Posted in travel

Valley of death Mountain

Activity: Climbing Mt. Margaret
Altitude: 2032m ASL
Distance: 18km
Strava’s Time taken: 3hrs 46min
When: 16th October 2020
Service: Let’s Drift
Charges: Ksh 1,000.

Poisoned. Forgotten. Gross. Endangered. The mountain where death surrounded it back in 1895, famously the Kedong massacre, has been taken over by quarries. Read about the massacre here

The little beauty left blurs my vision and Kutata our guide from Kijabe Forest Trust, has lost hope too. ‘Hii ni ukorofi mbaya sana. Watu iko kuja hadi kwa mlima,’ he speaks out in his handsome Maasai accent. (This greed is very bad. People are now coming to quarry on the mountain.)

“Aren’t there policies to fence it to protect it? Or something to make it not extinct in the future?” Bitter me asks. “Unajua hii mlima haina wanyama eti KWS watakuwa hapa. Alafu Kenya pesa inaongea ukijaribu kuondoa hii watu hapa, haitafaulu.” He adds. (This mountain has no wildlife so people like KWS can’t be here and this been Kenya where money talks, telling these people to go away won’t work.)

I let it rest there and enjoy what brought me here, Ol Morijoi (a poisonous tree on this side of the Sahara) Margaret’s nickname, Russell Bowker’s daughter. Interestingly, when you ask around how the mountain got its name, villagers will say ‘from a colonizer.’ But Russell was an early settler from South Africa who owned majority of land at Mai-Mahiu. Meanwhile, if you look at it, the mountain takes shape of a lid. Longonot’s lid they say and I must agree it was blown off from it.

The hike started off by having breakfast at the only kibandaksi (food joint) near the Italian Catholic church. I must confess their pancakes and tea are out of this world. Delicious is an understatement. For the price of Ksh 30 each, this served me a whole 18km without hunger pangs. Mary and her partner are doing a great job, highly recommend.

The journey to Maggie is not one to excite a hiker who has been to the Aberdares severally. The trail bellows dust thanks to the numerous heavy lorries that have made it their business to carry stones. Yellow stones am told. Construction businesses must be having their fill. Shrubs, cactus are the famous vegetation with migration of goats accompanied by young Moran’s. However, the landscape shifts to present Mt. Suswa, Mt. Longonot, Kijabe and William hills.

Our first rest is at Kedong river, on its bridge that was constructed in 1940. Here we wow at the huge boulder rocks before resuming our journey to Manyatta quarry, named after the many Manyattas that surrounded it.  One that makes you wonder how the miners are doing it. Creation of small holes in a systematic manner to bring down a rock is something so soothing. Feels like a pendulum. And it is here that I get to witness the first of many degradations happening around Margaret.

The scorchy sun leads us to the base of the mountain where a staircase of rocks does the talking. It is after this where the second wave of extinction hits me. Another quarry on the mountain top! Surely? There is a road even? Wauuuu Kenyans, wow! When you get here depending on who guides you, you might think this is the finale but no. Another stretch of bush, pricking awaits to the summit, where Bowker’s grave lies. No clear path and this highly speaks that not many hikers come here.
Debate has had it Margaret was buried here. Some will even say the grave at the summit is hers. But it wasn’t. Kutata and I conclude she must have been buried elsewhere, in her home country. If you’ve been to Mount Kilimambogo and witnessed the damage done to MacMillan’s grave then it will not shock you here. Greedy people have started digging up Russell’s grave. Treasure hunt?

It is at this juncture that I tell Kutata to take part in restoration of this mountain. Protect its history while preserving the grave, as he is doing with Andrew Dick’s grave(English trader who naively opened fire without knowing cause of the massacre) at Kijabe together with other Maasai’s in his community. The valley of death needs to be seen as it stretches all the way to Suswa. History needs to not repeat itself.

Russell’s vandalized grave

The descend took us through Narok highway to Mai-Mahiu town for lunch. Rejuvenated that since March after Miss Rona invaded our lives, am now hike ready.

Take a matatu from Nairobi’s Nyamakima terminus that will charge you Ksh 250 to get to the Italian Catholic church, after the famous Rift Valley view point. It’s an hour and a half drive. Get in touch with Kutata in case you ever want to hike Kijabe, William, Kenton and Nathan hills not forgeting Mt. Margaret through his mobile number 0710-607565.