Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kipteber: The Mountain that fell right from the sky

Popping from approximately five kilometers off the range of Cherangany hills is a huge, steep, rocky and extraordinary mountain. A piece of physical feature that is a perfect symmetry of a plate of ugali; Mt. Kipteber.A Mountain barring an extraordinary narrative of its origin spanning lots of generations ago.  Not until you scale up this humongous art of nature and listen to the narrative on how people around it belief it came by, you will treat it as just that; an ordinary rocky hill.
The story of this mountain has been passing from one generation to another thanks to the popularity it gathers once it is told, it is a spectacularly unique tale that elders have been passing to the young generations who in turn popularize it amongst themselves.
Mt. Kipteber strategically sits on the Elgeyo/Marakwet- Pokot counties borderline, 8 kilometers from Kapcherop Township; the economic nerve center of Marakwet West Sub-County. The boundary between these two counties runs through the center of this mountain, two of its perpendicular cliffs face the Pokot side. This leaves hikers only with the option of accessing it through the ElgeyoMarakwet side.
 John Chemaringo; a native who has been doing a Marakwet narratives research on his upcoming book knows the tale like the back of his hand.
That a combination of two Marakwet clans; Talai and Sirikwa was having a circumcision gig, popularly known as ‘kiberet’ in the local dialect around the place where the mountain now stands, that it was a flat land dotted with shrubs enough to cover those traditional revelers from the uninitiated who were not allowed to take part or even go near in those ceremonies.
Talai is an expansive clan common among all kalenjin dialects with a history of its members having originated from Egypt, or ‘Misri’ as people would commonly say.
Halfway into the dancing, wining and dining, a pied crow flew from nowhere and according to how it was singing, it had a very important message to pass across but before that, a landing place was to be prepared. One of the initiates lifted his spear up on which the crow landed in it.
After all the noise and singing was ushed, the crowd delivered its message. That the ceremony was to come to an end and everybody vacate the place for a rock will shortly fall from the sky and cover the whole place, then it flew off.
Mixed feelings rent the air after that. Some turned a deaf ear and went on with merry making while few decided to save their souls by walking away in dismay of their partying having cut short by the gods.
Hardly had those that had decided to id to the call gone far, than the heavens started to rumble. At first they thought it was a normal storm so they continued with the walk to their homes.
‘Perhaps those that had continued partying were too drunk and noisy to notice any change above them’ concludes Chemaringo. 
Not long after that, a huge solid rock fell right from the otherwise seemingly rain baring clouds and hit the ground with a thud never heard before. All those who were there were buried alive, as those that had moved a distance from the place scattered as fast and as far as they could out of fright.
“This is the reason why we have Talai clans all over the Kalenjin land’’ says Gabriel Kilimo, an elder who has lived around here for forty years.
He says that the extraordinary nature of that event made people travel as far as Baringo, Kapsabet and Kericho to save their lives.
“They lived and adopted the culture of their new found safe haven” says Kilimo who is putting up an archive for Marakwet traditional artifacts.
Pius Yano, a member of the local council of elders says it is believed that the hill fell from heaven due to one main reason. He explains that when the Talai came in from Egypt around 15th century, the native Sirikwa did not believe in either male or female circumcision. However due to their superiority, the Talai forced them into practicing it. “This was to facilitate associative issues such as intermarriages” says Yano citing that the Talai could not marry or get married by the uncircumcised. It has however been generally believed that the gods were not pleased with forced circumcision and that led to this general punishment.
One thing that stands out in the narrative about how Mt. Kipteber came to be is its aspect of timelessness. No one knows exactly when it occurred. ” It could be hundreds or even thousands of years ago” says Chemaringo. He further casts a doubt on the believability of the story saying that Cherangany Jungle was, even fifty years ago, extremely cold and infested with man eating lions. “It is unimaginable that one could have crossed this terrain under those conditions in that age” he claims.
Today, Mt. Kipteber is a spectacular destination for everyone looking for thrill and adventure. Hoards of people stream in droves from all its sides just have a feeling of how it is to be on top of the mountain that fell from the skies.
Elgeyo/Marakwet County has earmarked it as one of its potential income earner but little has been done to give this unique tourism destination the face it deserves.
This is also an important structure in the religious and social lives of everyone subscribing to the belief that is its extra ordinary nature.
Sometimes when the land lying around it experiences myriad of tribulations, special envoy of elders are normally sent to pour libations and conduct special prayers to alleviate whatever the problem is.
People also use it as a recreational facility. It is the most preferred place for picnics and ceremony photo sessions.
This natural feature is to the people’s daily life what its story is to the cultural continuity of the Marakwet community.

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