Tafaria: A dreamer and his castle
By Joe Ombuor | February 15th 2018
A person seeing pictures of Tafaria Castle immediately assumes it is a remnant from the early colonial days. It bears a striking resemblance to the castles that dot Europe, the fortified imposing structures built by nobility in the middle ages. But that is all there is, resemblance.
“Nothing delights me more than the change I have seen unfolding in line with my dream that a teacher during my primary school days once dismissed as ‘building castles in the air’. What stands here today is a real castle cutting into the air,” gushes George Tafaria Waititu, the founder of Tafaria Castle.
Completed in 2012, the Castle modelled on medieval English citadels sits 7,700 feet above sea level with a ravishing view of the mountain range covered by thick forests that are the source of many rivers and prolific game.
Everything about the lodge smacks of royalty, from a palatial carpeted Lord’s room where guests are given a lord’s feel by being addressed as “the lord of the castle”, to special service. The solitary room fit for a king or a queen is ideal for honey-mooners and guests looking for extra luxury that includes complimentary horse rides and gifts ranging from house wine to fruit baskets.
“The castle held aloft my stunning decision to quit the corporate world and return to the village to transform it from darkness to enlightenment just like the medieval times were a transition from the dark ages,” says Waititu.
The Lord’s friends were accommodated in the Lord’s court within the castle. At Tafaria, the Lord’s court comprises seven slap-up rooms within the castle, slightly less executive than the Lord’s room.
On the sprawling compound below and within the full eye view of the Lord are rooms named Damsels, Damsels Plus, Vikings, Manor, Knights and lost Knights. In medieval days, damsels were unmarried beautiful girls at the disposal of the Lord and had to be protected by knights from raids by sea faring warriors known as Vikings.
Knight’s houses are strategically located to ensure the security of the damsels against raids by Vikings housed in tented quarters labeled ‘Vikings’. The old house has three bedroom suites and a private compound suitable for a family.
The castle that carries the middle name of George Tafaria Waititu has transformed a once remote and isolated area in keeping with his childhood dream.
Looking back, he narrates: “I grew up in a desolate jungle where wild game roamed at will. The nearest water point was seven kilometres away and to reach the shops to buy anything meant trekking 11 kilometres.
“Today, wholesome water flows from springs on the mountain for use by the villagers, thanks to a community project of which we were a part while the lodge draws its water from a borehole,” he says.
He says the castle has been an effective agent of transformation, attracting more people to a virtual wasteland where an acre went for a paltry Sh30,000 less than decade ago. “The project has created significant direct and indirect employment and in a way reduced rural urban migration among other permanent benefits to the locals such as providing a market for some of their produce,” says Waititu.
“A five-kilometre access road we built to the Nyeri-Nyahururu highway opened up a once closed jungle and with the arrival of electricity to serve the castle, villagers took the opportunity to cheaply make connections to their homes. Land rates dramatically increased in the wake of the infrastructure, soaring to over Sh1 million an acre currently. I am proud that the castle has spurred the kind of economic boom for the villagers I once envisaged in my dreams,” says Waititu.
But the resemblance is in more than the architecture. Like in the European Alps, rock formations in this part of the Aberdares remind you of places, works of art, and utilities in everyday use or living creatures.
The 160-kilometre long mountain range is a cocktail of fascination including the world famous Tree Tops where British Queen Elizabeth became monarch upon the death of her father, King George VI in 1952. From afar, the highest peak rising 13,120 feet resembles a bull with a hump, hence its Maasai name, Oldonyo Le Satima (mountain of the bull calf).
Recently done road networks and discoveries made possible by fresh hikes from the erstwhile unexplored Southern flank include an open space at 12,000 feet above sea level christened ‘theatre of heaven’ for its amphitheater shape and the commanding view the site gives.
Within eye shot from the ‘theatre of heaven’ is a lone pyramid like rock formation that has aptly been named ‘the lost pyramid’ perhaps because such features are commonly associated with far away Egypt while another formation that resembles a wild castle has been amorously named ‘castle of love’ depicting that it would make an ideal hiding place for lovers.
A series of craggy rocks also visible from the ‘theatre of heaven’ are fondly referred to as dragon’s teeth from their shape of legendary mythical reptilian fire spewing creatures in some European cultures.
Nearby is ‘The devil’s sword’ a thick tongue of rock that thrusts out like a sword pulled out of its sheath. Trips to these virgin wonders of the Aberdares originate from Tafaria Castle.
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