Heaven’s gate at hell’s gate

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Long Read ahead. Patience needed: 20 mins read.

There is a long, dusty stretch that leads to Hell’s Gate in Naivasha. Just before you take that turn to set your kicks or car to sit on that stretch, there’s a church called Heaven’s Gate Church on your right. To concoct such a name and put it right on your way to the devil’s workshop is a work of a smart ass who understands capitalisation of resources and the power of sagacity. It is a thing a kiuk would do because their propensity for such sheer artfulness is synonymous. It is not that I don’t like kiuks, so don’t misconstrue my intentions – I love messing up with them because on many occasions a considerable portion of them can do anything for money. They use the sliest techniques to sleep with your conscience, and before you know it they have all your money.

Seeing Heaven’s Gate Church reminds me of church. For anyone keen enough such a monument on your way to a place called Hell’s Gate can make you swell with guilt. It does as it is on a Saturday and I should have been in church. Honestly, I haven’t been in church in a minute. And when Saturday shows up at my door, I feel fear stifling me, and it shakes my entire body because I know my faith is getting wobbly by the second. It is tragic when you see yourself going down the drain, and yet you can’t do a thing. During such times, it is not about lacking the strength to haul yourself out, but it is more of a disposition to assume that ‘God will understand as He made you in His image.’ You use that kind of inclination to comfort yourself when you put yourself in a mess.

People of preeminence had something that they believed in. A course. Without a course, a human being is as empty and sad as a dark hole that helps no one, even itself. When you look at Adolf, Sadam, Wanugu, Mother Teresa and other men who made news, terrible or great, you’ll trace a conviction that they held so sincerely. They fought for that course every second of their lives. That is the kind of course that I want with my spirituality. I want to understand better this Supreme Being that I believe in. We had a chance to talk about the Bible with Apollo and Kevin at the gorge’s entrance. As I have expressed previously, I am not adept at arguments or discussions because I have a short memory and I am a sweet, emotional guy who might cry if I lose an argument.  There was a question of why I should believe in the bible and its origin.

As a matter of first importance, it is moronic for any man to contend wistfully over something they don’t know anything about. Not knowing the origin of something does not give you the authority to dismiss its existence. It is true that some things are quite mysterious, and that we can never find answers. But if you’re able to connect the dots, please do because it might be a ticket to a better living. So I don’t question the bible because after having read it, I can relate with it on a personal level and see why it exists. Regardless of whether it is an opium of the poor or a leash to keep us from breaking the rules, if understood to the right level there is a lot one can learn from it without being emotional or judgmental about it.

I look at that church for a moment. It reminds me of how far I have come as a spiritual man and how lost I have become along the same trail. Sadness strikes my heart, and I feel it thump my chest more distinctly. Adjacent to me there is a lass, beautiful with these provocative eyes that can even lure the devil. She has a smile that can give a man a heart attack if she says no to him. There is a cap slanting over her hair, and from the way it is deliberately worn you can tell there is something she might be hiding. It is dependably said that many men chicken out in front of beautiful women. It is true because many of us are assholes. However, I have always endeavoured to fight out of that box by understanding myself better. Whether you talk to her or not is not a problem if you chose to, but if you dread to converse with her makes the whole damn difference. So I have learnt to fight that fear from me so that it doesn’t kill me with guilt afterwards.

The journey from Nairobi kicks off at around 9 am. It is a bit late given that we were supposed to be on our way at 6.30am. It is a habit of many people to keep others waiting, and it is one for the others to honour their promises. But one thing we can agree on is that people care about themselves, and give little shit about others. They’ll show up when it is convenient for them, and apologise without meaning it. There is a problem with us millennials, even though I don’t consider myself in that bracket as I grew faster and lived beyond my age. We do not recognise our mistakes and we do not apologise when we discover we’ve messed. I don’t keep friends like such, our friendship smothers at this point.

After prayers, everyone gets glued to their phones. It boils down to tech, that if you don’t have a device, you can’t survive. We’ve been absorbed by it that it ruins all the fun. People no longer know how to be social. It is a forgotten virtue. Our friendship with our smart devices has grown yet we have a long way to go as human beings. Losing that human touch is a way of killing oneself because it only throws you into loneliness. It is the lonely man that courts self-destructive contemplations, cries inevitably, whines considerably or even plots deadly requitals because he doesn’t have that human connection to act as a human compass.

I carry my phone in case of emergencies.

