I have written quite a bit about Nanyuki town on this blog and the reason for this is nothing else other than the fact that this has been and still is, my home town. Nanyuki is the place I spent a large chunk of my childhood. It is also, perhaps, the place I stayed the longest in my life.
This kind of connection with a place allows you the rare opportunity to internalise it and take in its hidden treasures. In recent years, as I have travelled that road and to the place of my childhood, I have noticed with fascination, the metamorphosis this once small administrative centre for the white highlands has undergone these past years.
As fate would have it, I was back there a few days ago and as I drove along the Nanyuki-Nyeri road, I remembered, with amusement, a story I had once read about how a certain memsahib (white lady), who, one day coming from her usual shopping, came across a commotion that had been caused by a female donkey (which was apparently in heat) and 2 male donkeys that were desperately trying to mount her.
It is said the memsahib collapsed at this site (whether it was out of shock or excitement, no one knows). The embarrassment this caused her led to the enactment of the famous 1949 by-law banning donkeys from the streets of Nanyuki town. This by-law is in effect to-date, I am told.
As I lingered on the remnants of these memories, I was jolted back to reality by the advancing Equator point sign. I knew the Silverbeck Hotel that had been a darling of many of us back in the 80s, would be quite close by.
As I drew nearer, I began to picture myself seated in the lounge, sipping a cup of coffee for old times’ sake. It had indeed been a long time and I could not wait to see what the development wave sweeping this railway town, had done to it.
Nothing could prepare me for what I saw next. The once glamorous weekend spot was no more! In its place now stood a derelict, desolate confusion of collapsing walls, overgrown grass and indescribable loneliness.
Here once, I recalled, stood some of the cosiest cottages I had ever laid eyes on. We would wander off to the residential area from the main restaurant just to come and admire them. Now a bushy mess of overgrown weeds stared back at me. My goodness what many Sundays did I spend here back in the days!
It was the popular hangout for family after attending church service. Now to think that it was gone was beyond me! Whatever became of it? I could not find anyone to ask, so I left.
I later also learnt that Mountex, a textile industry located a few paces from Thingithu Primary School, on your way to the Laikipia Air Base, suffered the same fate.
I ended the day with a restless heart. The following day, on Sunday, I found myself on the same Nanyuki-Nyeri road and very near where Silverbeck stood – only this time I took a detour towards the road that leads to the world-famous Mount Kenya Safari Club.
I was not on my way to the club, although I wish I were, but instead I was headed to Our Lady of Mount Kenya House monastery for Sunday service. The monastery, which I understand was dedicated to Mary the mother of Jesus, was originally a colonial farm house donated to the Benedictine Missionaries as a gift by the owner in 1979.
A very creative Ugandan priest, Fr. Raymund Ssentongo, erected multiple ‘African bible huts’ in a biblical theme all over the property, transforming it into the famously known ‘Bible Village’, a nature trail of sorts that attracts visitors and worshippers from all corners of Kenya and abroad.
Pilgrims who come here can move from one hut to another in a similar fashion to the Catholic ‘Way of the Cross’ and meditate on one biblical theme after the other as they walk through the narrow winding trails that take you ever deeper into the forest and ever closer to the word of God.
Besides the huts, you will come across the occasional stone tablets on the ground with bible verses written on them. In some areas, columns of built-up pillars with extracts from the bible inscribed on them can also be spotted within the wooded trail. It is just an amazing place to unwind and meditate.
The monastery has basic accommodation for those intending to stay longer and the food is equally basic but good. The scent of sweet-smelling flowers all around the compound is soothingly refreshing.
As I left the Bible Village, I knew I would definitely be coming back but I could not quite figure out why they did not want anyone to take pictures or videos of this interesting place – I did not find someone to explain to me either.
I remember thinking to myself what a wasted opportunity that was. Photos speak a million words, they say! Anyway, my visit to this Benedictine monastery marked the end of my trip to Nanyuki and as I went back I knew I just had to write this story – and so I have.
I have shared the monastery’s contacts below for anyone who may wish to pay the place a visit. Let me know what your experience was at the Bible Village. Feel free to leave your comments below.
PO Box 163
t: 0176 32681