Koma Rock, from a distance, as you approach the town of Tala, appears like any other piece of rock you would come across travelling east from the city on the Nairobi-Kangundo Highway. It is not.
The rock is the site of numerous old and recent mystical happenings that have earned it the title of Ithembo, which means a holy place in Kamba. Old stories tell of bygone days when Kamba elders journeyed here from far to offer sacrifices to their gods. At this Ithembo, they would pray for rain and the protection of Kamba land from plagues.
The strange happenings had started back in 1830 when a Kamba man known only as Mwithi set up camp with his family at the top of the rocky outcrop to keep a watchful eye on any invasion attempts by the Maasai.
His wives, while out collecting cooking firewood and grass for thatching their huts would report seeing apparitions of a young white woman holding an infant in her arms.
Years later in 1970, a different incident occurred. Engineering firm Mowlem
Construction Company (East Africa) Ltd, a subsidiary of John Mowlem Ltd, one of United Kingdom’s largest construction and civil engineering companies, had just landed the contract to tarmac the Kangundo-Nairobi highway and wanted to move the shrine so that the road could pass through the hill.
After meeting great resistance from the Kamba elders, the matter was resolved by an agreement to move the shrine to another part of the hill near a wild fig tree. A sacrificial offering comprising of a bag of sugar and 2 goats were offered to appease the resident spirits.
There is a famous African saying that you can never fool the gods. In this case, it would seem Mowlem’s attempt to fool the gods of Koma Rock suffered the same ancient fate because every effort to work this site proved futile. Blasting machinery just kept breaking down on only this spot while it worked well in nearby rocks.
There seemed to be an unknown power preventing this rock from being blasted. Then the Israeli contractor who was living on site began hearing chilling voices of a wailing child in the dark of the night telling its mother that they would soon have to leave their home because it was being destroyed and that of the mother assuring it that the rock would always be their home.
When he finally shared his strange encounters with his workers, they just downed their tools and left. Today if you visit Koma Rock, you will see some of the hoes the workers abandoned here.
From that point onwards work at the site proved difficult and Mowlem finally abandoned the route. The abandoned murram road is still visible from the top of the hill as it meanders through the Koma Rock plains towards the city.
The Catholic Church has since taken over the shrine and turned it into a pilgrimage site. These days, it is often the scene of processions, singing of hymns, recital of prayers and fasting.
At the top of the shrine is an imposing 70-foot sculpture of the dead Jesus Christ in the arms of his mother Mary just after His body is lowered from the cross. If you next happen to be on the Nairobi-Kangundo road, stop by Koma Rock and experience this peaceful place of mystery.