Falls and then onto the Karuru Falls, 900 meters high, where light rain refracts the sunlight for an awesome sight (these being the highest waterfalls in the whole country).
TLC sang about not “chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to” – disregard this advice, and dare to go for a day to the Aberdares, to chase magnificent falls.
Or if someone tells you to ‘take a hike,’ please do, at the Aberdares Ranges, and face the Dragon’s Teeth at the peak of Olodinyo Lesatima.
Or go camping, go trout fishing or even for a daring picnic, out in the Aberdares, although it is not a walk in the (KWS) park, at least not without a KWS Ranger, because of the wilder animals.
There’s the Super Hut and Tusk Camp for camping, the Aberdares Fishing Lodge to stay at as you go out looking for trout, and the Reedback Moorlands which are a picturesque picnic site.
At sunset, we went overnight to stay with our host KWS Asst. Director Bakari Chungwa, and he reassured us that there is a route out of the Aberdares and onto Naivasha, where old boys like Lorot may want to host alumni.
Other than Mweiga and Nyeri, other aggress points to the Aberdares include Nyahururu as well as Mukami’s final resting place, North Kinangop, where at the Njabini Forest Station, on clear moonlit nights, some campfire stories have it that you may see the dreadlocked ghost of Dedan Kimathi, making its brave way through trees, leopard-skin and a gun slung over the aura of his shoulder.
Freedom is Coming!