I prefer sitting silently and observing nature or even sleeping because of motion sickness.  The whole of last week had been a bustling one for me. My daughter Elsie fell sick during the week and got admitted to St Mary’s Hospital in London where the mother works.

Over the week I had tried to call the baby mama and see if I can get to talk to the little woman. If by now you haven’t known, Elsie means the world to me.  I felt shitty all week when I heard she couldn’t talk to me. So there are so many thoughts running over my head when I go into this hike. It is supposed to be a getaway for me, to wander in the wild and clear my head. Entertaining musings can easily kill me. The only way to pulverise them is to connect with nature and try to have quiet fun.

There are 24 of us, a good number for a hike. So as not to look like an asshole, I reveal to Joyce that she might not hear much from me because I suffer from motion sickness during trips. I hope she understands.  I try to sleep. I only know one person in the whole tour bus, Solomon. We’ve known each other for a while, not in a tight way but we’ve met before and talked often on ‘Wozap.’ I don’t like opening my mouth thoughtlessly in front of people that I hardly know; I tend to listen more.

(I don’t want to give you a straight story, I want you to wander in my mind and see the sequence).

At the Mau Escarpment, we make a stop. I remain slumped in the van as everyone else ducks out to grab fresh air and capture moments with selfies and group photos. Sleep was catching up with me so fast, and my stomach was getting startled by the movement.  I stay behind to be the guard as well as relax my bloody stomach.

I happen to get wind that there are people in the crowd who read my stuff and who are excited to meet me. Apparently, after reading my articles, there is an inclination to assume that I am a cheerful and funny guy who can’t rest on his seat even for a second. What people don’t know is that this is a job, and perhaps what I am personally is an entirely different person-chilled out, confident, collected and doesn’t give a shit. The act of me remaining in the bus makes some think I am bored or that I am not having fun. It is one thing to be famous; it is another being yourself.

A few metres past Mahi Mahiu the cops pull us over and part with 500 shillings for ‘careless’ overtaking.

I look at that church while I soak in random thoughts of broken dreams. Dreams I had when growing up, loyal to my faith and an astute man who put stock in a course that now I had abandoned to chase vanity.

We use a snappy break at the start of the dusty stretch. Here I grab a soft drink and two mandazis to try healing my hurting stomach as Solomon, Patrick and the team organises bikes for us. Again, I distance myself to clear my head; I feel like kissing someone and handing over those thoughts to her so that she can deal with them for me.

When we get the bikes, I help Kwamboka learn to cycle as we await further instructions from the honchos. She’s a dark and gorgeous woman, with meat in all the right places. I see there is a ring on the right finger, so I keep my jokes reserved for someone else. Back in my digs, Kwambokas are very beautiful.

Others take a bus while half of us take the bikes to the main entrance where you get cleared to proceed. I have trouble with my gears, and I change them manually before Solomon gives a hand later. When the bus passes me, I am struggling, and some of the guys snicker at me. I finally realise that it is my seat that is in the wrong place. I adjust it up, and I catch up with the other guys in no time.

After clearance, we hurdle in a group for formal introduction before we begin the 8km long stretch. The cycling messes up my sense of hearing. As people introduce themselves, I forget their names after the next person introduces themselves, I got a poor memory. When I introduce myself, there is a big deal. It turns out that many have been dying to know me because they love my stories.You know when you write, it is not a big deal to you. But there are people who identify with and love your stories, and these people usually get excited when they meet you, hoping that perhaps you can do some magic that can blow their minds away. They forget that you’re a human being too, one with a different kind of humour.

It therefore, forces many artists to go beyond their normal lives to impress their fans, only to end up living lies. I don’t want to be that man. It has cost me a lot in the back where I would take my readers out for a brunch just to impress them, or send them gifts, or even chat with them all night while throwing funny jokes and many other things to impress them. I have traversed mountains and valleys to meet men and women, to blow away their minds and fulfill their fantasies. Many have walked those mountains and valleys to come see me, some to take me out to lunch, some buy my time so that I can tell them stories about my life and experiences, which happen to be a ton by the way. I have taken advantage of women and slept with them, women have taken advantage of me to sleep with me, and even men have asked me out. Once I realized it was killing me and making me go insane, I took cover and put myself and my happiness first, to stay out of the limelight as possible and to talk less and when necessary.

I realise that almost everyone has a real job, working here and there except for me who works for nobody. I get to know I am in the wrong group because people who work for somebody are not outliers as I am.

