Kamau is that guy – the pro plunger at Rapids Camp Sagana. He stands atop a stone diving board next to a raging waterfall. It is 7 meters above the frothing livid waters of River Sagana/Tana on a black igneous rock. He looks into the water not batting an eyelid. He looks removed. Like he is beyond us mortals. I’m fixated on him like mps to salary increment. It has been raining upstream ergo the water is the sinful rich brown colour of soil from the slowly baring land upstream. It looks like bean’s broth. (By the way it’s Kuyo land so it might as well be bean broth from all the githeri cooking upstream.) There’s the sound from the water, honorably roaring in all its might. The sound of God. The river is on steroids.
Before he jumps, clad in a life-saver jacket and an orange helmet, he waves at us. Kamah then does a few useless stunts on the board to wit badassery. He knows we are watching. The four of us, Peter the Camp Manager and a few folk from KTB (Kenya Tourism Board) -Tembea Kenya team, I’m told later on are looking on from the rocks on the bank opposite Kamah. They have been frenetically called out of their pagoda facing the falls where they were having breakfast and applying second and third layers of lipstick. The only guy in the bunch is on some whisky. I smell him behind me. Victoria and I must look like refugees against this entire parade of boxer shorts and Mbalass. We couldn’t be bothered. We wave back, cheer him on and then watch. He takes a few strides back and stalls for a moment. I imagine he is feeling for his large cajones. A moment of gravitas, then he runs towards the edge of the plank and all of us catch our breaths. Godspeed Kamah. He is airborne.
He plunges in. (This phrase)
He swims to the bank, climbs up the rocks and plunges again, just to caress our adventurous nerve.
I’m sold for two plunges and a boyish grin from Kamau. I am getting wet today. But only by plunging into the River Sagana from the waterfall like Kamau did. I smell my growing balls.
Kamau’s nugatory response to what the jump feels like – “ni poa.” An empty response, bare, without character. I get a little pissed. I get like this anytime men give those enigmatic and succinct answers to describe a feeling. He just jumped in to what they tell me is the largest waterfall in Kenya in terms of volume. Then he turns back to me and says ‘Wee geria niguo ujire ukuigua atia na ukuigua ha.” LOL. Now I really have to try it.
Let me rewind a bit.
My Nigerian pal, Jaji, lives in Addis has the gift of gab and has been threatening to bungee jump for some time now. I tease his threats as all barks and no bites. Then Saturday evening I get a call. “Com to TRM, Sappes, with a change of clothes oo.” It’s him. “Now?” I ask. Kuja! I look around at my empty house and my increasingly boring read, ‘Needful things’ by Stephen King. I consult my future husband in spirit and we are copacetic. I should go have a life. He is with our mutual chum, Wasonga who is sporting this chic, Victoria. He introduces her as his cousin. She is too light skinned to be his kin and when we get to the camp, their tent will bear the wrath of a true Mufasa in his jungle. I don’t ask questions. Different culture, different strokes. But I kid. The two are a couple and we’ve been friends for some time now. We are all saved.
We left Nairobi at 9pm. I was driving and we were cruising well past Thika, Kenol, Kambiti and then traffic. At 10pm in the central bunduz was the whole extended family of traffic jams. There’s no network here so we couldn’t play the car radio. So in all lady wisdom, Vee and I took out our phones and started our playlists singing along loudly. Women sing. It is our thing and it’s beyond men’s ken. So we sang until our phones went out of charge and then we went on reminiscing all the way from ‘Kenyan boy by Necessary noiz to ‘African Woman’ by Jomenez Boys.
Now let me tell you, these men’s patience was tested. Seated at the back talking shop their patience at our horrible singing quickly waned. Wasonga pointed out that he had sang twice at state house, if he did so say himself, and what we were doing was not singing. We sang anyway. So they each took turns peeing in the bushes outside in the pitch darkness, then they left to pee together until they out-peed their bladders. When they got fed up to their back teeth, they got back and slept until traffic eased up at 3am.
