Author Archives: Nasrin Suleiman

Diary of an Explorer at the Tugen Hills…

Day 6: Touring Kipsacho!!

We embarked on another day of adventure as William accompanied us on a tour of the other side of the Kir Dam. He took us to the most beautiful and serene picnic locations and even suggested several camping sites.

We then made our way to a nearby area called Kipsacho. There we were met by the chief of kipsacho, who accompanied us to our venture of climbing Mt.kipsacho. We were very fortunate to get another amazing view of the northern rift and not to mention the house of former president Moi.  The view was extraordinary yet quite different from that of Mt. Morop but not any less amazing. I must admit the climb to the top of Mt. Kipsacho was more arduous than I had perceived it to be. The trail, albeit short, is steep and slippery. While taking a much needed rest on top of the mountain that stands 2,107 meters above sea level, Mr. William and the chief entertained us to folk tales of the Tugen people living in and around kipsacho. We were privileged to be informed of the fact that we are the first people from Nairobi and Mombasa to have climbed Mt. Kipascho.

We had the great opportunity of viewing an ancient tree (ficus sycomorus) shrine, a unique tree that has been protected within the confines of less than an eighth of an acre. That particular area is so precious, the elders possess a securely guarded title deed. This sacred tree is symbolic to the local community, and before setting off on a journey people usually pray for a safe journey after which they place a stone on or beside the tree.  There are certain periods in the year where you’ll be able to notice heaps of stones on/by the tree. A very interesting sight indeed.

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Diary of an Explorer at the Tugen Hills…

Day 3: Medicinal Plant Collection

Our mission on that day was to collect as many medicinal plants as possible. We followed our usual routine and left house at 8am in the morning. We joined Mathew at the center (main point at Morop) and spent the whole day trekking one side of the mountain collecting medicinal plant samples, taking pictures and videos.

For each plant that was picked we paused for a couple of minutes attentively listening to Bakari, Mathew and Ester as they each shared their knowledge about the plants. It was absolutely interesting. Most of the morning was spent collecting medicinal plants from the lower part of the mountain and the rest of the day we focused on the midsection of the mountain. Some plants can only be found on certain parts of the mountain but in this case we found that most of the plants obtained could be located from a lower altitude to a higher altitude on the Morop Mountain. For each plant that was collected Bakari placed them in the middle of a two paged newspaper. He later on taught us how to arrange and press the plants using a plant press, which he made using pieces of leftover wood and wire. Check out the entertaining videos below, on the procedure of how to use a plant press.

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We managed to collect around 30 medicinal plants in just one day. A great feeling of accomplishment filled our hearts because we didn’t anticipate collecting so much in just a day…what a productive day!!! Later on Mr. William Kimosop, the senior warden of the area joined us in the evening and was with us for the rest of the trip…it was a great pleasure having him with us!!

Day 4: Plant identification and Information compilation

The day was spent at the home stay, identifying each of the plants collected and writing down their uses and the treatments and also planning the agenda for the rest of the expedition. As Bakari was arranging, pressing and identifying the scientific names of each plant with the help of his son and Philip. Ester, Mathew and I were jolting down each of the plants information and their uses. It took longer than expected because we collected several plant species the previous day. William also spent the day with us, telling as amazing stories about the great rift valley and the beautiful places to visit and the adrenaline pumping adventures that are yet to be experienced by not only us but by everyone who loves the wilderness…

Our Plant of the day was….

Croton dichogamus

Common name: Orange leaves croton

Local Tugen: Kelelwet

Family: Euphobiaceae

Synonyms: Croton kilwae

Croton dichogamus

Croton dichogamus


A Multi-stemmed shrub to 3 meters high with many branches, thin twigs and numerous leaves.

Leaves: silvery beneath and brownish on the upper surface, turning orange before falling, aromatic.

Flowers: yellowish and sometimes with male flowers only (male and female separate).

Fruits: golden brown 3 lobed capsules in small clusters.


Commonly grows in dry bushland, mostly on rocky soil, thickets, along dry upland forest edges and also in disturbed and grazed areas at altitudes of 500-2100m.


Leaves are crushed to remove juice and then used in the production of local brew. The leaves that fall to the ground are eaten by goats and are also browsed to a lesser extent. Medicinal uses: the roots are boiled for fever and stomach problems.

Preparation and Dosage

An infusion made by boiling the roots in water.

Children: ½ a cup, 2 times (morning and evening) a day for 3 days.

Adults: 1 cup, 2 times (morning and evening) a day for 3 days.

