The idea of visiting apes, man’s closest relatives, made the tour of Nanyuki personal. In my culture you don’t visit your relatives empty handed, so I packed a few fruits for our cousins
Njange Maina @NjangewaEunice
Every time Nanyuki town is mentioned, I recall a decade-old fable on why the railway line never went past the town as it tore through Central Kenya from the Coast. As the tale goes, a railway engineer lost a map to a prostitute. Without the map, the railway project came to a halt.
Today, Nanyuki is a town of geographical interest since the Equator cuts across its suburbs. It is also a major tourist centre because it lies on the shadows of the snow-capped Mt Kenya, making it a base for mountain climbers and tourists keen to explore Mt Kenya National Park. And as I found out recently, this area also hosts the largest rhino sanctuary in East Africa, among other conservancies.
Kenyan Adventurers, a tour company had announced an interesting tour to Nanyuki. Among the activities listed for the group tour was to visit the memorial site of the late Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino. Sudan died in March this year, putting his species on the brink of extinction.
Apart from visiting the Rhino Sanctuary at the conservancy, we were also to visit chimpanzees, the closest primates to humankind. The idea of visiting cousins made the tour sound a little bit personal to me. And as my culture teaches me that you don’t visit your relatives empty-handed, I decided to pack a few bananas and apples for the cousins.
At quarter past six in the morning of the material day, I was seated in a bus with five others, waiting for departure. Departure time was scheduled for half-past six sharp, but we drove off at seven o’clock as a group of 30 tourists, picking a few more along Thika Superhighway.
I had chosen a lone seat near a back window so it would be easier for me to meditate without interruption. I just don’t like early morning conversations. The bus stereo played random music but I was listened to Long
lyrics by Brandy Norwood. In her world, a long distance was killing her love affair.
Captivating sceneries started appearing gradually as soon as we left Thika Superhighway—pineapple, avocado and other horticultural crops. Near Nanyuki town, the agricultural farms were interrupted by semi-arid vegetation.
We stopped at the Equator line on the outskirts of Nanyuki town. A hustler wanted to demonstrate what the Equator means – at small fee. He put some water in a white porcelain bowl that had two small sticks in it and a small perforation at the bottom. A small bucket was collecting the dripping water.
By moving 20 metres from the equator line mark, he demonstrated that the sticks rotate in a clockwise direction in a moderate circular motion in the north, remain stationery at the Equator, and float anti-clockwise to the south. Witchcraft?
“The Equator is basically a demarcation between the northern and the southern hemispheres and this is a demonstration of the Coriolis
Effect,” he said.
We hastened our journey to Ol Pejeta ranch, now only a 30-minute drive. At last, the sanctuary came to view. A herd of gazelles grazing nearby stole my attention, but the urge to visit the chimps grew stronger every time I peeped outside our van.
Ol Pejeta is expansive. You travel several more kilometres before you locate the next herd of animals. The chimps are located just a walking distance from the restaurant area. Finally, I was home.
Max was the first to welcome us. In fact, he clapped after seeing us. Max is a male chimp who was rescued from French filmmakers who were training him to act like humans.
Max is bipedal too, just like humans. He walks on two legs. He behaves like an elderly man who is somewhat caught up in middle-life crisis, but still retains swag.
The chimps live in a tightly fenced zoo. We had arrived a bit late and so feeding time had passed. Sadly, I could not be allowed to feed the chimps as they follow a systematic feeding programme, so I later shared out the fruits with my colleagues.