It is only the nimble school children and a few daredevil adults who are able to climb on top of the rock.


"Behold the ancient wonder of Ciaigiri rock, steeped in mystique and folklore." Found in Embu County, Kenya. | Photo Courtesy of iNews

From the Stonehenge monuments of England to the legendary Kit-mikayi stones of Kisumu city, there is a hidden gem in the hinterlands of Eastern parts of Kenya at Embu County. Hidden about an hour’s drive from Embu town as you head towards Meru County, the shortest turn to your destination is by taking a turn at the Kawanjara junction and following the highway that proceeds to Embu South.

A sectional view of the grand rock.

Just like the above historical stones, this peculiar stone that is surrounded by offshoots that stand erect as if guarding it, it has its share of mythological references and other wonders. However, unlike the other stones that have now been preserved as heritage sites, this boulder is privately owned and the owner has preserved it for close to a decade with totally nothing in return.

My curiosity and drive for adventure takes me to a quiet village on top of a hill that locals call Kaguma. It is a few minutes is to 5.00 o’clock and the sun is setting. Located at approximately 30 kilometers Eastside of Meru-Nairobi highway (off Kawanjara junction), the village is precariously erected on a hilly gradient but perched on top of this hill like a cap is a huge rock whose glory and fame overshadows that of the village.

I meet a group of men seated by the roadside whiling away. I introduce myself and ask on the whereabouts of the oldest owner of the rock. They direct me to a brick house that is barely visible from the roadside and tell me that their mother, whom I come to learn is the matriarch, is in a good position to give me the information about the rock.

On nearing the gate, I can overhear loud popular music. I get into the open compound and seated next to a loud transistor radio is an old woman who looks approximately seventy five years. She is listening to an evening radio show being aired by a local radio station.

The rock's current owner. Ekila Igandu. She is also a griot and a traditional poet.

I greet her and she keeps shouting that I repeat what I had just said. As we continue, I request if I can turn off the radio so that we may speak and she consents. However, she keeps on shouting and I think to myself that perhaps she might be losing her hearing capabilities.

She repeatedly asks what I usually do and I keep telling her that I am a writer.

“What do you write?”

“Stories of interest,” I tell her.

She thinks for a while and she asks, “What do you want to write about me?” And before I can answer her, she continues, “Can I sing for you?”

“You do sing?”

“Yeah, I sing for couples during the wedding. I am also a poet and a traditional singer.”

“No problem, go ahead,” I tell her.

She introduces herself as Ekila Igandu whose sins have already been granulated (her second name means a grater) by Jesus. She starts to sing and she realizes that I am not recording. She stops.

“I thought you were to record me and play me on the radio?”

Now I am getting confused. I get my phone out and start video recording her. She closes her eyes and sings very well. Some elements of an imagined audience start to come out of her short performance and when she sings a maumau movement song, she piques my interest.

“You are an amazing singer. Were you a freedom fighter?”

“Yes I was. I joined the freedom fighters when my father got killed after being betrayed by a neighbor who lives down there. Unknown men came for him at night, took our goats and a bull and killed my father by beheading. The next day I joined the movement and went into the forest to fight.”

It is a sad story. She gets emotional. I then seize the moment and dive into my main topic of interest. She brightens up with pride.

“Those who are old will tell you that the rock is called Ciaigiri rock. It is my rock and it was prophesied by Mwenda Mwea that it will fly away to Matururi town,” she says. “As we speak, that prophecy has already been fulfilled. They have built a school at the prophesied location.”

The rear end of the boulder.

I am now confused because the stone is still there, intact!

She tells me she was born in 1933. That makes her 89 years old. She looks younger and her memory is very sharp. She seems to have somehow dodged the bullet of old age and its miseries. She tells me that when she was young, the stone was flat on the ground and all the villagers used to dry their grains like maize, millet, sorghum, black beans and peas.

If someone had heard about the prophecy by then, it would have sounded ridiculous. Fast forward, 89 years later, the rock looks like it is ready to roll downhill if not flying to its prophesied destination. Right now, it is approximately 15” ft in height at the accessible side. The opposite side is over 20” ft in height from the ground level. The rock looks like a giant black shark and Ekila informs that it is perfectly flat on top.

I have my qualms about climbing the rock because I have a fear for heights. However, it is only the nimble school children and a few daredevil adults who are able to climb on top of the rock. To a keen eye, there are two dirty trails that disappears on top of the rock and lying on the side is a forked stick that helps to hoist others up by those who manage to climb on top.

“It is very beautiful up there. You can see up to Embu town,” she says.

When I ask her if she has witnessed any accident on the rock, she quickly says, “This is a rock of good luck. It has never hurt anyone.”

Interestingly, a loud blast goes off at a nearby quarry. I ask her if she has ever thought of selling the rock or even leasing it to quarry miners.

She tells me that she has no intentions of mining the rock and on asking her why she can’t just build a ladder up and charge fees for climbing it, she thinks deep and says, “If I had money right now, I’d fence it all round, build a staircase up and charge visitors access fees at the gate.”

The front, and only accessible side to the flat top.

I am impressed she is such a visionary and a conservationist. However, when I look around and I search my heart on the fate of this historical stone after it changes its custodianship, my vision starts to become uncertain. However, I dearly hope the subsequent generation will actualize the vision of their matriarch and preserve this gem that sits on top of valuable Embu cultural resources for many decades to come.

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