A lone eagle flies at my feet, and catches a sudden gust of wind.
He glides, riding the reluctant wave. He seems standstill at a point in the air, right at my feet. He flaps his wings when the gust ends, and catches the next one. She comes up from somewhere below him and joins, disrupting this solo act. Together they seem like a couple on the dance floor, following each other’s rhythms with their eyes closed. Feeling the movements of the other’s body without even touching each other.
The wind is the music in the background.
In the distance, a young boy lights a jiko with a bunch of old newspapers. The smoke billows from the sides and top, and slowly battle the air, forming a flowing trail. In the distance, a cloud forms atop Lake Kamnarok, almost giving it a small ecosystem of its own. As if it only rains where the earth can handle it.
The clouds are the music in the sunlight, adding texture to the forests and the roofs down below.
It seems the entire world is below me, and birds and the smoke are putting up a show. I feel like I am sitting alone in the VIP booth watching an orchestra, feeling nothing but the magic of natures ensembles working to create more majesty than I have ever seen.
I am standing on a rock, then I am sitting on it. At some point I am leaning on a wall, ignoring the couple in full white on a plank of wood behind me, taking in the whole scenery. What in nature’s plan is this picturesque yet murderous looking valley with such beauty, like a scene where a movie about an evil overlord who loves children but hates their parents is waiting to be written?
This rocky edge of the earth is not a place where you think about the continuously decaying society you live in, or its selfishness and arrogance, or why only the worst of society win elections. It’s not a place where you shake your head when the next person eventually dies because someone somewhere thought public money belonged more in their wallets and purses than in hospital supply rooms or road repair. That their children deserved a better education than everyone else’s, or the better job.
Standing on the rocky edge of Kerio Valley is where you forget all this. Its where you think about the future, the great unknown, and wonder whether any of the people on a date here really care about the scenery or are just bidding time to get into each others pants. It doesn’t really matter, because love loves to love. It loves beauty and brilliance, whether of human beings or of nature. And the entire purpose of nature is rebirth, and part of that for human beings is courtship, or the art of practicing, and sometimes, accidentally, succeeding. It’s a place where nature’s fanatics bring potential mates to test whether they can appreciate how nature’s paint brush found the perfect sketch.
A bizarrely winding track divides those who live above with those live below. If you are up early enough, skinny frames in tights and jumpers will appear in the headlights, one group after the next. These are the next crop of world conquerors, and some men and women who have already stood at attention with medals hanging from their necks as the national anthem plays. Perhaps that elixir that researchers have wondered about, in Kenya’s five decade dominance on the tracks, is not genetic but aesthetic. That views like this inspire women and men to rise early and fight the hills, and fight with their own bodies, to be something greater than themselves. Perhaps that secret to glory has been here all along for everyone to see.
The image that remains of Iten though are not these unassuming champions, whose skinniness makes me feel at home finally. Its not the disruptive architecture, though tastefully finished and furnished, of the Kerio Views Hotel. Its not even the drive at dusk to the view point, to watch the meanderings of the road that goes down this valley. Instead, what remains is just how powerful it feels to stand on the edge of the world and look to the great beyond. A great beyond where life goes on, a perspective where this beauty goes the other way round.
That’s the thing about travel, and why most Kenyan communities have adages that insist on travelling to taste food not cooked by your mum, or wife. Its not a testament about food, although it might as well be, but about seeing this world from its many different angles. There are the thin, suffocating and yet aesthetically marvelous streets of Lamu, or the time-frozen Old Town in Mombasa, or the stony hellish beauty that is Turkana, or the lush valleys of Meru. A single country is nothing but homogeneous, because nature thrives on tweaking its design to find what works. What works here doesn’t work everywhere else, and it well shouldn’t. Nature might abhor a vacuum, but it is completely allergic to uniformity. No two things of the same kind, replicated in all aspects, should ever exist. One must die.
In 24 hours, I will be standing at The Marina on the shores of Lake Naivasha, bearing the morning cold. The dying acacia trees, poisoned by the water and strangled of all life, slowly, will litter the foreground.
Dead trees laying like mermaids on a rock. Some finally give in and die, while others look like they have not lost the fight yet. Death and beauty will be in concert, tempting me to walk into the sea.
In another five, my body will finally give in at the back seat of the Cruiser. The shutdown will be so fast I can hardly stop myself, and will take me to the land of nothingness for two straight hours, in a car parked in sweltering heat. I will even forget one of my bags in Naivasha, as the fatigue of a 12-day odyssey finally wins over my will to survive. As I fall into the deep kind of sleep that sometimes feels like death, I will dream about standing on the edge of the earth, and stretching my arms wide open. I will flap them, and join the eagles at my feet.
One Story is good,
till Another is told.