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Travelling Kenya: The magic of waterfalls

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Jayne Rose Gacheri | May 1st 2021
River Thingithu Waterfalls in Uruku, Nkuene location, Meru.[Jayne Rose Gacheri, Standard]

Gura, Magura, and Chania waterfalls, all in the Aberdare Forest.

I left Meru (where I am based) late afternoon on a Wednesday. Three hours later, I was checking in at the Panari Resort Nyahururu, my base for ‘chasing’ the first waterfall.

A set of vintage canons adorn each side of the entrance to the Panari Resort reception, which is placed strategically such that it overlooks a man-made mini replica of Thomson Falls whose burbling sound I could hear. 

Experiencing Thomson Falls

Thomson Falls (named by geologist and naturalist Joseph Thomson in 1883) is a spectacular sight, and one of the popular attractions in Nyahururu town.

The waterfall is a walking distance from the Panari Resort. Though the trek is quite challenging due to the steep descent and strenuous uphill climb (with no security railings in some sections), the view is worth the trek. The descent gives you a chance to exercise and have fun at the same time.

The sensation of watching the thundering of the waters as they plunge 74 metres down into a swirling pool of water is indescribable.

As I go down the steep cliff (sometimes almost crawling on all fours), I am urged on by the impressive and thundering of the waters -  a mass of water plunging down into a fearful gloomy gorge. The crevices support to a splendid drapery of creepers and bushes, the spray from the waters yielding the necessary nourishment.

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The Nyandarua County Government is refurbishing the area around the falls. Impressively, the number of visitors from across the country has been steadily rising, especially before the lockdown was imposed. There are curio shops at the entrance where you can buy custom jewellery for memories. 

The next morning after a sumptuous breakfast, we drove straight to Aberdare Forest, where we would be ‘chasing’ four waterfalls. As we approach the forest, the landscape changes from urban centres to farmlands. Suddenly, all this changes to stunning picturesque setting of mountainous backdrop that seems to hold secrets for those willing to brave them. Before we know it, we are driving past steep forested ravine and open moorland.

Magura waterfall,Magura falls are situated at the mouth of the Queen's cave, in the southeastern moorlands of Aberdare national park.[Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

 

The serenity, and oneness with nature is unmatched. Add to this, the crisp fresh air, untouched beauty, clear streams of rivers and you will want to escape from the dreary urban centres.

 

After a ten-minute-drive from the park gate our guide asks the driver to stop. He explains that we will take a walk to the first waterfall. It is a well-marked three-kilometre trek to Karuru Waterfalls. Our four-wheel drive vehicle could easily make it through, but the nature trek is part of the experience. The views of the golden moorlands and cool forests filled with adorable green cedar tree are incredible.

Then we hear the sound of rushing water as we draw near. The sound of the cascading waterfalls are exciting, even before you see the real thing.  “It has just begun,” our guide whispers.

Karuru waterfalls

Finally, we are here; a thundering sound building up my anticipation as I walk down three steps. As I take in the awesome sight of Karuru waterfall before me, it brings out mixed feelings, wonder, calmness, peace and a little fear as I wonder what would happen if I slipped as I stood on a stone to watch the waterfall from the most beautiful viewpoint. But I tell myself I have done more scary things – bungee jumping at Victoria Falls with only an elastic rope tied on my ankles and skydiving at Diani beach – memorable experiences to last a life time!

The thundering Karuru Waterfalls reminds me of my experience at the spectacular, awe-inspiring 1,708-metre wide and 108 metres high Victoria Falls – Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders). It is also called the Place of the Rainbow, because of the constant spray.

Though Karuru waterfall fades in comparison with Victoria Falls, it is an outstanding grandeur of the Aberdare forest.

A few metres away from the falls is a picnic site, where we tuck in heartily as we enjoyed the great display of the falls.

Gura waterfalls

From a strategic point, we viewed yet another mystical beauty in the Aberdare forest – the Gura Waterfalls, which unfortunately we could not reach, as there are no hiking trails leading to the bottom of the waterfalls. The falls drop to 302 metres and stands at 2,707 metres above sea level. An awesome green of the rich flora and fauna of the Aberdare forest surrounds them.

After getting back to our car, we drove to the next waterfalls – Magura Waterfalls, that is also home to Queens Cave. 

These are a two-in-one waterfall, approximately 20 feet. The source of the waterfall is Magura River. The vegetation around is spectacular – yellow canopies that comprise of flowered lobelia trees line the sides of the waterfalls.

I also notice that waterfalls are distinct. For Magura, it is the trees that from afar seem to kiss the rocks for protection as the white frothy waters roar and hit the pool with such enormous force.

Covering the rocks all around the pool are some kind of grey stringy beards growing on rocks, which our guide explains is moss that grows due to the freezing temperatures.

As we leave Magura Waterfalls, Ndungu, our guide, briefs us on the history of Magura and the Queen’s Cave. We learnt that before she was crowned Queen, Princess Elizabeth had lunch at the Magura Waterfalls.

Local Tourists at Intake Waterfall at Dundori Forest in Nakuru county on August 15,2020.[Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

The wooden spot where Queen Elizabeth and her entourage had lunch before she went back to her hotel – Treetops Hotel, where two days later she ascended to the throne after the death of her father King George VI in 1952 still stands. Ndungu explains; “Some hopeless romantics make a beeline to visit this place.

Our next waterfall is Chania. Our drive through the moorlands is awesome, sometimes giving us a contrast between scary dead silences and the roar of cascading waters. We saw buffaloes, elephants, hyenas, different bird species, and other wildlife.

Chania Falls 

The trail to the falls is steep. However, there is a makeshift staircase and rail to make it is easier for the climb down and up. Chania Waterfall is a single 50 metre high waterfall that “spits” tens of metric tonnes of water into the pool below. 

So powerful are the gushing waters that I experienced the sprays of cold drops of water from metres away. I was lost and mesmerised by this natural phenomenon, that it was time to end the chase. 

Chania Falls looks deceptively taller than Magura falls and the experience is phenomenal – that of a private setting as compared to the others, probably because it feels as though there is a security wall surrounding it.

Other waterfalls worth chasing include: Fourteen Falls, Adamson Falls, Sheldrick Falls, Tigoni Falls, Webuye Falls, Chepiit Waterfalls, Kereita Cave and waterfall, Laggard Falls and Broderick Falls.

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