Diary of an Explorer at the Tugen Hills…

Day 2: Tour around Mt. Morop and Boundary Marking

Woke up early to a chilly morning, a sharp body sensation triggered by the cold morning air was very refreshing. To further uplift my spirit was the beautiful sounds of nature as I heard the different bird species chirping away, while at that precise moment I could also hear Bakari in the background naming the different birds that he could hear. What an awesome start to the day. We were out and about by 8 a.m, knowing that we had a long day ahead of us. Our first mission was to meet the chief (William Komen) and chairman of Morop (Paul Kisenger).  Ester directed us to Morop center (basically the main part of Morop: where the main stores, chief’s office, schools and other facilities are situated). Mathew joined us as we patiently waited to meet the chief. The wait didn’t seem long as we drooled over the amazing view of Mt. Morop and also engaged in conversation as Mathew and Ester educated us about the area. We finally met the chief and some community members, who were extremely welcoming, friendly and supportive of our mission. We spent a few minutes introducing ourselves and explaining the objective of our expedition. Immediately after, we began our task for the day, which involved marking the boundary of morop/tarambas conservancy using GPS mapping, while collecting a few plants samples.

Chief (Far left in blue), community members (far left and Far right) plus the team

Chief(left in blue), community members(far left and right) and the team

We began by recording the coordinates of a school (Kapkomoi Primary school), a catholic church and a dispensary (Kapkomoi dispensary), all of which are situated within the vicinity of Morop Center. Mathew and Ester showed us the boundary routes around Mt.Morop and Tarambas in order to map the boundary of the conservancy. Our first boundary mark was taken at the center near the chief’s office, followed by the water tank. We drove to our next point called Kasore, from there we started a thrilling downhill trek around the conservancy marking waypoints at viable spots along the track, while also picking some plant samples, I could see the excitement in Bakaris’ eyes. The walk around the conservancy was awesome I didn’t quiet realize just how long it took to finish marking the boundary but  it took approximately more than 3hours  mainly because we took short breaks to appreciate the landscape. The route was narrow, rocky and steep but clearly shows that it is used frequently.

The best site throughout the trek was standing on top a rocky cliff enclosed by two huge hills with a cave beneath the rocks. This was utilized as a hiding spot for the men during the war and community clashes. Mt. Morop is best seen from a distance as it bears a resemblance to an elephant head. Hence, the location of rocky cliff is referred to as the tail of Morop, meaning the end of Morop and it is used as a baseline to indicate the endpoint of the conservancy at the side of Morop. It’s difficult to imagine just how it may look but once you are on the ground it’s easier to understand and visualize the boundary, this is another reason why one should visit the area and experience the beauty of the trans rift trail.

One thing that was very disheartening was the walk passed a quarry right after the boundary edge, it just killed the view and the level damage caused was heartbreaking. This is one of the reasons why Morop was given the status of a conservancy, to avoid ecosystem destruction through quarrying by private land owners. We walked passed another quarry where our vehicle was waiting for us, from there we drove passed a place called Kibarmei, Kapkoimet and into the Marigat tarmac main road. We drove further on to Sesya (beginning point of tarambas conservancy) all the way back to Kitura (end point of tarambas and also the junction to Morop) and that was the end of our fulfilled mission for the day……

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The objectives of marking the boundary of the conservancy to know exactly how large it is, to discover a great trekking route around the mountain and also to identify an approximation as to were exactly the boundary line is set. The act of trekking together as team relaxed and opened a good communication pathway between us and the guides, it was a great experience.

Our first plant sample of the day was poison arrow….

Mathew holding Poison Arrow, he looks scared :P

Mathew holding Poison Arrow, he looks scared 😛

Acokanthera schimperi

Common name: Poison arrow tree/common poison bush

Local Tugen: Kelwon

Family: Apocynaceae

Synonyms: Acokanthera oppositifolia

Carissa schimperi

Acokanthera ouabaio


A round evergreen small tree or shrub with dense crown growing up to 10meters in height. Bark is dark brown.

Leaves: opposite and shiny, dark glossy green above and paler and dull below.

Flowers: white with pink tubes, fragrant, in dense clusters.

Fruits: Red to purple, often with bloom.

Natural Distribution

Widespread in East Africa from Eritrea south to Tanzania and west to Uganda, Rwanda and eastern DR Congo, south to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and north-eastern South Africa. It is also found in Yemen. In Kenya – for example – at Muumandu (Machakos), Ongata-Rongai, Oloosaiyeti hill (Kajiado), Rumuruti (Laikipia), Loita, and Chepelion (north Baringo).

