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Where the devil performs wonders

By | December 21st 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Joe Ombuor

Lost a valuable item to thieves or con people? All you need do is travel to Marafa village at the coast, about 30 kilometres north of Malindi and you might just recover it.

And this has nothing to do with witchcraft, for which Coast Province is famous. So do not arm yourself with money to pay for it. All you need is faith that your problem will be solved.

Not by yelling, comical preachers invoking divine intervention, but by silent, invisible powers residing in mythical grounds gullied centuries ago almost to the entrails of the earth by erosion and landslides.

Lost items

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According to the locals, many people have recovered their lost items at the yawning gullies they call Nyari or jiko la shetani (Devil’s kitchen).

The yawning Nyari gullies. Photo: Joe Ombuor/Standard

"All that you need to do is have the courage to descend down there and request the spirits to retrieve the stolen item from whoever may have taken it. Go back home and the item will be returned," says Julius Mwambire, a tour guide at the sprawling site said to cover about 200 acres.

But he warns that the culprit must not be harmed or prosecuted, as that would invite the wrath of the spirits with unspecified dire consequences.

Mythical powers aside, Nyari has become a magnet for local and international tourists who troop there to have a glimpse of this geological wonder.

The not so brave ones stare at it with awe from the safety of a guardrail as the more daring and adventurous venture into the rugged series of gullies that resemble the work of a thousand contractors chipping away at the mass of earth and rocks.

A warning written in Italian and English reads, ‘Attenzine movement oltreque sta barrieda sono proibiti. Preco chielere una guida allufficio’ (movement beyond this safety fence is prohibited’. Please ask for a tour guide from the office)

Mwambire explains that Italian had to be included in the warning because most foreign visitors hail from Italy.

"While Africans are apprehensive about going deep into the crater, tourists draw delight from the nature trail that takes nearly an hour to cover, through white mud during the rains or shorter when it is dry," says Mwambire.

Picking souvenirs

He says foreign tourists do not visit for the purposes of recovering lost items, but some have claimed to have heard strange voices there.

"They prefer walking around, posing for photographs with monkeys that abound in the crater and picking souvenirs to carry back home," he says.

The place is associated with evil spirits because of the strange voices residents claim to hear and miracles ranging from the cure of diseases to recovery of lost items. Locals claim that in the evenings, mouth watering smells waft from the caves as the devils prepare delicious meals.

Mwambire says they have established it is the plants around the crater that produce the smell on hot days. How did the gullies come about? Giriama folklore has it that a rich man by the name Mzee Mwagandi had his home there, surrounded by hordes of poor people.

To look different from the poor people, Mzee Mwagandi and his family resorted to bathing with milk from the many cows he owned as the people around him starved.

That angered the gods who decided to punish Mzee Mwagandi’s family.

Dead of night

In the dead of night one day, the villagers heard a loud noise that sounded like the roll of thunder only to come out and find that Mzee Mwagandi and his entire family and livestock had been swallowed up in a landslide. The incident was believed to be a warning to rich people who have no regard for the poor, so concludes the Giriama folklore.

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