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The hidden attractions of Meru

By Jayne Rose Gacheri | October 25th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Sacred Nkunga Lake inside Lower Imenti Forest in Meru County. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

Many will easily pick out Mery National Park as a place of interest when visiting this region, but as we found out, there is a lot to pick from. Our road trip bucket list included visiting such tourist attraction sites.

Driver Antony Kirogwe, who doubled as our tour guide, explained that there are many sites to visit in Meru.

They include King Muuru tree, Nkunga Sacred Lake, Lake Ellis, Gaketha Elephant and Maternity Sanctuary, Jesus’ Foot, Ngutu and Mau Mau caves,  Njuri Ncheke Shrine and Charana Farm.

Our first stop is the more than 300 years legendary and spectacular King Muuru tree, located deep in Meru forest, about two kilometres from the KWS station. Although there are no signs of any development to popularise the site, Community guide Ayub Manyara explains that plans are underway to do so.

We spend a few minutes taking pictures and playing hide and seek in and out of the enormous hollow in the tree.

Signs of activities here include cooking inside the hollow and prints made on the tree, a historical record of those who have visited.

Nkunga Lake

Our next visit is Nkunga Sacred Lake, 10 kilometres from Meru town, along the Meru-Nanyuki highway. The lake is sacred and cultural to the Meru and surrounding communities. It was, and still is, a holy place for offering prayers and performing rites during calamities such as drought, famine, or a plague.

The lake is a picnic site to many but like the King Muuru tree, rehabilitation is yet to happen. A private developer’s attempts to develop the lake as a tourist destination were unsuccessful. Lake Nkunga suffers degradation that is affecting the surrounding environment. It is, however, a lavish site for outings – a great photography locale.

Charanna Farm

The drive to Charanna Farm (Charles and Anna) takes us 20 minutes. The Farm is located at the Subuiga-Isiolo junction along the Meru-Nanyuki Highway. Our charming and comedian host Humphry Kiruki meets us at the entrance to the facility, and I can tell our time here is going to be full of fun.

Kiruki, a former shipping, and logistics officer narates how he bought the 50-acre dry shrubland and transform it into an agricultural farm.

“The challenges were many and I had to tactfully retreat and find another way of developing the farm, and the rest is history,” he says.

Charanna Farm is an exciting destination at the foot of Mt Kenya. Here families, friends, lovers of 4x4 Challenge and motor-cross enthusiasts have fun-filled moments. “We have developed the site for picnics, nature walks to the Mau Mau caves, a motor trail for 4x4 motor challenge, and motor cross,” explains Kiruki, a legend of the famous East African Motor Safari.

Other highlights of this countryside destination include camping, treasure hunts, Booths & Jeans, koroga (cooking competitions), and “cooking in the wild” where enthusiasts are given “kitchens” to explore their cooking skills.

Hiking to Mau Mau caves

The hike is an adrenaline-raising experience. It entails a scary rock-climbing escapade for the weak at heart but an exhilarating, and exciting experience for extreme adventure lovers!

We are walking through a nature trail when we suddenly come to a dead end. We have to find a trail. Next, we are crawling down a steep gradient and bang! I am rolling down, and by the time I stop, a huge root traps my foot. It takes Kiruki and Mugambi (guide) to pull me out of the trap.

Finally, we are atop what looks like a torrential waterfall during the rainy season. The view below is beautiful.

The caves are located behind a waterfall (now dry). As we explore, we can see soot on the walls of the caves indicating past human activities.

We find paw prints on the dusty cave floor a probable indication that a leopard had been here and maybe still was. I was about to go into panic mode when our guide explained leopards only come out at night. The animal had probably crawled into a nearby wormhole.  

A call to 78-year-old Mzee, Erick Gichuru, confirms that this was indeed a Mau Mau hideout, as the colonialists would not imagine that maluki (mau mau) would live in a waterfall.

“This ndurumo (waterfall) was a hideout, and armory storage for the Mau Mau, and Kunyua muma (oath-taking) and disciplining of traitors used to happen here,” Mzee Gichuru expounds on the phone.

Finding our way back, Kiruki takes us through the 4x4 challenge and motor-cross trail before we drive to Kiirua Market for a much-deserved nyama choma session.


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