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Rare sites for guests visiting Kirinyaga

As Kirinyaga County gears towards hosting the seventh Mashujaa day celebrations, it will be in their best interest for the visitors to take advantage of the meeting and tour attractive sites in the area.

A group of youth during a Mt Kenya mountain climbing tour. Photo by Irungu Mwangi

For those keen to escape the hustles and noises of cities and need a cool, serene, and quiet atmosphere to regain their lost energy, Castle Forest Lodge is ideal.

The lodge is just a few kilometers from Kutus town and is located deep in the thick forest on the southern slopes of the Mount Kenya.

First-time visitors will not fail to notice the natural surroundings of a mountain rain forest, freshwater rivers with falls and a fabulous view of the valley on one side of the lodge and the impressive peaks of Mount Kenya on the other.

The main house was built in 1910 with river stones and wood from the surrounding rivers and forest.

It is said that both Queen Elizabeth and the late President Jomo Kenyatta visited Castle Forest Lodge when they were students.  In 2000, Castle Forest Lodge was renovated to accommodate slightly over 30 guests in cottages.

It is located at a just three-hour drive from Nairobi, off the Kutus-Kianyaga road and about 8 km north of the lodge lies the Bush Hut, a campsite which offers a unique and rare escape for guests seeking complete privacy in the serene slopes of Mt Kenya.

For those who love adventure of mountain climbing, they can climb Mt Kenya through the exploratory Kamweti route, leading them though old elephant pathways through a dense rain and bamboo forest. Elephants roam freely around the lodge compound long into the night.

Locals have it that the father of the universe created the mountain as a final resting-place for people, proving his power to perform miracles and named it Kiri Nyaga.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the Maasai lived on the plateau between Mount Kenya and the Aberdares, where they worshiped Nkai, goddess of rain and good weather.

They named the mountain Ol-Donyo-Eibor, which means “white mountain”. The Meru, who live in the northeastern part of the mountain, believe humans came into being on the mountain.

The current name of the mountain is derived from Kiri -Nyaga, the name given by the Kikuyu to the mountain and the country.

Later on, this became Ke-e-nya-a and currently Kenya. Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya with a height of 5,199 meters and the second-highest mountain in Africa from Kilimanjaro.

In the beginning, the mountain is suspected to have been probably more than 6000 meters high. Powerful eroding by main ice has resulted in a number of peaks, the U-shape valleys and small mountain lakes.

Kirinyaga Governor, Anne Waiguru says: “You can’t get another place where nature and wealth meet; where you can enjoy watching wild animals and birds as they play in their natural habitat.

Waiguru says those visiting will have all their good time with enhanced security and a 24-hour vigil. “The county is collaborating with the national government in the provision of security including setting aside some roads for the use by the locals and the guests to minimize traffic jams in the area,’ she said.

Other interesting sites in the county include the natural bridge labeled Gods Bridge, (Ndaraca ya Ngai) which was used as a hideaway joint for more than fifty Mau Mau men and women during the colonial times. The bridge is just a drive away from Nairobi- Embu highway.

Foreign tourists during a visit to the Castle Hotel in Kirinyaga. Photo by Irungu Mwangi

Clear rivers in Kirinyaga also provide endless opportunity for trout fishing.

Another major attraction to Kirinyaga is the largest rice scheme that spreads along Thiba and Nyamindi Rivers creating the beautiful paddy carpets that define Mwea.

Waiguru says those attracted to culture will have the Mwomboko dancers handy for their entertainment.

The group formed in the 40s bares a name from the Kikuyu traditional dance is known as Mwomboko.

And for those who would be interested in learning the origin of Kikuyu, Meru, Kamba or Embu, as well as experience a taste of their roots or cultural background, Thingira cultural village is the place to visit.

By Irungu Mwangi

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