Patrick shares fruits before the beginning of the treacherous 8km trail. I take a banana and an apple, and some glucose for energy. From here we are to walk and bike. Half the number doesn’t know how to ride a bike; this means carrying a friend if you can. But some of the bikes aren’t made to handle the extra weight, like that of mine. We set off.

To admit, I am blown away by Joyce’s beauty. Beauty can be such a good thing, yet it can be a curse. Usually, the beast is chosen over the beauty all the time. Beauty is used to manipulate; beast is used to accomplish. And since many people think of the bigger picture, they go with what can’t make them look over their shoulders every time.

Those who manage to carry an extra person do so while those of us who can’t saddle and whiz. I keep pace with Joyce and Chris. I keep up with them every time, but then I realise Chris wants to take a shot at Joyce. I consider myself a third wheel and have the nigga’s back by dropping myself out of the pack. The bro’s code suggests that if you see a bro trying to hit on a girl, you should give him the opportunity. I do take them photos at the second stop and let them enjoy the moment.

The first stop is at an open area where you can indulge in rock climbing at Kshs.700. Again, people take pictures at the rocks while we wait for the rest of the team to catch up. No one climbs the rocks; I don’t think anyone fancies it. We can see giraffes, zebras, warthogs and antelopes in the grasslands wandering here and there, mostly because they feel disturbed by human presence. There is also a young adventurous kid of an Indian origin riding a bike with zeal before he abandons it to climb the rocks. I admire his spirit, it reminds me of my younger days when I was full of energy.

After that I move like the wind, following my kind of lust and satisfaction, admiring the animals, nature and reeling in the cool spouting wind.  At some point, there is too much sand to cycle. If anyone knows, cycling in the sand is a affair; you can fall easily as it is easy to skid and fall, a thing that happens to this young white lady who comes crushing on the ground. Just like a knight in shining armour, I am there to help her up and brush her clean.

We have a little chat and get to know her name. Conversations with white people are easy to make than with fellow Kenyans. They have this unmistakable fascination to know things, and that makes them good, honest listeners. We push our bikes for a while as we banter. I get to know that Mandy is 23, lives in Brooklyn, pursues a degree in Philosophy and African heritage, has three siblings, both parents alive albeit retired and that she’s seeing someone who happens to be here at Olkaria. I tell her I need to wait for my friends, she hugs me and thanks me for giving her a hand and rides away.

My stomach continues getting jumpy, and I start feeling pressure in my bowels. I branch into the woods and take a quick relieve. I know it sounds disgusting, but it is not like I could help it. It is always advisable to carry tissue and enough water whenever you out into the wild; sometimes a small thing could trigger a bad feeling. After that, I let myself loose and ride all the way down to the gorge’s entrance running into Clinton once in a while before he catches up again.

A man with a big heart helps the rest of the walking pack in his pickup to the gorge. By now I look like someone who works in a posho mill. Most of us do. My flat black shoes are canvassed in so much dust; an animal could hide in there. Since I am in a pair of black jeans shorts, my legs are shrouded in the dust as well. In short, I look like I have already had all the fun there is to have.

There are a number of groups at the Gorge entrance. We freshen up at the taps, some relieve themselves, and others grab a bite while others take a short break. Jose is our guide. He is small a small bodied Maasai, wearing a blue t-shirt, black pants and sandak on his feet. He has brown teeth, I guess from drinking the salty water of Naivasha, and he has a good grasp of the Queen’s lingo.

I stay up with him because as a journalist you’ve to put your mouth where the money is which is the people that matter. He has been doing his thing since 2015, and he’s seen plenty of people. He enjoys his work, and he knows that place like home. Being by his side is advantageous as I get to know the history of the place, his encounters and what it means for him doing this job. I was here back in 2010 but as a student, and a lot has changed.

We tail him quickly, he is a quicker stepper, probably because he sees this place every day and there is nothing new or amusing to him, while to some of us it is the first time and everything is magical. So there is stopping here and there for picture lovers to do their thing while some of us who don’t value them wait eagerly.

Joyce had fallen on her bike and is now limping and needs assistance to move around, or rather company. I am known to be a caring person, but a person like her can have many people at her service. I empathise, but I put myself as a priority- if she can walk, even if it is slowly, well and good. We ensure she receives the necessary support here and there to make it through.

