The wind gently blew past my face. I could feel the dew as I ran my fingers on the tall green grass and the sun was rising on the horizon behind the pale blue mountain. On the distant land I could see antelopes and zebras grazing all mingled up with the herd of cows and also goats of some local pastrolists who camped nearby.
I paced up my little steps down the hill to see the great river which quietly flowed on the gentle curves of the hilly banks. What a view! There were some fishermen fishing in the middle of the river. They didn’t have a boat. All they used was what they could find locally. Some logs of wood, cut to some length and tied together with a home threaded sisal rope.
“Mto huu unaitwa Athi,” said a man behind me. (This is called Athi river). I looked up and back to get a better view of him. He was fairly an old man with wrinkles on his face. His skin looked dry probably due to the extensive time he spends under the sun. On his right hand he held a long stick and with the left hand he pointed to something across the river. I looked over and saw an animal drinking water on the river bank.
“Je, unajua jina la yule mnyama?”
(Do you know the name of that animal?)
I shook my head to say no.
(Its called a buffalo)
Then we both looked up to the pale blue mountain.
“You see that mountain, it was named after that animal. Its called Kilimambogo, the Buffalo Mountain,” he finally said before a long-quiet-pause.
That was 18 years ago. A very young boy I was.
“Kuna mtu anashukia Kilimambogo?” the bus conductor shouted. (Anyone dropping off at Kilimambogo?)
Quickly I stood up and headed for the exit door. Whoa! The sun was too hot. Cattle were grazing along the road and I could see houses built in close ranges. This was not the kind of view I could get in my child days. You could only point your neighbor to a distant away. Your finger almost seemed as if its pointing upwards towards the horizon.
Two days later, and its was time to head down the hill to get the familiar view of the river. Pretty much it looked as it used to but not as much. The path down the river had changed. This was due to cultivation taking place near the river banks and the rising number of settlement. It also didn’t take a long time to know why the wild animals are no longer on sight. I dipped my hand in the water. It had some strange smell. The water was polluted. There were no longer fishermen nor the wild goose on the water or hippos on sight.
Suddenly, a young man came to fetch water to cultivate his crops. He was in his teenage, tall and happily whistling his way down to the river bank.
“Excuse me,” I started out, “Do you know where I can see the hippos? And what happened to the wild animals?”
“The wild animals you can find them in the game park. The hippos you’ll have to travel upstream along the river, just a few kilometers away”
“And where’s the game park? ”
“Its on that mountain you see there”
Two weeks later, it was time to face the Buffalo Mountain.
Mt Kilimambogo. Surely, who wouldn’t want to conquer the mountain to its summit? 6:30 am was the time I was advised to be at the park entrance. After the custom checks and regulations we were summoned on an open ground and given the precautionary measures as we were likely to encounter wild game. Finally, the green flag. Accompanying me were my kins and a game warden.
He was a sturdy man very upright and energetic. You could easily mistake him for being in his 40’s but he’s in his 60’s. That was some challenge of physical fitness to me. But the hike was part of getting to know what happened over the years. I pretty got the answers needed.
“Due to the increase in human settlement, wild animals were slowly being pushed away from their natural habitat. So they came to settle in the mountain area. The reason as to why the mountain is also part of the game park is not only to protect the game animals but also the natural forest habitat. With increase in population, charcoal business grew. Charcoal was considered as an alternative source of cheaper fuel. So the trees on the mountain slopes were being unnecessarily cut down. There was need to protect this natural vegetation. There are a couple of wild animals in the park but the most distinctive one is the buffalo. Wondering in this mountain without a warden can be seriously dangerous if you encounter with them. Due to their apex temper, a short encounter with them can be a matter of critical life evaluation. The population of hippos in the river dropped. This can be attributed to the increasing pollution levels in the river. Most of the hippos are moving upstream to safer waters. We need to create proper management of waste and chemicals disposals.” Warden X.
Atop the mountain you can see the massive deforestation. On one side of the mountain, bare land stretched out on an extensive area of land. The side facing the river, most of the natural vegetation is still preserved. Officials in the park hope to recover most of the tree cover through reforestation.
Don’t get the park as a nasty view. Its a place I’d recommend one to visit. On the mountain top is this large field of clearing with cool temperatures. You can play some outdoor games, picnic, take self or group photos and if you used a vehicle to get to the mountain top, there’s a good spot for viewing the buffalo. I never got the chance because I hiked my way up. There are also historical sites to get knowing.
As I close this story, lets all protect nature and make it better. We want the younger generation to experience as much as we do or even more.