Have you ever traveled without a plan? Waking up, packing and hitting the road to a destination without knowing exactly what you are going to do? It sounds scary but it can be quite exciting. The fear of unknown takes precedence in most cases. Only adventurers take up such challenges. These are people who agree with Robert Louis Stevenson when he said, “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” I happen to be one of those people. So ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses and let’s toast to Travel with Eliud the adventurer!
I had a weekend plan to Mwanza, Tanzania, that was to start on Thursday. Fortunately or unfortunately, I got held up by work meetings on Thursday and Friday, therefore Mwanza escaped me. I was left with no weekend plan. I met with Chinku Travels and Pamfilas who are my best adventure company. After a short discussion, we decided to head to Machakos County. Our longtime friend – a veteran President's Award Scheme assessor – lives and works in Machakos. We reached out to him and he agreed to have us. He also promised us an adventurous hike on Kiima Kimwe Hill. “Why not?” was our response.
Early Saturday morning, we left town for Machakos. We packed some hiking essentials such as water, snacks and a change of clothes because we were to return the following day. The plan was to go hiking, then go back to Machakos for an overnight stay. By 7.45am we were already in Machakos. Our host (Mr. Abbass) met with us at 8.30am and without waiting for more coal to be added to the sun’s furnace we left for Kiima Kimwe.
The start was gentle. There were clear winding paths that made it easier to maneuver the steep slopes.
As we went higher, the view of Machakos Town got better and clearer. Motivation to get to the highest point intensified.
After a while we finally managed to get to the top and the view was simply breathtaking. We could see the whole of Machakos Town and had a clear view of the plains towards Makueni County. We captured all of it on camera.
Naturally, we assumed that once you get to the peak that the next thing to do would be to descend down the hill. Shock on us! We forgot that our local guide Abbass is a President's Award Scheme product.
According to him, every hike is an expedition. He instructed us to trace our way to Kaseve Market (wherever that is) without so much as a map or a compass. He had used the route before and this gave us a little confidence. We asked him how far or how long it would take us to get there and he responded in Kamba “no vaa” (it's just here).
We accepted the challenge. We soldiered on enjoying the sceneries and landscape. Our first check point was Iluvya Primary School. We loved every bit of the adventure. After resting for a few minutes, we proceeded. “The next check point is Kivandini Market”, Abbass shouted.
This part of the journey was epic. There was no defined path. Abbass deliberately failed to show us the correct path. He pretended to have forgotten the trail. We passed through homesteads acting like we were lost so that we wouldn’t get into trouble for trespassing. People in their homes would then direct us.
The adventure got even more real when we found ourselves with no path to direct us down Kiima Kimwe. We were lost. The only option was to back track a little bit and trace another path to follow. Luckily we got one and it led us downhill.
We passed across Ikiwe River which had dried up; A short distance uphill and we were at Kivandini Market.
We noticed a refrigerator in a nearby shop and immediately raided it. You can imagine how quenching a chilled Coca-Cola was after being beaten by the merciless sun rays for the better part of the afternoon. We took a 30 minutes’ rest and then continued with our expedition. We followed the tarmac for about 1 Km before crossing over and proceeding uphill.
The uphill journey to 'Kitulu' was rather tough. The sun was extra hot and the reflection bouncing off the dusty and shiny surface on the ground was killing us!
The thought of another cold soda seemed like our only saving grace and because there was will, we conjured up the energy to walk another few kilometers, until we got to Rock Face. This was a cool chill spot, an oasis in the middle of the desert. We rested, took a few pictures and enjoyed more views of the landscape.
A short distance ahead was the brink. When we got there, everyone was happy. The sight of Kaseve Market on one side, the curvy road network on the other side and Kathiani Hills from a distance was just what the doctor ordered.
While enjoying the view, Chinku had the idea of camping, to which Abbass suggested that we camp there. We looked at each other and shook our heads. It would beat logic because we had no camping gear. “I can go get my gear while you guys shop for food, afert which we will climb up and camp.” Abbass confidently responded.
Approximately 2 kilometers from Kaseve Market is where Abbass’ residence is. After being sold on the idea, we descended the hill. On our way down, we met Mr. Muli who had a homestead on the foothills of Rock Face. He thought that we were scouts. We asked him if it was okay to spend the night at the cliff. He could not understand why we would choose to, given that he had an extra bedroom. We told him that it was within the rules to camp outside and he fell for it. He assured us of security and offered to help us with sufurias, firewood and water.