The gorge extends to Tanzania, and you’ll take a month walking if you had the desire to follow it up down to Magufuli’s. When it rains, you can be easily trapped by flashfloods, or even die during the process. In 2012 youths from PCEA Mukarara were killed in this area when flashfloods trapped them in a place they now call the Devil’s Bedroom.  It is where the devil hangs his coat and calls it a day. You can’t find him during the day so you just go there to see how his bedroom looks like if it has some charm you can use to get rich or even lure girls into liking you.

It is a long stretch that gets narrower and narrower, with ups and downs, mostly ups and you need to climb. Nearing his residence, you have to climb to the other side using a thick climbing rope tied to a massive peg on top. Everyone going this way has to climb. For people like Sarah, this can be a nightmare. She is one of those people who don’t like overcoming their fears. When fear attacks them, it eats into them, and even if they are cheered on thunderously, it takes monstrous effort to give a single attempt, to which they come short and surrender. It is only when they discover that climbing up is the only option that they try to shed some of that fear and throw themselves into the challenge. Such people survive alongside strong people. This is not to say that they aren’t strong, they are, but in trying new challenges, they need carefree spirits to hoist them and toss them into the ring.

On reaching the devil’s bedroom, I am disappointed. It is the end of the road. A long wide hole where death can claim you if water came out of nowhere. It is here that those youths breathed last. There was no escape. There is nothing significant. We only take a group photo and then get going. I don’t find any charm to use on the ladies.

On the way, we find an American fellah who is doing videography with a drone. He has Chinese features, so most of us ask if he is Chinese. Y’all know our recent history with Chinese; Kevin gets irritated by the behaviour. “What did you people gain by asking him if he’s Chinese or Japanese or Korean?” It hits me that we just bullied that American Asian. But that is how we Kenyans are. We make fun of every situation.

We go down the same rope in the same way we came up. At the base, there is a group of whites and blacks dancing to music. Some of the guys in our group join the fun. I am not one of them because that is not my style. I don’t like being part of the story; I lose myself when I do so.

At the devil’s kitchen, there is no cutlery or even a chopping board. It is only hot water that runs down the rocks. It is so hot that you can boil an egg with it. I let it touch my arms before I remove them quickly to avoid burning. I do so because it is something every tourist in their right minds is supposed to do. I guess that is how the devil cooks his meals.

To exit the gorge, you use the other end and go uphill. Right there, you find these Maasai women selling Masaai merchandise. I rest as I wait for others because I am a fast climber. The women here speak English and Kiuk. They tell me they know all the local languages. I ask them if they know Ekegusii and they say no. I buy a bracelet from Veronica, who also happens to be Jose’s mother. I buy a pineapple worth 20 bob and for Eunice as well.

We head back to the gorge’s entrance. On the way I catch up with Samuel and Joyce, still limping. At the entrance, we pick our bikes and start on another 5km long ride. There is a giant hill ahead of us; the good thing is that the road is tarmacked.  We push our bikes uphill as others walk. Alvin, Morris and I are at the front. There is also Eunice.

The hill ends, and the smooth slope comes into view. The joy of riding a bike on such terrain is enormous. On either side of the road, there are projects by the KenGen who harvest geothermal power in Olkaria. There processing plants. Everything around here is about power, and I am amazed by the technology, which Morris explains to me later on. There are pungent smells all around.  As you go further from the wells into the processing plants, they reduce. It is a sight to behold.

We reach Geothermal Spa at around five in the evening. I am starving, and I ask if they have somewhere one can dine. Their restaurant is under construction, so they direct me to a hotel in the outskirts. There is no time for swimming, so we all meet at Olkaria’s exit and take the bus to our next destination to enjoy nyam chom.

The place is secluded in an old flower farm adjacent to Lake Naivasha. The roses on the farm have been abandoned. Judging from the many acres of abandoned farmland, we empathise with the billions of money going down the drain. We get wind that the owner was sued for polluting the lake. We take back our empathy.

The food is not enough for everyone. For event organisers, one thing to know is that you can deny a man a place to sleep or clothes to wear, but if you feed him well he will forget the rest of the bad things that faze him. If you give him all the rest and fail to feed him well, he’ll forget everything good you’ve done to him. This is to say that food should always be enough. It is food that keeps people alive; therefore, they look forward to good and enough meals.

People like me have small stomachs. I eat small amounts but often. This means I carry food or money for this purposes so that in case things don’t go well with the plans, I end up well taken care of.

After that, we play a pool game. Lucy celebrates her birthday as we dance and cheer her up. Moments happen. There are flashes and clicks.  There is cake-eating and cake smearing on Lucy’s face.  The next time I am at the pool table kicking balls into the holes. I order warm water to ease my stomach as it is not at rest.

