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OUT&ABOUT: The mystical Komarock

Thursday September 28 2017

Worshiper on the shrine. Each pilgrim has as

Worshiper on the shrine. Each pilgrim has as story, background and motivation. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA 

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Travelling eastwards of Nairobi gave way to loneliness and unspoilt views of Ukambani. The sun bathing the plains with a warm radiance created elusive mirages, further and further ahead. The vehicle cruised through Kangundo and stopped in the sleepy town of Koma.

The GPRS directed me through a dusty track with mammoth ruby boulders of a wondrous kind, resting on each other’s backs. My senses soaked in the warm air as the dry were scrubs ruffled by the light breeze. As I trotted on, startled elderly lizards slithered past and hid in the rock crevices. Soon, I reached a small clearing with two houses and a dais. There was not a soul to be seen. A sign showed the direction to the office. The track would soon reveal a clearing that had concealed under a blanket of turquoise wonder. The air hung silent, and there, stood a dais and two miniature greying stone buildings.

Kilimambogo in the backdrop. PHOTO| TOM

Kilimambogo in the backdrop. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA


I had arrived at the Komarock, a revered Kamba sacred place since the mists of time. Elders would arrive there to offer sacrifices at the traditional altars (Ithembo).

They would pray for fertility of Kamba land and protection from pestilence. Season after season they sacrificed to the unknown with unshakable faith that their petitions were answered. They believed that a mystic power resided on those Komarock hills.


Passion of Christ effigies with the passion of

Passion of Christ effigies with the passion of Christ symbolised. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA

Mr Mutuku, a caretaker of the shrine reveals that in the dawn of 1830 a Kamba man, only known by the name Mwithi, decided to erect a small hut on top of the rocky outcrop. From there he would watch for Maasai bandits who may attempt an ambush .As Mwithi’s wives went about collecting firewood and grass to thatch their huts, they started seeing apparitions. This is further collaborated by Anna Katungwa, a Kamba writer.

“They would see a vision of a young white woman holding an infant in her arms. They would then bow down and hide their faces from the gleaming sight, only to see it had disappeared into the blues upon looking up again.”


In 1971, a Mowlem Construction company was contacted by the government to construct the Nairobi-Kangundo road. The arduous work of blasting the rocky outcrop to acquire hard-core and ballast began.

A dais at the shrine. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA

A dais at the shrine. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA

“The elders opposed the move but later agreed that Ithembo be relocated to the foot of a Mugumo tree at the end of the hill. A bag of sugar and two he goats were offered to appease the spirits. Despite the rituals, blasting was very hard. Machinery would break down and the process became slow,” says Mutuku. Strangely, the rocks from other places were easy to blast.
Apparently, there was an eccentric force preventing the rock from being damaged.


He had perched a tent perched on the lonely Komarock hill. One night in the wee hours, he was aroused from sleep by the wails of a child. In the utter dark, the child’s voice said:

“Mom, we will soon have to leave this place, they are destroying our home."

The mother comforted the child saying: "No, my son, we will continue staying here.”

Religious gift shop. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA

Religious gift shop. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA

The first night the man heard this, he ignored it and went back to sleep. The nondescript conversation however continued for two more nights. When the man, an Israeli contractor, shared his concern with the workers; they downed the tools and the work stopped. Numerous unused holes abandoned on the rocks is a testimony of the bizarre occurrences.


A cleansing ceremony was conducted by Catholic priests and the rock was made a Catholic shrine where pilgrims from near and far come to pray and meditate.

You will see them crying aloud, silently, showing sadness and happiness at the same time.

Devotional house on the hill. PHOTO| TOM

Devotional house on the hill. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA

Each pilgrim has as story, background, motivation, but they all have something now in common: they are all religious and have found a place of sprayer and meditation that thousands of religious Christian pilgrims visit every year.

Pilgrims going to the shrine. PHOTO| TOM

Pilgrims going to the shrine. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA

They walk up to the Mary Mother of God shrine, an imposing effigy rooted on bizarre history.


Sunset found me on the Komarock hill. I watched with an unwavering gaze as a fiery orange sphere of light gently descended to oblivion and threads of light loitered in the sky. It mixed with the clouds fleeting to the Kilimambogo mountain afar, dyeing the sky with orange, dark blue and hits of pink which slowly dissolved until all that was left of the sunset was a pale mauve. The hues then that melted away in turn as stygian silence took over.

A lone pilgrim had lit a fire at the foot of the hill. Its embers winked up at me, illuminating a mute religious statue along the descend path. I passed by a lonely church on the hill, fearing the building itself and its dark inside.

A Catholic Church on Komarock hill. PHOTO| TOM

A Catholic Church on Komarock hill. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA

Such is Komarock, a serene pilgrim’s shrine, hiker’s destination, a mystic hill of quaint views far below.