“Travelling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Battuta
The Mitaboni-bound matatu gets jerked forward abruptly, accelerating uphill. “What is the matter?”I yell at the driver. He chuckles, perhaps to ridicule my tension, and then lowers the volume of the stereo that has been replaying Alex Kasau’s song ‘Wana Kisinga’.
“We are currently climbing the mysterious Kyamwilu hill,” he says as he drives to the edge of the road. He stops the car. I alight.
Another mystery embraces me. A Subaru Crosstrek at the other side of the road, windows rolled down, is moving uphill unmanned. A group of young men and women chanting “Wamlambez!….wamnyonyez!” are following the car. It suddenly stops after moving approximately 50 metres uphill.
Men holding 1-litre plastic bottles are scattered at the sides of the road. They wave at me. I wave back. Unlike Nairobi, Machakos steams with warm humanity. Genuine smiles and well-meaning conversations are common here. I cross the road to meet my prospective new friends.
“Are you fine?” I greet them in Kikamba. They all laugh at my accent before responding in the affirmative. One of the men gently grabs my right hand and leads me to the centre of the road. He unseals the water bottle on his left hand and pours its content on the road. To my amazement, water flows uphill. “Is witchcraft real?” I exclaim peering at my new friend. He meets my gaze with a neutral expression. “By the way I am Munyao John and welcome to Kyamwilu hill. The only place on earth where the force of gravity is defied,” he says. An oncoming lorry interrupts our conversation. We rush back to the side of the road.
A long silence ensues. I take a keen look of my environment. Undulating blue hills dot our background. No hotel. No loud businesspeople selling artifacts and curios. The place looks sleepy but serene. “Why is this hill called Kyamwilu?” I break the silence.
“Not long ago,’’ says Munyao, “A set of twin brothers, Kyalo and Mwilu did the most unforgivable abomination in Kamba tradition. They married one woman. She was called Mwende. She conceived a boy child called Kamau before passing on. Mwende was buried somewhere on this hill. However, it was not made clear who fathered Kamau between the twins. For that reason Kyalo and Mwilu were constantly engaging in fights over Kamau. When the two brothers later died, Mwilu was buried at the upper side of the hill while Kyalo at the lower part. Death did not stop their scuffle. Right now they are still fighting.”
“How?” I butt in.
“Mwilu was the eldest twin. Stronger than Kyalo. He is constantly overpowering his brother. Due to Mwilu’s unusual strength, water moves uphill towards his grave. I can take you there,”saysMunyao.
I nod, following him.
At the edge of the hill, stands a lone dwarf green guava tree amidst drying vegetation.
“Beneath that guava tree, lies the late but great Mwilu. The tree germinated a few days after he was buried. It has withstood the test of time,” says Munyao.
“Where is Kamau’s grave?” I ask.
“Kamau is alive. He sold their ancestral land and relocated to a secret place in Lukenya.”
“So the two dead old men are ever fighting over a living old man?”
“There is life after death. You must be a writer. Right? Write about that,” says Munyao.
“One day I will write about you, Kyalo, Mwilu and I,” I say as we walk back to the roadside.
“That hill in front of us is full of mysteries too. Can we go there for a hike?” suggests Munyao.
“No, thank you. I want to go home and write about Kyamwilu and us,” I say tipping John.
He mumbles innumerable “thank yous.”
A matatu stops besides us to drop a passenger. I bid Munyao farewell and promise to revisit Kyamwilu..
“May you meet Kamau in Machakos town,” he screams as I board the matatu.