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…
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.
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….”
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….