I have four hour of daylight left to explore Malindi and I’m told the sleepy town of Marafa is one hour away.
At the town's peripherals, solemnly sprawls ascents and descents of natural landscape dubbed Hell’s kitchen. It is a sandstone canyon.
The locals have named it 'Nyari' which is Kigiriama for a depression. The depression is ever expanding because of erosion. It was once a great sandstone ridge scrapped by wind, torrents and floods into a series of jagged crimson gorges.
The craggy gullies and valleys smoulder with sun producing a flaming mirage. As I edge closer, I witness jagged reddish hills.
They roll away from me in grandeur that stops me on my tracks. It reveals a light mixture of pink, yellow, white and dominant crimson. The ribs of the gully produce a quaint mirage as the sun beams down.
A luxuriant shrubbery surrounding the valley is in full bloom. Kingi, my guide tells me that the trees have medicinal value and the leaves change with seasons like fashion conscious folks.
A steep pathway leads you you to the red valley below. There isn't much to threaten a traveller in these gullies except a snake shyly slithering to a hideout or a terrified blue lizard holding its breath on the top of a boulder.
Ape families can either be seen basking or swinging from one branch to another with infants cuddled on their bosoms, laughing their hearts out, either from mischievousness or from abundance of joy.
The experience in the hell's kitchen is determined by the traveller .It could be meditative, reinvigorating, picture-perfect, soul freaking ,arduous or a chance to lose few pounds.
On the day I found myself in the hell's kitchen it was hell’s hot but as the time wore by towards the evening, the heavens opened with light showers.
This feral, uncultivated, remote, primeval landscape is shrouded with mystery. Unable to help my curiosity, I ask Kingi how the landscape came to be:
“My father say that Marafa was a city of ages ago inhabited by Wakiza clan. A city of the haves and have nots. The rich lived at the core of the while the poor lived on the peripherals. The rich were mean and greedy while the poor wallowed in poverty. This annoyed the gods and one day the central part started sinking and all the rich perished.”
Kingi attributes the reddish colour to the blood that was lost to the tragedy of Marafa.
Another myth hold that a town thrived where the gorge is .One day, the town’s dwellers received a vision requiring them to relocate the town. Everyone heeded except one elderly old woman who refused to vacate .The deserted town then supposedly vanished - with the lone woman still inside - leaving the canyon in its place.
Hell’s Kitchen is managed by local Giriama community and though gazetted, no excavations have been and no accurate measurements made of its depth and expanse .I estimated it to be the size of a football pitch. A Kenyan adult pays Sh200 to access the canyon, and a guide fee of Sh500.