Grows in Kenya in bushland on rocky hillsides, especially on red or black rocky soils, also grows on black cotton soil; common in dry highland forests, thickets and bushed grasslands, at 1100-2400m altitude and with 600-1000mm annual rainfall. It is drought resistant and has a moderate growth rate. The seeds are dispersed by animals and flowers are pollinated by bees.


NB: very poisonous, only the ripe fruit are edible (I would hate to try it). The fruits are sweet with a slight bitter taste. Otherwise the whole plant is poisonous. The root, bark, twigs and leaves serve in the preparation of arrow poison and also used for suicide and homicide. It is also used a medicinal plant in some communities, externally to treat skin problems, and internally the pounded root is drunk in small quantities to treat venereal diseases, and also as an aphrodisiac. Unripe fruits have caused accidental poisoning as they are highly toxic and birds have been known to drop dead on sucking nectar form the flowers. The only treatment against the poison is immediate excision of the flesh around the wound, or sucking the blood from the wound.

Diary of an Explorer at the Tugen Hills…

I, Nasrin Suleiman, am delighted to share with you my amazing experience on an expedition along the trans rift trail to discover medicinal plants used by the Tugen community in the Morop/Tarambas conservancy. Joined by an amazing team, consisting of Bakari Garise the botanist from Mombasa and tea lover, his son Mohammed, Mathew Kipkemoi and Ester Jepkurui, the medicinal plant specialists/guides and Philip Ndungu the pilot/driver…join me for the next 9days and discover a new world of medicine and culture at the Northern side of Kenya at the great rift valley…

The team: from left William, Ester, Mathew, Nasrin, Bakari and Philip

The team: from left William, Ester, Mathew, Nasrin, Bakari and Philip

One of the most interesting features of the trans rift trail is the cultural dependence on medicinal plants for medicine. William Kimosop (Chief Warden of Lake Baringo National Reserve) invited us to document the various plants and their uses along the trail as a way of creating an attraction for tourism, as well as to preserve the details of this herbal knowledge by interviewing the most respected herbalists in the area, to create a database of their materials and methods and to also educate them in ways to preserve samples collected that will be utilized as a lasting document for generations to come. The best way to do this is to spend time with the very people who use and know about the traditional medicines.

Day 1: The start to our exciting journey

The team met for the first time at the AWF (Africa Wildlife foundation) offices followed by a brief induction by Dr. Paula Kahumbu on our objective, responsibilities and duties. We then geared up, fuelled up and left Nairobi at 12.15 heading north towards Naivasha. Driving along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway we were blessed with beautiful scenery of Mt. Longonot, Lake Naivasha and lake Nakuru. I made sure I didn’t fall asleep in the car so as not to miss out on the view. We then stopped in Nakuru to do some shopping and got extremely frustrated by lack of parking in the vicinity. Philip did a great job at that and finally got a safe place to park.

A Signpost showing that we are at the equator

A Signpost showing that we are at the equator

The Equator Educational Resource Center in Mogotio and William Kimosop's office.

The Equator Educational Resource Center in Mogotio

We proceeded with our journey up North and finally arrived at Mogotio Equator tourist center (right at the equator) and met William Kimosop. William gave us an informative orientation of the area where we will be working. This was extremely beneficial and made our work easier. He then directed us to our next destination, according to his simple yet very helpful map, we got the impression that the place was not as far as expected  but to our surprise it was 90Km ahead. We were absolutely convinced that we took a wrong turning and were lost, it was hilarious because we were looking for a cement wall as per the instructions on the map but couldn’t find it especially since we had been driving for over an hour and couldn’t contact William or Ester owing to very low mobile phone network signals. Just as we were about to turn back we managed to get through to Ester and she informed us that we were on the right track. We had a good laugh about the situation. More than 2 hours later we picked Ester up at Morop Junction and headed to the home stay in Kituro (3Km further ahead), owned by a bishop. The area is around 7Km before the town of Kabarnet.

We were accommodated at a beautiful house on a hill at kabilat farm meaning “the place where the thunder lives….”

Williams map: simple directions to our final destination

Williams map: simple directions to our final destination

We later found out that in the Tugen culture it is very offensive to inform someone of the exact distance of a destination, they believe telling a person just how far it is which is usually far, will demoralize them from perpetuating  with the journey. So whenever you ask for the distance you will simply be told it’s just around the corner yet it several Kilometers further on, strangely it’s actually a short distance for them to travel…now I understand why they are ranked the best runners in the world….