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Krazy Kenya


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 18, 2002
Saturday November 20, 2004

Places of mystery

By Society Team

Ask about Kituluni hill in Machakos District and people are likely to take you aside and talk in hushed tones about strange goings-on, witchcraft and sightings of ghosts dressed in white.

You will be told about happenings that stand Isaac Newton’s Law of Gravity on its head, such as water flowing uphill.

Some 300 kilometres away from this spot, in Nakuru, equally unlikely stories are told about a mystery cave in the Menengai Crater.

Few places in Kenya, indeed in the world, are without their own stranger-than-fiction stories that defy logical explanation. Outsiders might dismiss them out of hand, but local people hold on to them with a firm conviction.

Kituluni, 12 kilometres east of Machakos town, has long been the subject of speculation, and visitors have travelled for miles to witness the strange goings-on at the extraordinary hill.

It is perhaps the only place in the world where a car that is switched off can roll uphill, unaided.

On the way to Kituluni, one passes through Mutituni and Kivutini. A tarmac road leads toward the strange spot. It is a dangerous drive with tortuous twists and turns.

Halfway round the hill, regardless of the speed at which the car might be moving, it is always jerked forward and suddenly moves faster without any discernible change on the speedometer.

Kituluni hill covers an area of about a square kilometre, and if you want to prove that the hill is indeed as strange as it is said to be, you can carry out a few experiments.

If you switch off the car and park it at the side of the road with nobody inside, it immediately begins to move up the hill at a speed of approximately 5kph.

It has been known to do this for a distance of up to a kilometre, and just to prove that this is no fluke, it has been done over and over again with the same results.

Although the Kituluni spot lies on a very steep part of the hill, experiments carried out with water produce the same results. Water can be seen flowing up the hill, instead of down.

For about 20 metres, the water flows in this manner until it changes course and flows to the side, but even then it never at any one point flows downhill.

The same pattern is repeated when an empty bottle is placed on the spot and even though it only rolls for a few metres, it moves all the same.

The villagers claim to have an explanation for this strange phenomenon.

It is said that many years ago the local people used to make sacrifices to their ancestors on the hill. In those days the area was known collectively as Kivutini.

The sacrifices were meant to appease the ancestors and seek favours from them, such as bringing rain or casting out evil spirits.

There was an altar where special rituals were performed, and was thus regarded as a holy place.

Things changed when the road passing through the area from Machakos town towards Kaloleni was constructed and people were forced to conduct their ceremonies further down the hill.

Although the road has been around for quite a few years, no one seems to remember when the strange happenings currently being witnessed started.

Villagers say they have even seen strange people dressed in white who vanish as mysteriously as they appear.

Even though experts still hold a sceptical view on the area, no serious study has been conducted to explain the strange phenomenon.

Tourist attraction

At the Menengai Crater in Nakuru, curious tourists are drawn to a controversial cave by stories of strange happenings that have convinced many that it is a haunted place.

A number of strange things are said to happen in the crater, such as people disappearing without trace.

Others have lost directions for hours, or even days, only to be found by their relatives wandering around in a trance.

Those who live nearby call a hill near the crater "kirima kia ngoma (Satan’s hill)". People claim to have seen the ‘devil’ riding a motorcycle there.

Last year, James Gichumuni (now deceased) allegedly spent two days in the crater. The old man, who had gone to the crater to graze his animals, failed to find his way out despite being well versed with the area.

In another incident, a boy was found staring at a bird after going missing for seven days.

When asked where he was and what he was doing, he remarked, "I have been watching a beautiful vision for a few minutes."

Back in 1987, a schoolgirl disappeared without trace in the crater. Efforts by police to search for her using helicopters bore no results.

The latest mystery about the crater is a ‘flying umbrella’ that appears whenever it rains. But no one has ever bothered to find out where the umbrella goes after the rains.

Although a good number of Christians go to the crater to fast and pray, it also attracts a fair number of suicides. Two Catholic priests are among dozens of people who have leapt to their deaths into the 845-metre crater.

The latest incident was in November, last year, when a priest plunged his vehicle into the crater.

The local people believe that the crater is haunted by evil spirits that capture human beings and animals and hide them in the netherworld.

It is believed that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, demons or ghosts used to farm on a fertile piece of land on the floor of the crater.

An elderly resident, Esther Wanjiru, says the ‘demons’ used to plough the land with tractors, plant wheat and harvest all within an hour.

"You sat there watching and before you knew it, all these activities had taken place and the land would go back to its former state, a grassland with no activities or life," she claims.

Despite the eerie stories about the crater, pilgrims from as far as Kisumu, Kakamega and even Mombasa come to pray and fast at the site for days.

Some even stay in the cave at the south of the crater for months. They say that they feel very close to God when praying in the crater.

The cave, large enough to house hundreds of people, commands a superb view of the crater.

