May 30, 2011 – Not far from Nairobi lies a rocky, dusty and picturesque location.
It is comfortable with the weight of the herbivores that reside there, such as zebra, giraffe, warthogs and gazelles.
As these animals graze they are on a constant look out for the possible hyena and surprise lion. They quench their thirst at various KWS-made water troughs, provided because there are no water bodies within the park.
Hell’s Gate, they call it. The KWS ranger says “Welcome to Hell” as we drive in and proffers an invitation to ride mountain bikes through the park to the gorge where the Hollywood Blockbuster Tomb Raider was shot – right in the devil’s bedroom.
Throughout the ride, I recall the words of Hell’s Gate’s Senior Warder Nelly Palmeris: “the animals you will see here are only a tenth of the population in the greater Naivasha area.”
“The animals that are not in the park are usually in people’s ranches or sanctuaries, and we give them advice and support to keep the animals and the people safe.”
Two years ago, to respond to the various challenges faced by Hell’s Gate and its environs, KWS came up with the Wheelbarrow Race to help raise funds for specific ventures.
The target this year, with the third race ever, is to raise close to Sh18m for an education centre, where anyone can come for information on animals and conservation. As if to drive the point home, we got wind of news that a serval cat had been spotted and cornered in Naivasha town a few kilometres away.
Though relatively a new concept, the Wheelbarrow Race is growing in size and stature. Teams are approaching motor garages for a better look and feel for their machines and for the first time, tourists will be part of the race.
Organisers say the course for the race that starts on June 12 is going to be ‘horrible’ and that participants must practice hard in order to win.
While endorsing the event, the Kenya Tourism Board said the race would serve well to diversify and develop the tourism product in the country.
Managing Director Mureithi Ndegwa expressed that it would be good to grow the Wheelbarrow Race into a nationally recognised event.
KWS Director Julius Kipng’etich concurred, adding that it would provide good mileage for the country.
“I like this television programme called Transworld Sports. It has some of the craziest sports, like the carry your wife contests. There is no reason why the Wheelbarrow Race should not be featured on this show.”
For details on the race and how to take part, send an email to [email protected] or call 0723296138.