The Usain Bolt River

The Usain Bolt River

The Usain Bolt River

By / Rivers / Thursday, 25 May 2017 15:44

The process of remembering is like a snowball rolling downhill: starts small and picks up a lot of mass on its way. Well, not for this case though. My childhood holidays are vivid. Like it was just yesterday. The thoughts of an upcoming holiday would make my insides all squirmy. I could hardly wait to travel upcountry with Nyambura, my elder sister where my grandparents awaited us in Kaheti, a small village in the outskirts of Nyeri town.

The best part of our month's stay there was being sent to fetch water in Gura River, which I later learnt is the fastest river in Africa! With our small plastic cans, Nyambura and I would run, cutting across long grass and through napier grass plantations, down to the river. The anxiety overcame the worry of the itch that would result from this. We lived for the moment.

During holidays, there was so much activity at the river. Cows quenching their thirst, women washing clothes, men teaching their sons how to fish and of course, kids like us taking advantage of the tasks given. They talk of love at first sight. Definitely mine was not, since every moment seemed like a first. The river made the whole place glow in the sunlight. It was beautiful. Magical. I believe this river is a unifying factor to the people of Kaheti.

Nyambura and I dropped our cans at the river bank, where other kids had dropped theirs and enjoyed the natural playground. We balanced on mossy logs, climbing over and under branches and hoping around the bedrock.

Samaki, Swahili for fish, was the best swimmer amongst us. That is how his nickname was born. He would lead us on into the water. I always tried to swim as far as he did, but Nyambura would never let me.

"Don't dare!" She would shout in a military monotone. I would suppress an eye-roll. Being three years older than me, she really had to get over her inclination of being a chicken. I would think to myself. Unlike in a swimming pool, there is an excitement of swimming in a river that sticks with you. After an hour of blowing away the cobwebs in the water, we dried ourselves in the sun. Not too cold or too hot. Perfectly refreshed.

Gura River amazed me. Despite all the stones and rocks in it, it always won the battle. Through perseverance not strength. Power not force. Its dynamic waterfalls, turbulent confluence, and a silent bend, all within the same river. It was always changing, yet it remained the same river! Amazing, right?

Before sunset, I would stand behind the big giant shades of the trees along the river with my eyes closed, disappearing into the sound of the chirping birds. It felt like an out of body experience, as I listened to the gentle ripples of the water. This would be the place to off load a heavy heart or clouded mind. Gura certainly had some magic in it.

We would then call it a day, and fill our cans with water, and head home guided by the men and women who had also accomplished enough for the day. Even the birds seemed to note our departure since their songs slowly faded. Gura however continued to rush forth with assurance and power bending to its environment yet rigid in its goal and final destination. It knew the secret and paid no attention to boundaries.

I would float into the house on a cloud. Nyambura and I shared the day's experience feeling all bubbly and excited. Everything happened in a colorful blur. I anxiously waited for yet another experience at Gura the next day, and the next. The thoughts would stir up butterflies.

Absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder. I visit the river every chance I get. My love for it keeps growing and glowing. As Terek Rocklin said, "rivers speak to us through cascades as the water gives us a moment to pause and give thanks." I am grateful for the love I share with Gura River. Simply incredible.

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Precious Wangechi

Precious Wangechi

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