We got to Rapids Camp at 4am and Peter showed us to our tents, adjacent to the mighty river. We could barely make out the banks but we could hear it. We knew we are at the realm of something great. I soon fell asleep to the thunderous but soothing sound from the water, curious.
Morning and I met him. The mighty Tana at his inception. When he is still known as Sagana. When he still bears his foreskin, like Ochang’. Dangerously anxious like a virgin boy meeting Emma Too. The river still fights to relinquish his infancy and be man. He has to roar to be heard, like these guys sporting borrowed superbikes. If this river was a car at this stage, it’d be a Subaru. Fighting to be the big cheese, water behind its ears.
We had a nice picnic breakfast on one of the rocks beside our tent overlooking the stupendous scenery right out of travel diaries and then left to see Kamau do his thing. Vee and I were sold. Peter then gave the men a caveat – if they dared open their legs wide when plunging in, they would resurface to the sight of both their balls floating fast downstream singing “Soledad” loudly. The feeling would be matched only to a virgin birthing twins in the hot Sahara sun without anesthesia or all those numbing nini ninis. They were content to take pictures.
My insides turned into liquid as soon as Kamah, Peter and a bunch of other guys helped us into our plunging gear. I was a bag of nerves. Watching is one thing, jumping is a whole different kettle of fish. My nerves and I got on the kayak, paddle in hand and off we went down the rapids, paddling to the instructions of the kayak captain. Here’s what, if you follow the rules of nature and dance in tune with the earth (my hippie side is showing), nature works with you. Paddling in tune with the rapids and currents of water from Mount Kenya and we did not topple once.
Out of the kayak we climbed the rocks to the diving place and I peed myself. Almost. I will tell you what you feel when you are about to do something remarkably dumb and exhilarating. You think about your unborn children, your mother and if she might still scold you for such idiocy. You think about mortality and the absolute fineness of that line we shall all one day cross. You think of not thinking at all and then you start thinking again. So before the cycle restarted, I ran from the board and flew by the seat of my pants, literally. I shut my eyes and felt my feet lift from the collateral that was the board, from the surety of life into the transient oneness with the elements of life – the air, where I floated for a whole hour. It felt like it. It was stony quiet. That must be what dying feels like. To linger as you transmute to another. Alone, slow, peaceful, ambivalent, and long. Too long I started thinking about the President’s stolen chase car. Those guys had chutzpah and balls the size of King Kong the gorilla. Then I hummed Didge’s Kitangoma, “Just keep your eyes closed, let it sink in, oooh, tuliza ubongo jipumzishe kitangoma.’ My feet touched the icy cold water as I arrowed through its surface then it all came flooding back. Life swamped back to me as up thrust pushed me back to surface and with little effort, I swam to the waiting kayak, fine and dandy. Vee followed. She does not know how to swim. People, she embodies courage.
On the second plunge, mid way airborne, I sensed things going belly up. I had kept my eyes open this time and I saw Wasonga with the camera and a few guys watching behind him. As I brought my left hand up to hold shut my nostrils, I felt my legs turning slowly up. If I didn’t straighten up fast I was going to land on my ass. Now, being in this moronic airborne state, my mind worked in slow motion and like a true idiot, I reacted too late. My feet hit water followed very fast by my ass. I stormed into that water like butchers wielding meat axes in a huge splash. I felt my two gluteus move all the way up to my lungs and as I resurfaced I breathed out shit. I had enjoyed the second plunge better but I knew I’d soon feel my bottoms up. It was going to hurt like crap. Oh pun glee.
We couldn’t for the love of life fathom more strength to bungee jump. So we have to plan a trip back to try this at Savage Wilderness or Uganda (This one’s 180meters high compared to Sagana’s 60meters).
That plunge was the bee’s knees. Folks I am writing this seated on my hip as my gluts are still on fire. Ergo, I am accepting offers for a meet up with a chiropractor or a professional masseuse.