Once more we return into the bus ready for the return journey back to Nairobi. Joyce sleeps in my arms while I wire calls to my two sisters. Final speeches are given, and people recline into rest mode.

Being a nice guy, I like to make everyone feel at home. Check below who was who and my ambiguous thoughts about them.


Chris Didn’t get to interact with him much but I saw him trying to hunt. He is the guy with a phone that can take good photos.

 

Audrey: I helped her ride a bike. She was as heavy as a lady of her size can be. She has a name that I like, dark and beautiful.
Lucy the birthday girl and the ever smiling Solomon
Joyce:  The girl with eyes of an angel and a smile of a thousand shimmering rubies.
Apollo:
The guy who talks a lot about anything. You can’t trust him with company secrets. He can kick your nuts with words, embarrass you and yet manage to make people love. Girls loved him, I didn’t. but when he gets serious he talks sense. On that part I liked him.
Ann:
She said she works in Dubai. She enjoyed a ride with Robert. I hoped to hear good things, like a wedding after this.
Aluda:
There is nothing specific to remember about him apart from his voice.
Alvin:
On return journey I interacted with him. He is a cool guy, talks and listens as well. He is not the attention seeking type.
Edith:
She is a sweet little thing. I guess she can be religious if it gets to that point. Just like Eunice, she a fan of my bullshit. She enjoyed rides from three gentlemen.

Solomon

He knows how to smile and knows his way around people and things. He was at the helm of the organizing team. They did a good job.

Chris:
I didn’t get to interact with him more. But I guess he is good as they come
Charlene:
Always smiling, dark and lovely.
Clinton:
He’s the youngest. He can easily be loved by anyone. He doesn’t know how to cycle but he knows how to swim. He treks, moving fast enough so as to get done fast and get to the Geothermal Spa on time for a good time in the warm pool. He has a bag on his back. I run into him a number of times before I break to wait for others to catch up. I like such people, the ones who have a goal at the end. In the seven habits of highly effective people, Steven Covey speaks of ‘beginning with the end in mind.’ This effectively works if only your expectations are not high or if you don’t focus entirely on the end. As Murphy’s law suggests, if things are bound to get bad, they can get worse. I think he must have become disappointed when time couldn’t allow us to go for a swim.
Morris:
Morris is a handsome guy, one with a free spirit. He unbuttons his shirt and rides his bike as if nothing else matters. He is the trailblazer, riding his bike crazy and having his personal moments of chaste happiness. It is the kind of freedom that I adore. He is the guy who attracts people to himself because of his beautiful mind as well as, well, charm.
Robert:
He is just a sweet guy.  He was Anne’s boo all the way. Hope he didn’t waste the chance.
Patrick, Eunice and Josphat
A very cool guy. You can hardly notice him.

Eunice

She wanted me to talk. She loves my articles and probably had fantasies about me. She found me on a wrong day. I think I like her.

Samwel and Joyce

Samwel

I think he’s an introverted guy who loves staying in the shadows like me. He’s one of those you’ve to spend time with to know him. Such men know a lot but don’t seem like they do, so don’t underestimate them.

Sarah:
I didn’t know it was her because her handwriting doesn’t resemble her. I know her because she’s my friend on Facebook. She can be good at what she does when she gets to know it, before that she can be scared sick.  There is a lot to tell but the post is already extra long.

Jenny

She is the sister to Lucy I guess.  I didn’t interact much with her. The thing is you can’t learn much about girls, ladies or women just by looking at them. They can pretend a lot, so I won’t write things about her because I don’t know those things.

Jenny and Audrey
Carol: She’s this lovely person. She has a welcoming face and smile that is gentle. I know she’s easy to get along with and when she’s alone she rather wallow in her thoughts or sing to feel good.
Kevin:
Kevo has this deep voice. He’s the only man alive I know who uses lipstick or something similar to keep his lips moist.He delivers fruits, if you want some write to us.
Patrick:
He’s the man of the hour. I think I like him because he’s a man who can die for a course. He believes in ensuring things work.  I can employ a man like him because he can’t let me down.  Cheers to you and your team man!

Thanks to the whole team for making it a wonderful day. Cheers to many more.

 

Mzangila Snr,

(The supreme hunter in captivity)

Where shall we go, we who wander in this wasteland in search of better selves?

 

 

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About Mzangila

Mentor, media consultant, photographer, editor, poet, writer, and counselor.

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