Travel Not To Go Anywhere

“I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson –
Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.

I happen to be part of a group of four musketeers who are always on the move as far as traveling to novel places is concerned. It is through them that I am learning that traveling should be one of my hobbies included in the bottom section of hobbies in my curriculum vitae. It all began one evening at 6 pm when one of them suggested we should visit Lake Naivasha. From where we were seated, it was an approximate distance of 104.8 kilometers, 2 hours and 37 minutes drive at an average speed of 40 kilometers per hour. That was not a big deal. All we needed was fuel worth 1,500 Kenya shillings since we had a 1.5L engine capacity vehicle. We set off. To make it a thrill, we decided to use the Gatundu, Aberdare forest route. As we were cruising through the heart of the great Aberdare forest, for a moment, we questioned why we had used that route. At a speed of 75km/hr, as sudden, as could be unexpected, a herd of elephants appeared and barricaded the road. The time was 2205hrs. None of us had a written will, nor did we have much property worth willing. The size of the elephants was that of African bush elephants of 3.2 meters in height, with an approximate weight of 6000 kgs. We interpreted the flapping of their flaps to mean they were agitated for having strangers invade their territory. That moment of tension lapsed when, one by one, like the Pharisees who had accused the adulterous woman before Jesus, cast their stones to the ground and they walked away. All this while, the voice of legendary Sir David Attenborough kept ringing in my ears as if I was part of the production cast of NatGeo world.

The heavy breathing that ensued brought us to the reality that we had Lake Naivasha to visit. We made a vow never to go through that route in the span of our lifetimes.

Several weekends later, the traveling instinct in us persuaded us to visit Eldoret. We had a heated conversation as to whether Eldoret is the ‘Source of Champions’ or the ‘Home of Champions’ as regards matters of athletics. There was a sect of us who insisted on Iten being the ‘Source of Champions’ while another sect insisted that Eldoret was the ‘Source of Champions’. There was only one way to end it. A drive to both Eldoret and Iten towns. This time, we had a 2-liter engine capacity vehicle that is characterized by zero vehicle sensors. It was manufactured in the year 1994. Its number plate was KAE.  It was a Peugeot 405 Sri. The vehicle’s fuel tank can carry 75 liters worth of petrol. We however filled it to 60 liters initially. A day before the travel, we visited Jareru the mechanic at Komarock.

‘Jaresh, how far can this machine go to in case we decided to use it?’

‘If you decided to go to Egypt using the Great North Road, your first stop would be at Addis Ababa.’

Jareru was a man who inserted sarcasm in every ten syllables he would utter. The distance by road from Nairobi to Addis Ababa is 1,522kms. The distance to and from Eldoret and Iten is approximately 712kms. We were confident.

Many would like to prefer the road to Eldoret as the Valley of Death due to the regions of Salgaa and Sachangwan. As we passed by the area where there was a mass grave of the 77 people who were burnt beyond recognition in 2009, there was a deafening silence. I tend to think that the four of us on transit reflected on the preciousness of life. We all know that our time in this world is limited and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.

We arrived in the serene environment of Eldoret, a few minutes past midnight into Spring Valley estate. Our host was delighted to receive us. Our first question to her was whether Eldoret was the source of champions or the home of champions. She responded with a hearty laugh that we should have given her a call and asked her instead of going all the way. It was for us to find out the following day.

Nandi County is the home of many Kenya’s athletics Champions including world record breakers like Janet Jepkosge, Pamela Jelimo, and the legendary athlete Kipchoge Keino. Eldoret town therefore we confirmed, was the Source of Champions. Because of its high altitude, Nandi County attracts a huge number of international athletes who come in for practice. They can be frequently seen running up and down the Nandi Hills. Early morning in Kapsabet presents what the source does to the champions.

The drive to Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County was one of the best each of us had ever had. The winding road on your way to Baringo should be part of the wonders of the world. No matter what kind of a supercar you’ve got, you must go down the hill at a speed of not more than 10km/hr. the breathtaking site of Kolol waterfalls makes one proud to be Kenyan. Waking up before the crack of dawn to run, you’ll witness groups of Kenyans dressed in track jackets and tights wordlessly embarking on their first of as many as three daily runs. Iten is the undisputed capital of Kenyan distance running, a discipline that the country dominates internationally. Kenyan runners have won 19 Boston Marathon titles in 22 years and have posted 10 of the top 11 fastest times ever in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. For this reason, Iten bears the name, the Home of Champions.

With the road to Isiolo, Moyale, and Marsabit being so tempting, we foresee our fiery traveling instincts leading us there. Sibiloi National Park to be precise.

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
― G.K. Chesterton

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