Kenya’s North Coast Surreal Hell’s Kitchen!

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By Adisa Hudson

Very little is known about this remarkable laid back village that boasts of a spectacular site.Compared to the renowned Hells Gate in Naivasha, even the frequent travellers to the Coast can hardly speak about the Hell’s Kitchen. Also known as Marafa Depression, Hell’s Kitchen is located in the outskirts of Malindi. Arguably the most underrated site on the North Coast, Hell’s Kitchen is a peculiar sandstone gorge that might as well be left as Kenya’s best guarded-secret. It looks surreal and most people tend to confuse it for Hell’s Gate gorge in Naivasha.

Mostly confused with Hells Gate gorge, Marafa Depression is locally known as Nyari – “the place broken by itself” in the Giriama dialect. The depression which was once a massive sandstone ridge was worn out by winds, rains, and floods forming a series of sharp gorges.

The multicolored layers of the rocks overlaying against each other reveal whites, pinks, oranges, and deep crimsons, making the gorge particularly striking at sundown, when tones of the textured sandstone gullies are reflected and mirrored by orange glare of the setting sun.

Located about 30kmNorth East of Malindi, Marafa Depression is an  eroded sandstone canyon where jungle, red-orange, pinkish and milk powder rocks and cliffs heave themselves into a distinct stunning landscape that forms the gorge.

Approximately an hour’s drive from Malindi town lies the small unassuming village with conspicuous baobab trees; Marafa Depression is remote enough with rustic setup of the country side to give one an incredibly natural wonder picturesque of the rural Kenya Coast.Possibly the most underrated site on the North Coast, Hell’s Kitchen offers an absolutely incredible natural wonder that is easily accessible from Malindi. The drive to the site is interesting with remote experiences of charming rural community’s normal day life as ladies carry bags and buckets of water on their heads, children cradling babies on their backs and occasional lone cyclists going about their business. When using personal means, a day trip would be a fantastic option that will allow you to enjoy the ambience of the beautiful African countryside and the amazing chunky baobab trees canopy hiding the mud houses by the road.

Currently being managed as a local tourism site by Marafa Village,the returns are geared into financing local village programs and initiatives. The entrance fee is about ksh 300 and a tour guide fee of ksh 200. There is a guide to walk you round the expanse of the amazing gorge and guide you through a tour of the depression with spikes and sharp pillars as they narrate the story behind the Hell’s Kitchen.

From the mouth of the legends of the village, there was allegedly a town located at the same spot where the gorge lies. One time, the people had a vision that the town would be moved. Every one moved except one old woman who refused to go with the rest. The abandoned town supposedly disappeared with the woman remaining behind to form the Depression. The mystery of the woman apparently explains the aroma of cooking rice emanating from the Hell’s kitchen in the evenings.

Besides the story of the ghost woman, there are other tales around the gorge. Another school of thought believes that the depression was as a result of God’s wrath meted against the inhabitants of the family that lived in the area.  This family allegedly was exceptionally rich and indulged in extravagant living that they even bathed with milk from cows. God was so furious that He decided punish them by opening the depression and the ground beneath them swallowed the family. The depression therefore serves to warn of the dangers of excessive living through the white and red stone (milk and blood) which were splashed all around this magnificent and bizarre landscape.

In the old days, the depression was a site for performing rituals that saw many medicine men frequent the spot to sourcing for medicines and traditional herbs. The name Nyari was coined by the Wata Community who are said to have preceded the Agiriama people in the area.

The overlaying of spikes and beautiful pillars that gives a blending combination of red orange and pink gorge is certainly the place for any rock enthusiast! If you are a teacher, it definitely a to go place with your Geography Class students for an amazing out of class rock formation lessons first hand!

Public transport to Marafa can be challenging and as such advisable to use private means and tour vans. The place is equally hot with temperatures shooting to highest degrees imaginable. For that reason, carrying plenty of drinking water, sunscreen and wearing light clothes is recommendable.

Enjoy your visit next time you are in Malindi!

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