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KAJIADO'S LAST FRONTIER



Kajiado is a county of extremes. Ngong town is sleepy and confused, Rongai is a frenzy. The rest of Kajiado is an untamed wilderness that will remain so unless someone discovers oil. I've lived in the two towns. Nothing worthwhile happens in Ngong, people are eternally bored. They walk around silently, ghosts, as if they are hiding something.

Rongai wasn't meant to exist. Working-class fellas bought land from broke herders and grabbers. It was supposed to be a middle-class haven of retirement. Such that after years of working, folk could build their retirement homes and watch grandchildren run around. Other people planned it to be an unadulterated place where they could raise kids from the dangers of the big corrupt city. It was for a while.

Then some genius thought of putting up universities in Rongai. Residents are still cursing whoever came up with that idea. What was supposed to be a peaceful gateway, shifted overnight into a festering pot of chaos. Campus students flooded the area. With them, came night clubs, drugs and runaway husbands. Hostels resembling Rio favelas mushroomed, more are coming up. Crime has hit new heights.

Rongai lost its allure in a flash. It's now a bustling outpost of youth. I wonder where the retirement home chaps will relocate to? The backstreets have been infiltrated with seedy pubs selling cheap booze. Bored campus students walk around in crocs, high, drunk and fat. The air has lost its Masai scent. In its place are weed, tobacco, cheap alcohol and sex. Rongai stinks of sin, it's an Amazon that lost all its trees. There's no turning back, no saving. Students are the poachers and illegal miners. The poor residents are endangered species, UN should assess the situation.

Last week, I boarded a bus for a trip. It was a school thingamajig, organised by one of those lecturers who behaves like a high school maths teacher. He's a cool guy actually, only that… We were to tumble around in Kajiado and learn about the environment. The bus was a world. I sat beside some chick who slept all through the journey. I don't know if I appeared dull or it was the trip which was uninspiring. Thankfully, she did not snore or rest her head on my shoulders.

We spiralled through the fringes of Ngong Hills. The air was cold and uninspiring. Green everywhere. Lone livestock grazed on the slopes. Shadows of clouds covered the hills. I looked at them and thought 'okay'.

The driver took a few suspicious turns, and we were past Ole Polos. I had been that way before, at night, though. The last time I was in such leagues, it was a birthday for a friend of a friend. Homeboy decided to throw his party in some bush camping site. The place had no electricity or running water. Armed with tools of debauchery, we showed up. Night had fallen, a hissing wind tore through darkness. Our guides made a bonfire. We wasted a weekend away. A couple of boys and a dozen girls. Three days partying in the middle of nowhere. We smelt like beasts. My disdain for parties developed. I can't handle them these days.

The trip would end at Magadi. That would be our zenith. The road was tortuous, a single strip of peeling tarmac that seemed endless. Along the way, the authentic face of Maasai land came alive. Pastoralists with jaded looks herded equally lacklustre livestock. Goats and sheep stared defiantly at the bus as it sped along. Little green thickets were a constant figure, rain has been pounding Kenya.

Before Oltepesi centre, a lone petrol station marked the entrance to the town. It had one pumping point, defiantly exposed to the elements. The rest of the structure, housing an office, stood perilously. A car was packed beside. Oltepesi is a market place, where sons and daughters of Maasai land do business. The place had a confusing vibe. Few stone structures dotted the area. Mabati makeshifts covered the most part, housed most businesses. On the edges of the centre, Manyattas stood. Oltepesi was a cautionary tale. Men walked around with Rungus and swords. Chaps rode motorcycles, their red lessos danced in the wind, the effect, a bewitching festival of vision.

Esonurua area was a biblical throwback. The road carved through the slope of a valley. At the foot, a stream made its way through rock and sediment. Kids watched as their sheep and goats drank. They were two boys, slender but tough. They would have been a speck in memory, but they had two donkeys in their herd. Images of Moses flashed by. Joseph in Egypt danced through my head. David killing a lion? (is that in the bible?) It got me thinking of Jesus and his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. I pictured John the Baptist wandering around in the wilderness, eating honey and riding donkeys.

Travelling to Magadi is more like a pilgrimage. It takes bits of your soul. Folk sleep on the bus. Women who act like royalty are all sweaty. Makeup can't survive in that environment. You're who you are. Some Lunje will play lousy songs on the bus stereo. Songs which seduced our mothers but no longer hold water.

Actually, seduction died long ago. Everything happens at a moment's notice. I was chatting up a chick, weighing my chances. She was headed to some event, she asked me to be her company. I declined. I could only be her date. She cooed sweetly "What if we get there, and I like someone else and want to leave with that person?"   Words left my mouth. My tongue went dry. I've been avoiding her ever since. I wondered, how fast do women make the decision where they are shagging you or not? Why are we subjected to a meaningless and endless musical chair if the decision was made long ago?

Some folks hitchhiked with us. A father and his daughter or his wife, I wasn't sure. The girl was offered a seat far from him, she turned it down. I found that cute. Kids waved as the rickety bus tumbled through their territory. Visitors are welcome, that was the message. A mother jumped aboard. She held her kid close. She never smiled, not once. Her face was a mask of hardship. When she alighted, I read the message on her lesso 'kwa rehema zake tunashukuru mungu.'  Western religion has infiltrated even the most remote of African frontiers.

On the bleached shores of lake Magadi, I ran into Jacob. I did not catch his Maa name. He was a shepherd. His herd was all that mattered. Jacob was getting married soon, you could feel his anxiety. It reeked from his eyes and face. I wished him happiness.

The leagues around Magadi are natural and untouched. Isolated Manyattas dot the area. Nothing seems to happen, but life is unfolding. There's a sense of an unfenced beauty. Wells have been dug along the road. Horizons are blue, and shrubs stretch endlessly.
Kajiado is extreme.


The heat burns up your skin. I made the mistake of hugging some chick, she was smouldering.

Half of life is filled with purposeless pursuits. Goose chases and wild hunts that add no meaning to the grand scheme of life, which is a crooked scheme. Topping the list of meaningless ventures is archaeology. I don’t understand archaeologists. What drives them? What gives them purpose in life? The first man to explore archaeology, what was he thinking? Honestly, shovelling through earth trying to find remains of past creatures is a weird endeavour.

Olorgesailie housed this madness. It’s a place which fits no map. But archaeologists crossed seas and traversed nations to dig it and date mankind. There are subjects that defy human understanding; love, life, and archaeology.

Olorgesailie prehistoric site was a side trip. It was never meant to happen. But as everything unplanned, it stole the show. The fist of men probably walked there. It has the largest collection of stone tools. Certain ilk term it as the "factory of stone tools". The site sits on a former lake basin. We walked through it silently. It felt like hallowed ground as if we were interrupting a sleeping royalty. The air around tasted different. I was blown away.

You picture the heights we've conquered as a species, the peaks. Then you experience our rudimentary beginnings at Olorgesailie, suddenly life has meaning. If someone you know is giving up on life, feeling hopeless and sad and purposeless, send them to Olorgesailie. Everything we are, all man has built, has roots in that desolate lake basin. The place lets you know that something can be made out of nothing. For now, it's a faded city, a long-forgotten kingdom. I saw a cat and a dog. What more evidence is needed that our forefathers roamed? Life attracts life?

"The beauty of travel is that you're headed home." Those are not my words. I am not sure who they're either. Maybe it's A A Gill, I really don't know. They kept ringing in my head on the journey back. In spite of Magadi's angry beauty, I did not wish to remain. It's a place you experience once, and it's enough.


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