By Isaac Ongiri and Paul Mutua

The tale of a rock and its mystery has held men in awe for centuries.

Some say the rock is a human being, while others believe elders used it to scare children from going near it, as it was home to dangerous wild animals.

Whatever it is, the Nzambani rock near Kitui town attracts visitors who want to explore its legend.

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Nzambani rock near Kitui town. On its side is a steel ladder explorers use to access it. Photo: Paul Mutua/Standard

"The elders used to say that anyone who would go round this rock seven times would mysteriously change into the opposite sex," says former Cabinet minister Titus Mbathi.

Mr Mbathi says the tale has been retold so may times and sounds so real that no one has been tempted to test the theory.

"Men fear this rock, no man wants to be the first to be turned into a woman, no one wants to run round it seven times," says Nzambani Chief Titus Mutavai.

And that is why Nzambani rock (Ivya ya Nzambani) has turned out to be a popular scenic attraction in the heart of Ukambani.

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Mutavai says the rock, which stands next to Nzambani Primary School, remains a mystery.

He says it was believed that when people heard strange noises at night, they were coming from the direction of the rock.

Local witchdoctors are said to frequent the rock late at night to perform rituals.

Fenced off

Some say a Kamba girl, known as Nzambani, turned into a rock many years ago. Nzambani, who was accompanied by two girls, had been fetching firewood when suddenly she saw a shiny round stone, which she thought was good for grinding tobacco.

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She collected it, intending to take it to her grandfather, but was immediately turned into the rock.

A former Cabinet minister has now fenced off the rock, after he purchased the land from the Kitui County Council.

Standing exactly 15km from Kitui town, the 60ft high rock can be accessed with the support of a steel ladder. Explorers who visit the site use this means to get to the top.

Local MP Kiema Kilonzo now wants the rock reverted to the local authority to enable villagers to turn it into a source of revenue.

Mr Kiema says arrangements should be made to buy back the land on which it is situated.

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