Abbass rushed home to collect the camping gear while the rest of us started shopping for food. The menu was simple; Ugali, goat fry and greens for dinner and tea and ngwaci for breakfast the next morning. Abbass met us up at dusk and we headed for Mr. Muli’s homestead. As promised he got us a faggot (the bundle of twigs, not what you're thinking), a 20 litre jerry can of water, 3 sufurias (cooking pots) and lids. We distributed the luggage amongst ourselves and started the uphill challenge. By this time it was already night time. The moon lit our path but got dim at some point and this was where we lost our way. It seemed like we had gotten to a dead end.
Abbass to the rescue! He found a path that required us to backtrack a little bit in order to get back on track. There is nothing I hate more in this world than back tracking but we had no option. With my bag on my back and a 20 litre jerry can in my hands I pressed on. The slope was steep and the surface of the rock was smooth. Luckily, the heavy luggage we were carrying provided us with grip.
We managed to get to the top. The lights at Kaseve Market and the various homesteads at the foot of the hill made the view magical. At 8.00pm, I walked around our camping area to get a feel of the mise en scene while Abbass was pitching the tent and Chinku was struggling to light the fire.
Shit got real when Abbass discovered that some tent poles were missing. What means is that the 6-man tent could not accommodate all of us. Fortunately, he had carried along a 2-man tent as well. It was complete and it stood tall. We had no other option but to squeeze in there. The fire came on and stayed on despite a lot of resistance from the wind.
As soon as we put the meat on the fire, we realized that we had forgotten to buy salt. What to do? Nobody was ready to descend that hill and then come back up just for salt. At least we had kachumbari and avocado. We would have to make do with it because there was nothing else to enhance the taste of our ugali, sukuma and nyama delicacy.
A local guy happened to pass by. We called him but he made sure to keep his distance. We asked where he was going and said to Kaseve Market. What luck! Someone we could send…or so we thought. We then asked him what time he would be back but he seemed like he was freaked out and replied that he would take long; he then hurried off and disappeared. In a split second he was gone like he was running for his life, probably with a million questions in his mind. ‘What are these guys doing on top of a hill?’ ‘They had lit a fire, do they eat people?’ ‘Why do they want to know what time I will be back?’ Are they serial killers? We’re pretty sure that guy used a different route on his way back.
Finally our saltless dinner of meat, greens, ugali and kachumbari was ready. Dinner is served! Surprisingly it didn’t taste half as bad as we thought it would. Or maybe we were just too hungry to notice. Either way we ravaged the hell out of that meal.
After our muscles and back sides started to complain because of sitting on the rocks for too long, we knew it was time to call it a night. To preserve firewood for preparing breakfast we had to put out the fire. We killed it by pouring soil on it. We also carried the utensils and left over food to a safe spot and covered our bags with the tent that refused to serve us. The last challenge of the night was trying to fit four bodies in a 2-man tent which had only one tiny mattress. We had no choice but to fit. We lay on our sides with our ribs pressing against the hard rock. The 5 hours that we were in there seemed like 3 days and we couldn’t wait for morning. At around 3.00am there were slight showers. The good thing was that being huddled up together generated enough body heat to survive the weather.
Morning came after what seemed like an eternity.
The drizzle left our firewood and match box wet. We had to put the matchbox in our pocket to warm it. To our surprise, no animal had interfered with our utensils or eaten the leftovers. I can confirm without any fear of contradiction that Kaseve in Machakos County has no wild animals.
We successfully managed to light the fire, boiled ngwaci (sweet potatoes) and made tea. We then enjoyed the morning sun until 11 o’clock. Mr. Muli was in a panic. He thought we had made away with his utensils. He climbed up to where we were and was so happy to find that we hadn’t left. “I was wondering how I would tell my wife that I gave out her sufurias to complete strangers who then escaped with them”, he exclaimed.
After closing camp and descending the hill, we bid Mr. Muli goodbye and thanked him for his hospitality.
We then headed for Abbass’ residence where we showered, changed clothes and looked fresh. Nobody would have believed that we slept outside like homeless people.
At 2.00pm, we bid goodbye to Abbass and Kaseve but we still hadn’t had enough of Machakos. Our next stop was the famous Machakos People’s Park.
The park is out of town and offers a great spot for relaxation and fun. It is the first ever in Africa to have an amphitheater, swimming pool, club restaurants, marine boats and children playground.
For the rest of the afternoon we thoroughly enjoyed the park and what it had to offer, ate at the restaurant and left for Nairobi at Sunset.
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