Imposing hill

Travelling east from the Nairobi on the Nairobi-Kangundo highway, the expansive Ukambani plains roll out before the eyes.

As one approaches Kangundo town, a rocky outcrop comes into view. This is the famous Koma Rock, considered a shrine by many.

The hill has been considered a sacred place since time immemorial.

Kamba elders used to journey to the rock to offer sacrifices to their gods at a designated shrine known locally as Ithembo. Ithembo in Kamba means a holy place.

There, they would also pray for rain and for protection from plagues.

According to Paul Malinda, 80, the old folk believed that a strange and powerful force resided there.

A fig tree still stands on the spot where the sacrifices were offered.

Mzee Malinda says that stories were told of how visions of old men would appear at the shrine in the evenings and then disappear after a while.

He says that in 1970, road engineers constructing the Kangundo-Nairobi highway wanted to move the shrine so that the road could pass through the hill. This sparked a furious protest from Kamba elders.

They agreed to have the shrine moved to another part of the hill, however, after a bag of sugar and two goats were offered to them as sacrifices.

"Despite the sacrifices, the blasting of rocks was very difficult — with machinery constantly breaking down," says Malinda.

He claims the engineers abandoned the route after realising that there was an unknown power preventing the rock from being blasted.

Today, the abandoned murram road is still visible from the top of the hill as it meanders through the Koma rock plains towards the city. Mzee Mwithi Musau, who is believed to have been born in 1900, says he was among those who used to offer sacrifices at the shrine, accompanying famous Kamba rainmakers and prophets.

Musau believes that it was a supernatural power that stopped the blasting of rocks.

Today, the shrine has been taken over by the Catholic Church, which has turned it into a site for pilgrimages.

These days, it is often the scene of processions, singing of hymns, recital of prayers and fasting.

Fr Thomas Vaddesary, who is in charge of the shrine, says the church chose it as a place where faithful could spend time in prayer.

"Koma rock is a place where traditional believers used to offer sacrifices in the past but now it has been turned into the shrine of our Lady," says Fr Thomas.

At the top of the shrine is an imposing 70-foot sculpture of Jesus Christ in the arms of his mother Mary after the body was lowered from the cross.

Given its background and current religious activities, the Koma rock hill shrine is still a place of mystery for many.

Across the country in Nyando District, stories of ghosts and haunted places abound, especially in Kore and Kobura.

Kobura location borders the partly stalled Ahero Rice Irrigation Scheme on the Kisumu-Nairobi highway.

A four-kilometre stretch on the Ahero-Lela road is widely believed to be haunted by ghosts.

On this stretch, many grisly road accidents have been witnessed between Korowe trading centre and Lela Secondary School.

A resident of the area, Mark Ojwang’ Nyabange, says the accident jinx was caused by the deaths of an old woman and a child who were run over by a vehicle many years ago.

The residents believe the large number of accidents are caused by the dead woman’s ghost, which keeps coming back to confuse motorists.

Villagers who go to assist accident victims claim to have been told by the drivers that they had seen a ghostly old lady cross the highway driving a herd of cattle just before the accident.

Elsewhere, about two kilometres from the Nairobi highway towards Kore village, a ghost is said to haunt a bridge. It is claimed that many residents of the area, including a young man known as Joseph Omondi, have fallen victim to the ghost at the bridge.

Omondi recalls one night sometime back when he set out at night from his home near K’otieno Odongo village to visit his relatives in Kore.

An architecture student at a Nairobi-based college, Omondi says when he approached the bridge he met an old woman clad in a buibui who requested for assistance.

"She pleaded for help to cross the bridge and I obliged, but by the time I crossed the bridge she had vanished," he said.

Villagers say the ghost often greets people in Dholuo: "Amosi swaya! Amosi swaya! (Warm greetings! Warm greetings!)."

Would hyena's testicles be subject to excise duty?

Once a street child in Kenya and a grave digger in the UK, George Wajackoyah has become a political sensation by running for Kenya's presidency on a promise to turn the East African nation into a major exporter of marijuana, snake venom and hyenas' testicles, although many question the feasibility of his plans.

The 63-year-old professor, who has a background in law, has proved to be the most eccentric of the four presidential candidates contesting the 9 August election.

Polls have ranked the Roots Party candidate a poor third - the latest one, released on 11 July, gives him just 4% of the vote.

But pundits say that for a first-time contestant he is doing well and the two front-runners will be worried about shedding even a single vote to him as the poll predicts a tight contest, putting veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga on 43% and Deputy President William Ruto on 39%.

"Wajackoyah is running on an outrageous platform that would ordinarily be laughed out of town, but there is no doubt that he has captured the imagination of angry, disaffected youth in both urban and rural Kenya, cutting across all the regular ethnic, regional and party lines," writes Macharia Gaitho, a leading columnist with Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper.