By MN Reporter
‘Welcome home’ Jean Paul Fourier, warmly greets me moment after I had just stepped out of the car and into the neatly mown lawn at the Kerio view point, the pint, any visitor will attest is the best to have a glimpse of the breathtaking Iten landscape.
I couldn’t help but notice that Jean had put a slight stress on the word ‘home’. I had called him a day before and informed him of my interest in having a look at the Iten landscapes, famed for its stunning mountainous scenery and he assured me he was more that ready to show me around.
The short ride from Eldoret town to Iten was uneventful. Either side of the road farmers tilling on the farms, a clear sign that the timeless rhythm of the agricultural life which has been associated with the residents of the ‘bread basket of Kenya’ has not lost a thing.
As we take the final bend and into the valley, a group of athletes on practice zoom past us, a reminder once again that I am at the home of some of the countries best athletes. The driver, following my gaze promptly informs me, his voice filed with both mirth and pride that before me lay the former Jelimo’s and Tergat of this country.
Inside the valley, I take the opportunity to fill my lung with the fresh air, slightly scented with wildflowers but extremely refreshing.
My view inevitably shifts to the valley, which the area has been fro along time famed for. For five second or so I am lost in my own world.
The valley, about 2000 feet away is just breathtaking. From the colorful landscape, golden rock surrounding it and covered by the blue skies, its just fascinating to stand and look at it.
‘I felt the same when I came here, and I still feel the same whenever I see it’ Jean tells me following my gaze, his voice bringing me back as we move towards the edge of the cliff.
Our first stop is at a rock standing just on the edge of the cliff. This rock, he informs me is referred to as the ‘Robert’s Rock.
Robert Creten, he explains to me is a Belgian who used to like reading at the rock when he stayed there in 1997 although he has since gone back to Belgium.
‘Whenever anyone wanted him they only had to come here’ He explains adding that from here, Robert could then watch the agama lizards and the behaviors of monkeys deep inside the forest.
I muster just enough courage to sit on the edge of the rock but flatly decline the request to state down the cliff despite several pleas from the other couple who had just joined us.
On the other side, not too far away a group, definitely braver than me are engrossed into their hiking.
Going by the between the valley, 1300 meters above the sea level to the escarpment forest at 2400 meters and eventually to the cold heights of Cherangani at 3500, I have to admit the area will give any experience hiker a run for his money.
‘People are always coming here to test their hiking and biking abilities’ Jean says adding that given its terrains, its the bets place fro the hikers.
Monkeys can be heard chattering as we leave the rock and head for the other side of the view. On our way, more athletes are passing by and I ask Jean if they have a training facility at the valley.
High Altitude training.
‘We accommodate a number of athletes here during their training’ he explains adding that the athletes however train by themselves at the valley.
The place, I am told has also been frequented by a number of international athletes who are eager to learn the reasons behind Kenyan’s dominance in the middle and long distance running.
The likes of Saed Shaheen, formerly Stephen Cherono who is the former world 1500 meters champion is one of the athletes who have used the facility and I promise to come back late and use it for preparation for my Standard Chattered marathon debut.
We leave and on the way, we pass the Elnino hut, a special place for barbeque on the valley. Set above the steepest cliff on the view, Jean explains to me that it was named Elnino after the rains of 1998 when a digger load machine which was being used to make it slid and stuck on the edged of the cliff.
‘It was quite an incident, very scary’ Robert say, his mind visibly still on the incident which happened about a decade ago. He later informs me the place is mainly used for bird watching and also watching the colobus monkeys below.
A few meters away, a family is having their lunch at a nearby traditional hut while three children are clearly enjoying the swinging game. They invite me and for a second I am tempted to join them before deciding against it; there is still a lot of the Iten to view.
We move to what is referred to as the pajero point, the largest view point in the area.
Down, I can see beaters and hornbills slowly going about their businesses. On top of us are the hovering buzzards and the lanner falcons and Jean informs me that there are occasional high altitude eagles.
As we walk away from the scene, he explains to me why the area was named ‘Pajero point’
‘Unoccupied Pajero once took off from packing and crash-landed here’ He explains adding that the pajero wasn’t damaged and is still on the road.
We pass the monkey house, a barbeque hut with one of the finest views of the valley below and here, another couple is having their meals. True to is name, I can see several monkeys just behind it and he informs me they come to look for fresh fruits and leaves everyday.
On our way to the dining room, Jean decides to show me around the Furier room. A conference room partially underground, the room equipped with a television has got capacity of about thirty people.
Just above the door is a stationed glass which I am informed has got a history dating back to 1939.
‘It was a sign in front of a hardware shop in Belgium’ Jean says in matter-of-fact manner. The shop was owned by Eugene, Jean Paul’s father and his three uncles.
