Rotarians, members, and guests enjoying the walk at Karura forest, Nairobi

Growing up, “The day I will never forget” was such a synonymous composition title for most language teachers. It almost came immediately after schools reopened after a long holiday. We all anticipated this title to the extent that I had curated and envisioned a well-stitched story in my mind, should it show up on that English – Composition exam. The story would flow somehow like “… I woke up at the crack of dawn before the sun would send its glaring rays through my window….” Unlike you, I was not a fan of the frogs’ kingdom so I rarely mentioned it.

Forget that. This is not a story of how I enjoyed compositions in primary school. This is a story about day I will literally never forget. Honestly, as an adult, I have had so many of those days which I haven’t written to my English teacher about. Well, she might like this one and it’s my hope and prayer that you will, too.

On the 5th of September 2020, the great Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central had mobilized its members and friends for a day out in the wild. Our destination was the expansive Karura forest, through Gate C along the busy Kiambu road. Unlike the days I described in my chaotic primary school compositions, I did not wake up at the crack of dawn. (What time is the crack of dawn anyway? LOL). However, it was a bright warm Saturday in September. It was one of those few days which promised good tidings. I was super excited just like I hoped everyone would be. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had not been in any social gathering for a long time. This was literally a breath of fresh air outside our self-quarantine. The walk was set to begin at one o’clock. At this time the celestial fireball in the sky was threatening to melt us all. This did not deter anyone as the forest has a thick canopy that would protect us or so we thought. We all wanted to laugh with the monkeys and soak our lungs into the fresh air bequeathed by the forest. Karura Forest is so rejuvenating!

Rotarians, members, and guests enjoying the walk at Karura Forest, Nairobi

As we started our nature walk, we got into different groups and the conversations kept going. Some talked about the politics in the country. Others were exploring trending movies and series. Another group was wildly catching up on career and job opportunities. There was even a group talking about Calculus (Imagine!). For our group, we went the Briton way and talked about the day’s weather.

It was a long walk into the forest and so as such, we created and explored scenarios – should it rain. You could tell that we were prepared for the worst but kept walking, hoping for the best. The magnificent and breath-taking Karura Waterfalls was a key destination for everyone. Owing to our unanimous love for social media, we all envisioned taking photos at the falls and splashing them online. Someone had even suggested possible harsh tags to use! #NatureWalks #NatureLover #NatureOnly #RhumbaYaKarura (Remind me to laugh about these harsh tags that never saw the light of day!)

Moving on swiftly!

We got to the waterfall trail but the road was blocked. Everyone halted to deliberate on the next course of action. The thought of missing out on the selfies at the waterfall was dampening so we unanimously decided to forge ahead. The clear blue sky was slowly welcoming nimbus clouds and turning grey but who was looking up? We were all focused to find another route to the waterfall. Little did we know that the nimbus clouds had something in store for us.

No sooner had we made way to the waterfall area than heavens opened; with gusto! We were in the middle of nowhere and it started raining – heavily. This threw everyone into a frenzy. We faced a major dilemma – where do you even seek shelter from the pounding rain while you are in the middle of a forest?  Lord! The trees canopy momentarily offered a temporary shelter but the rain showed no sign of subsiding. By this time, the rain had turned torrential and I was sure that either someone had made the rain gods angry or that the gods were answering a farmer’s prayer 

And in the midst of this confusion, someone unleashed an umbrella! How did they even know it would rain? But wait; there is more. They did not have a backpack or any luggage, so where had they stashed this umbrella? My mind was working like Google Chrome; so many tabs were open and I couldn’t place a finger on where the music was coming from! This is the layman’s definition of a brain freeze!

Kama mbaya mbaya”. The torrential rainfall did not show any sign of subsiding anytime soon so we agreed to disagree with it by walking back to the Karura entrance– in the rain! The ground was already spongy. Shallow streams of water were beginning to form and I kid you not, the monkeys were hysterically laughing at us. It warms my heart to say that the rain hit so hard that it equalized everyone – those cartels who had mysteriously carried umbrellas and those of us who had opted to “freeze and shine’. The footpaths were already full of mud and we were all dripping with water. Yes, you could be forgiven to say that everyone was wet!

Walking back to the main entrance in the middle of the rain was one of the longest walks of my life. With clothes and shoes soaked in water, you could barely move. I saw someone frantically trying to restart his phone, which had now soaked in the rain. We saw two love birds taking shelter under the trees in tight embrace under an umbrella that could accommodate up to five people. They seemed so comfortable it was so annoying. How did they even remember to carry along an umbrella? Maybe the aliens warned them. Talk of “swallowing a potato” out of jealousy!

Rained on members at Karura Forest, Nairobi

By the time we got to the main entrance, we were drenched in the rain. There was no point to even run. Some of us had even made peace with the fact that they needed a new phone. Even those who had sworn not to walk in the rain were now seeping water from their Gikomba jeans and rubber shoes. As we gathered by the parking lot, hurdled together under the few available umbrellas, there were those who were laughing at the others, owing to the fact that they had mud all over them. Others were imitating how some were shaking with the cold. Others were busy taking photos secretly; to be unleashed at a later date during a totally unrelated event/ discussion. Others were dancing in the rain, dancing to imaginary music. Others were busy calculating how much it would cost to blow-dry their hair – salons would make a kill out of the experience! Others were wondering how they will even walk in town lest they bump into their longtime crush while covered in mud and water. People were lost in thoughts!

However, we all had a common denominator – laughter. An honest laughter which would be mistaken as that of a retarded seal or a dolphin on a Sunday morning. Nicholas Mutaiti, our Club Service Director (bless his soul), waved his magic wand and somehow managed to arrange transport for everyone home.

After all the scorching sun and the torrential rain, the only hashtag that would appropriately fit the photos taken was #RCNCExperience.

Just in case you are a sucker for a happy ending I am happy to report the lovebirds left the shelter, got into their car, and hopefully have lived happily ever since.

Article by: Susan K. Maina || Assistant Secretary || Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central.

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