Published Saturday magazine, Nation newspaper 29 July 2017

Above: A.I.C. Church Nyahururu

A tall silver spire breaks the tree line beyond the gorge of the Ewaso Nyiro River flowing from Thomson’s Falls in Nyahururu. “It’s an old church,” tells Pushpa Ratna of Nyahururu Panari, that’s sandwiched between the gorge and Marmanet forest, and within an easy walk to the hippo pools and the historic falls first reported to the outside world by the intrepid Joseph Thomson in 1883. He is also the first European to walk from the coast to Lake Victoria through central Kenya which was deemed dangerous because of the fearsome Maasai.

It was a ploy by the slavers and ivory traders to keep outsiders away and hence have the monopoly over trade. The route Thomson mapped is today’s road from Mombasa to Lake Victoria and parts of central Kenya.

In the oft-repeated story of how he chanced upon the falls, he was so mesmerized by the sheer beauty that he named them after himself. At the time in 1883, there was no permanent settlement where today Nyahururu the bustling town is – a town in two counties –  Nyandarua that is the land of milk and potatoes and Laikipia.

We follow the nose – so to speak – towards the direction of the silver spire that looks like a magician’s pointed hat and sure enough near Nyahururu Sports Club which supports a 9-hole golf course is the pointed peak of the spire. The club members taking a break from the good game of golf tell us of the school by the church with “white people’s things in it.”

It’s the African Inland Church (A.I.C) – a handsome building with massive wooden doors and enormous knockers. We wander through the neatly kept lawns.

A young lad asks if we need assistance. We tell him we’re curious about the tall spire that’s not a usual feature.  David Karanja the young man becomes a good guide. He gets the keys to open the church and leads us through the 1953 building and up a flight of stairs to the hollow spire that’s built in three layers.

“The three ladders take you to the top,” he points. We’re not allowed to climb because the ladders are for the cleaning staff. Sunlight filters through the cross crafted in glass tiles on the wall supporting the spire.

The church inside is big with the wooden pews from the 1950s but a burst water pipe has the wooden tiled floor flooded that could ruin the beautiful surface.

Young Karanja escorts us to the church’s cemetery by the woods. One side is filled with crumbling graves of the Dutch settlers in the early 1900s, inscribed in Dutch with many born around 1890s. A handsome marble tombstone with a sheen of aged patina and shaped like a book lies by the rubbish dump. Karanja shows the grave of the Dutch man responsible for the spire. “You see the statue. It has no head. So when the Dutch man finished with the spire and was climbing down the ladder, he fell to the ground and his head got separated from the body.” Sad story and we can barely read his name engraved on the tomb stone. The plaque by the church door hidden in the bushes has his name – G KERK VAN S A.

Anyway, Karanja then finds out that the church was built by the Indians living in Nyahururu at the time, commissioned by the Dutch who had tulips growing in the town. “This was the Asian quarter,” continues Karanja when Kenya was segregated along racial lines. “People say that there is gold hidden in the spire.”

It’s probably why the story of the headless overseer is powerful to keep the spire from being vandalised – who knows.

Nyahururu News

Get fit – run up and down Thomson’s Falls.

Grey Crowned Crane on its nest Copyright: International Crane Foundation / Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership
Grey Crowned Crane on its nest Copyright: International Crane Foundation / Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership

Take a stroll through town or go birding in the grasslands and to Lake Ol Bolossat, the only lake in central Kenya that’s a strong hold for the endangered Grey crowed cranes and Sharpe’s longclaw only found in the tussock grasses of central Kenya. For birding contact George Ndung’u He is the founder of the birding group in Nyahururu.

Nairobi to Nyahururu via Njabini is 200 km. You’re in the midst of many safari circuits from central Kenya.

Drop in at Thomson’s Falls Lodge built in the 1930’s by a struggling British man who borrowed money from his brother – it became Nyahururu’s premier hotel of the time – charming by the falls.

Stay in modern comfort at Nyahururu Panari Resort Panari Resort Nyahururu by the gorge Ask for local guides to guide you to the hippo pools and to the forests of Marmanet and Rumuruti where the elephants are.