Running Tales


The story of the Eburu run can be told as a tale in two movements

Planet X
Planet X

The first movement begins over 4 billion years ago (give or take a half billion years). On a cold Monday morning (it has to have been a Monday morning) as Scientific legend tells it, a rogue heavenly body of gigantic proportions wandered too close to the Earth and gave our planet a hefty wallop, one so severe that it was cleaved into at least two pieces. One piece later became the body we know as the moon, from whose lunatic inspiration are named most runners, the Swaras included. The other bigger piece cracked in many places, the pieces barely holding together and on one side left the giant gouge that became the Pacific Ocean.

The drive down
The scenic drive down

The second movement begins last Saturday, when a group of intrepid Swaras made the wet and treacherous drive past Eburu shopping center, down Oljorai escarpment to Lopua’s grandma’s house where the run was to start. For those who are cursed with technicolor imaginations, like Ndegwa and yours truly, we could not help remarking on two things. The chalk marks with arrows all pointing back the way we had come, meaning the run would start with the mother of all mountains to climb. Secondly the terrain, ‘how the hell shall we drive back up with the tracks in such bad condition?’ Ndegwa wondered. The 4WD vehicles were struggling just to get down and I am sure he worried about getting his 2WD back up the mountain. Luckily he didn’t have to as we found another way out, longer but even more scenic.

The run up
The painful run up

Scientists still argue about what caused that heavenly collision so many years ago. The only thing they seem to agree on is it was not the first one, nor the last hit that the Earth will take. The next one is just a question of when.  Some people now think the collision was the effect of a possible giant ninth planet (Planet X) which apparently has an orbit so eccentric that it shows up in our solar neighborhood only once every 3600 years or so, which explains why it has remained hidden up to now. Apparently, every time it shows up, planet X causes all sorts of cosmic mayhem, sometimes hurling heavenly bodies at each like so many pieces of rock; imagine a curious bull wondering into a china shop.

The view
The view

But gravity and time are great healers. Over many years the broken pieces of our planet were pressed back together, a process that still goes on. The evidence for this can be seen in the major fissures to be found in the Earth’s crust and surface, like the Pacific rim of fire in Asia, the San Andreas fault in America and the Great Rift Valley in Africa. Geologists tell us that the process of pressing back these giant tectonic plates created some of the largest mountain ranges on Earth and even today the process causes many of the tremors and earthquakes associated with these areas. Other evidence includes features like hot springs, where hot water well ups from thousands of meters under the Earth to the surface, often emerging as steam. The weeping of a yet unhealed planet.

The view - or the difference between a photographer and an artist
The view – or the difference between a photographer and an artist

One of these features was in full view as we drove into Eburu and Otora and Lopua had made sure we run right past it. The Kenya Power Generation Company (Kengen) has been working in this area, taping into this ancient disaster in an effort to plug our energy deficit. One of the geothermal power stations is located smack on our running trail. By the time we got here we had completed the mountain climb – a painful 8 Km of what the Chairman had promised would be five.

Despite the intermittent rain, no one was complaining (not audibly anyway). The reason is clear. The view from here is unlike anything you have ever seen. A vast expanse of what is the floor of the Great Rift Valley stretches away as far as the eye can see, with Lakes Elementetita and Naivasha shining far in the distance. I can now understand why some Kenyans have been scrambling to buy land here. This would be the perfect location for a holiday home…Arafat was almost salivating when we drove back.

At the power station, the trail turns into Eburu forest proper. Forming part of the southern fridges of the Mau water tower, this forest has suffered from human encroachment and very little of it now remains. An electric fence has been constructed to hold back the threat of extinction and I do hope it succeeds. It would be a great loss of diversity if this forest disappeared. The flora and fauna gives testimony to ancient origins – from the range of plants you see, I didn’t see animals but I am sure they are there. Giant ferns everywhere, strange flowers and even the painful stinging nettle that gave us so much trouble; I am told that, according to fossil record, these are some of the oldest plants surviving on Earth today.

The fissure in the Earth's crust
Taping the fissure in the Earth’s crust

The forest stretch was too short though and soon we were out …down the hill and a sharp right to a T junction where the marks disappeared completely. Here you had to stop, say a prayer to your favorite deity and toss a mental coin. ‘Go left,’ mine said. I went left. Four painful kilometers later I was to realize I had made the wrong turn. Clearly my prayer was ignored, or someone up there was distracted. No wonder. It was a Saturday after all and Leicester were on the verge of winning the Premier league, a true miracle if any were needed. Serves me right for supporting the registration of that Atheists organization; not that I believe in their God anyway.

Lopua’s grandma had prepared plenty of hot sugary tea; very welcome after the cold rain in the forest. There was also lunch, plenty of rice and meat. I found that my ride, Ndegwa, had left already, clearly fearing that the rain would make his exit from Eburu impossible. But he had thoughtfully handed over my well-being to the said Arafat, who delivered me right back to the Panorama Hotel in Naivasha where Ndegwa had picked me up from that morning. Thank you very much both of you.

The Chairman has mooted the idea that we could make this run the second Ultra Marathon on the Swaras annual calendar, after Mt Kenya. I am sure the CRE will consider this good proposal with all seriousness and in their full wisdom, vote YES. It will be a wonderful and unique addition to our repertoire of challenging runs.

The elevation
The elevation

Meanwhile, back to that ancient cosmic conflict; since the discovery of Planet X, astronomers have been crunching the numbers. From their calculations, it appears that this monster of a heavenly body will show up near our Solar system from around the year 2029. Who knows what kind of mayhem it will bring this time? So we better get in all the runs we can before then. (NB: granted much of this is speculation but, you get the point)

Come to think of it, that vision 2030? Can someone tell our politicians to stop fighting over none issues and get cracking on the real stuff?


P.S. This tale has a third movement. About Lopua’s people, how and more importantly, ‘why’ they came to be in the Eburu area. One day, if you buy me a beer, I may tell you the story.