Njoro River Cave: The soothing tourist site with hidden danger

Wednesday March 18 2020
By NATION TEAM

Pilgrims have described River Njoro, a source of sustenance for the communities that have settled along its banks, as a place of peace.

In its midst, the historic Njoro River Cave in Sigotich village, echoes these sentiments.

Local folklore has it that a man called Waiganjo who, upon touring the place while on a mission to find a cure for an ailment, instead found God.

It is said that he stayed there for 60 days, fasting and praying. He then named the place Nyumba ya Mungu (house of God).

“It is believed that after leaving the place, he became an evangelist and urged his followers to visit the ‘holy’ place,” said Mr Peter Korir, who migrated to the area two decades ago.

Located on the Mau escarpment, the archaeological marvel was first excavated in 1938 by Mary Leakey and her husband Dr Louis Leakey, who unearthed a mass cremation site for settling pastoralist communities during the Neolithic period.

SANCTUARY

Seventy-eight individuals were recovered during the excavation. They were said to have been buried with pottery, baskets, beads, stone bowls, pestles, and gourds among other items recovered at the site.

However, the dating test for the materials was said to have been undertaken during the early years of the radiocarbon method.

Since then, it has been important to investigate the validity of the Leakeys’ investigation in view of the volume and variety of ‘neolithic’ materials revealed in recent years by a number of archaeologists in this region and the need to place them in a chronological order, according to a report by Dr Harry Merrick, an archaeologist at the National Museums of Kenya.

Mr Korir said that before the place was established as a pilgrimage site, the land where the cave is located belonged to the Ogiek community.

PROSECUTION

The Mau Mau fighters also found the cave warm and safe enough to hide in during the struggle for independence.

“During President Daniel Moi’s regime, foreigners found in the bush were arrested and action taken against them. The Ogiek community were the most affected. After they being interrogated about their history, it was ascertained that the land belonged to them,” said Mr Korir.

He said the Ogiek community were later settled on five acres of land per family, which they later sold to Kisiis and Kalenjins, who are the current settlers.

He described the spiritual connection that tourists feel when standing on the consecrated grounds of the cave, which has over the years made the site popular for meditation, prayer as well as a sanctuary for nature lovers.

The river flows to Lake Nakuru. And viewing it from the banks one is overwhelmed by the aura of tranquillity.

“After the cave was made a tourist attraction site, people from all over the world have been touring the site but were unable to get into a hole in the cave,” he says.

DEATHS

He recounted an event where a visitor from Europe toured the site and was curious to know how deep the hole was.

He tried to use different sources of light, including a torch powered by a generator, to penetrate it’s darkness but could not.

Despite the site being a historical tourist attraction, he says, it’s an abyss of death that has claimed the lives of three university students.

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This article has been edited to reflect that River Njoro flows into Lake Nakuru and the term Dorobo has been replaced with the Ogiek community.