A view from the edge of Menengai Crater in Nakuru, Kenya. [PHOTO: NANJINIA
BY NANJINIA WAMUSWA
Nakuru, Kenya: After hearing lots of curiosity rousing stories about Menengai Crater, I resolved to join a group of friends traveling to the place to see it for myself.
We left Nairobi early and arrived in Nakuru two and a half hours later. We then headed straight to the crater, which is located 10 kilometres North of Nakuru town in the Great Rift Valley.
Slowly, we climbed the walls of the crater via the long stretch of murram road strewn with huge gravel. We ended up at a roadblock manned by several Kenya Forest Service officers.
They informed us that we had to pay Sh250 so as to be allowed to visit the crater. This was a surprise since none of us knew we had to pay. We paid, were issued with receipts and walked in.
Going by the number of cars that were parked, it was clear many visitors, both foreign and local, were visiting the crater. Some were busy sampling curios and others purchasing foodstuffs from mabati stalls on the edge the crater.
At the top, which is 2,300 metres above sea level, there is a tall signpost erected by the Rotary Club showing directions and distances in kilometres to several places in the world such as Rome 5997, Tokyo 10,988, Mombasa 579, Cape Town 4,186, London 6,924, New York 12,360 and Evanstone 13,687.
The sign also reads that area of the crater is 90 square kilometres and maximum depth of 485 metres.
We could see the enormous yawn of the crater as it plunged down from the rim, proffering a wonderful green picturesque view of the floors of the crater. We could see some smoke spiraling from the bottom.
At the top the crater, we caught a breathtaking view of Nakuru town and its environs.
It is here that we met Devore Bryan and his family from USA who were there to see the scenic. “I have read a lot about the crater and while in Kenya, I resolved to visit and see it for myself,” said Mr Bryan.
He is one of thousands of visitors across the world who tour the crater. Local pilgrims across the country visit the crater to pray and fast for several days, saying they feel very close to God when praying in the crater.
Pupils from Pistis academy in Nakuru had come for a retreat and educational trip.
Various birds of rare species and several dik-dik, duiker, hyena, baboons and cats can be spotted at the crater.
Menengai Crater is a large caldera believed to have formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. Its name Menengai is said to be a Kikuyu word that means a place for many gods.
A legend claims the crater is home to many demons and ghosts and therefore is referred to as Kirima kia Ngoma, by many locals meaning place of devils.
A number of strange things are said to happen in the crater, such as people disappearing without a trace, while others losing directions for hours or days only to be found by their relatives wandering around in a trance.
There is also widespread allegations of a ‘flying umbrella’ that normally appears whenever it rains.
Still, there are locals who allege that the crater is haunted by evil spirits that capture people and animals and hide them in the netherworld. It is said that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, ghosts used to farm on a fertile piece of land on the floor of the crater.
Indeed, Menengai Crater is one of the most attractive places in the country with its spectacular scenery and promise of activities including hiking, trekking, biking, camping and picnicking at strategic campsites.