Published:Saturday magazine Nation newspaper 10 March 2018
Water gushes down the hills of the Cheranganis at Arror. It’s picturesque in the setting sun with the village kids escorting us to the centuries-old furrows that were dug by their ancestors for fresh water to reach the dry plains.
It’s mango-season. Trees heave under the weight of the fruits everywhere with orchards of pawpaw trees. Herders herd their cattle up the slopes. The cows stop to drink fresh water flowing down a furrow. I cross a plank across River Arror that acts as a bridge secured between two fig trees.
“Look the water comes from up there,” points Fennel Chelimo, a young Keiyo mother nursing her child. “It’s Moyeni Falls.”
It’s a whole day’s hike to the sheer slab of granite rock from where the water falls and is then channelled through the furrows. At this late hour, we only manage the lower slopes.
It’s a pleasant night and we stop for a meal of sukuma, chappatis and sweet tea at the local hoteli. Lanterns lights the street that’s never seen tarmac.
In the first light of the day, the sun scorches the valley between the Cheranganis and the Tugen hills. The colours are vivid and the birds amazing.
Paul Kimani and George Muigai – both keen birders from the slopes of the Aberdares and actively monitoring the two endangered species there – Sharpe’s longclaw and Grey crowned cranes – point out colour-clad birds within a few feet of us. There’s Double-toothed barbet in scarlet red-breast and black at its nest in the hole of a tree, Casqued hornbills, Grey hornbills, Red and Yellow barbet and the one of the two gonoleks we have in Kenya, the Black-headed with a vivid red chest.
A few minutes’ drive from Arror, we follow the course of the Kerio. It’s a beautiful acacia woodland of tortilis in white flower. We stop by the sturdy Teren bridge over the Kerio. Beneath it, the gorge reveals grey boulders hollowed by the force of water when in full flow to reach the world’s largest permanent lake in a desert and the world’s largest alkaline lake, Turkana.
But now early in the year, it’s dry season. The Kerio has little water in it. The gorge is impressive with fishers carefully tackling the uneven terrain to bait fish. They come out with a foot-long carp, clean the stomach and use the entrails to lure the mudfish.
While they look for fish to take home, the guys find a fish that’s only found in the rivers of Kerio – the Kerio sucker-mouth catfish that’s just a few inches long.
By midday the heat is over-powering. Drivng back to Arror, stopping on the banks of River Arror that drains into Kerio River, Muigai and Kimani scan the feathered flocks – and we’re treated to a trio of White-crested helmet shrikes in the acacia. Miles up, it’s the White-headed turaco in Kimwarer at the now defunct fluorspar mine.
A group of Keiyo men stop to greet us. It’s a tough terrain with pasture and water closely guarded from the neighbouring Pokot. The men demonstrate their shooting skills with the bow and arrow, aiming at the hills a kilometre away.
The road further north along the Cheranganis, leads to Tot while another upwards to Kapsowar. The desert rose is in bloom of lush pink flowers breaking the monotony of the thorn trees and succulents. Orchids grow in the shade of the flat-topped acacias and towering red-earth termite mounds stand like castles of clay.
The drive back on the rough road past the clan lands of the Keiyo and Rimoi national reserve brings us back to Biretwo on the main road. It’s busy with the Keiyo women selling all the fruits in season.
We’re on the way back home to Nairobi, passing the daring divers of Cheploge Gorge and up the winding road to Kabarnet. The road continues down the escarpment with amazing views of the Tugen hills and the freshwater Lake Baringo lying on the floor of the Great Rift Valley.
At Mogotio where the equator passes, driving past the sisal plantations and honey vendors, herds of well-fed donkeys are led to the slaughterhouse – Goldox a Chinese operation.
Nairobi to Cheptebo Rural Development Centre on Kenya’s west side is 316 kilometers via Nakuru. Drive towards Iten but turn right at Biretwe for Arror – drive 50kms on dirt road past Rimoi National Park.
Saint Benedict Parish Arror – simple rooms . Carry drinking water,food
Places to visit: Rimoi National Reserve, Kamnarok National Reserve, Iten