It’s almost time to leave the view as I inform Jean I still have to go over to Tambach. As we settle down for a bottle of cock, Jean makes yet another revelation to me.
‘Care to paraglide?’ He inquires. He then goes ahead and explains to me that a number of Para gliders come over to the view each year to have the opportunity of paragliding into the valley and fly over the Kerio view.
‘Most of them are Germans’ He explains and goes head to take me to the room fully equipped with parachutes and other equipments.
‘I wish you could try it. It’s real fun’ He explains after I had decided to put off my maiden paragliding to rush over to Tambach. On our way to the gate, he explains to me the regular patrons they host at the view.
‘Former President Moi was here just last weekend’ he explains adding that Prime Minister Raila Odinga is another visitor they had hoisted recently. He is however quick to add that the view was just to ensure people had the perfect view of the valley.
He bides me a heavily accented ‘Kwa heri’ and soon I am on my way to Tambach, on the other side of the view.
On either side of the road lie beautiful hills illuminating the sun, the hills forming steps from the road. Occasionally the driver has to sop to let the cattle cross over and I have to admit the way the road has formed zigzag on the floor of the view is simply amazing.
We are soon in Tambach and I realize that just like Iten, it is on the valley.
‘This is the last frontier at the valley’ the driver Tambach informs me as we walk to the edge of a cliff.
Hundreds of meter below, people are going about their normal businesses as usual although one can hardly make them up from this far.
I decide to ask been, the driver it is true the myth I heard in college that the locals used to bring up old people on top of the cliff and throw them down in time of wars to stop them from being captured.
‘I have heard the same myth, nothing true about it anyway’ He replies laughing as we walk around the stiff cliff. He informs me paragliders also come here but that the place is best known for hiking.
We decide to go down the view and have a feel at what it feels like to be in there. Three or four monkeys quickly disappear from the road when they see us and on our way, three groups of athletes trying to get accustomed to the high altitude passes us.
The air is just fresh. And save for the chattering o the monkeys here and there and bird cries, its dead quiet inside the valley. Both sides are surrounded by hills and for the next one hour, I have my maiden hike, Ben having turned into very able teacher.
It’s getting late and we join a group of ten athletes into a warm up before leaving for Kerio valley.
he next morning, I decide to spend some time at the Naiberi campsite, just 17 kilometers off Eldoret town and famed for its natural camping sites and serene environment.
On the gate, I am received by Jacky, one of the stewards at the site and I am immediately struck by the silence in the entire site.
‘Anyone home’ I enquire as we make our way through a stone walled tunnel with hanging lanterns on either side, a question which elicits a grin from her. Off course there are people, she explain adding that the site has mainly thrived of the peace and the tranquility it offers.
The tunnel eventually leads to a surprisingly modernized opening; Jacky calls it a ‘modern day cave’. In front are a water fall and about three streams, stone pillars and wooden bridges on top of either of the streams.
Our first stop is at the swimming pool, which I have admit is nothing but impressive.
Surrounded all over with indigenous trees, it’s simply fits into its surrounding. Just on the edged of it are a water fall and a stone carving and on the other side are a beautiful table surrounded by some four seats. She informs me this is for people who would like to enjoy their drinks by the pool side.
The sky blue water is simply inviting and when she asks if I can swim, I momentarily toy with the idea of jumping right in the water.
We then make our way to the disco hall, just in the heart of the site. It’s not crowded but the air is of carnival and I, this time round fall to the temptation to grab the ice cold drinks served here. We settle on a table as she gives me more information on the site.
Naiberi, she explains has be mainly a camping site for cooperate bodies and families interested in having some time out of the busy town life.
‘Its Nature’s own creation’ She explains to me adding that it had been designed to take its guest far back to the stone age with little touch of modern day luxury.
I take a look around the site and I can’t help but marvel at the irony. Here is a place where almost all constrictions are on stone. But the disco hall is truly modern. There is a pool table, darts, a card table for eight, and even a digital satellite television.
She then leads the way to the campsite. From the quietness surrounding it, to the well maintained lush green lawns set aside for the campers to pitch their tents, and the soft sound of the waters of the streams passing by the site, the site simply offers a resting place.
A group is trying to erect their tents at the site and we join them for a moment before passing over to the stone cottages, another feature Naiberi is so well know for.
The cottages, about fifty meter from river Naiberi are all made from thatch stone and precious cedar wood, the same material used in the constriction the disco hall.
We the go through the dormitory o large groups, the cabins before paying visit to the fish pond, also just within the camp.
On our way, she insists that I have to taste the meals at the camp. I just have time for a bite and the meals, she explains are served to the guest’s convenience in the designated dining areas.
It’s getting late and as she escorts me to the gate, two more groups are just getting in for a camp over the weekend. She forces me to promise to come back for a weekend next time, a promise I am honesty keen to fulfill.
Who won’t like to spend a night at Naiberi!