By Angela Mutai
The desideratum to have a holiday escapade on a weekend free from the hustle and bustle of school among my friends birthed the idea to visit Fourteen Falls in Thika Kenya. My friend group consisted of myself, Victory, Cox and Mercy. The four of us had been inseparable since the first day of campus where we met during orientation.
The trip was scheduled for the 28th of August 2022 and relevant plans had been put into place for the trip. We were all aware of the approximate budget we would need to fuel Victory’s car, snacks, lunch, entry fees for the site and any other expenses that may have risen. Victory picked all of us from our respective residences and by 10am we were all jolly in his car catching up and listening to some music on the car’s stereo.
We used Google maps to navigate the area once we were in Thika and it took us about forty minutes from the town to get there. We were checked at the gate and we paid for parking and entry fees for all of us. We got in, parked and got ready the tour. At first all that was in sight was the river which is River Athi, the second longest river in Kenya. It wasn’t much to the eye then since the country had been experiencing inadequate rains which meant rivers were low capacity in terms of the amount of water they carried. The water level was so low you could see several rocks jn it’s mass.
From the river bank, we began walking south because we could hear the sounds of falling water which we could bet were the falls. Just before we could get any further than 7 metres we were approached by two gentlemen. They introduced themselves as Hawi and Odero and informed us that they were guides at the scenery. They were quick to discourage us from going on further south and insisted that they could give us a better view of the falls from the other side of the river. The only catch is that we would have to cross the river on foot with their assistance and guidance. Immediately, my guts detested the idea because if my phobia for large masses of water. However, my friends were for it, especially Victory who loved the thrill that came with rushing adrenaline. They immediately agreed to the idea and began taking their shoes off and folding their pants ready for the water. I was left at the bank of the river still trying to make inquiries on how much it would cost us but my queries fell to deaf ears ad they yanked me in with them.
Crossing the river was a difficult task. There were rocks that slid and hollow parts in the river and sometimes it felt like I was going to drown. When we reached the centre, we stopped for photos and to take the scenery in. The guides also informed us that diving was also an option for whoever was interested and Victory wanted to go for it. At this point I was still pushing the guides for a rough idea of how much the adventure would cost as to which they responded “hatuwezi kosana bei madam” which meant we would come to an agreement on the price. I was very uneasy because I knew one could not trust such a figurative statement. Finally we were on the other side and Odero took a few more photos of us. Victory had dived into the river with Hawi.
Odero then proceeded to tell us that it would only cost us Kshs. 5000 each and an extra 1500 each for a boat ride back. This would also include an extra 1500 for Victory for diving assistance. I was completely taken aback because the amount was preposterous. It was clear that we had been overcharged and we had no option but to pay up because there was no other way to get back to the bank. Victory and Hawi joined us and the two guides informed us that we would have to pay up or they would desert us there. There was no viable option, crossing the river back would be deadly because we had no knowledge on navigating the waters by ourselves. The only thing we could do was beg for a discount and accept that we had been fleeced.
After it was all said and done and we had ranted our hearts out, we knew we had to pay up so we enjoyed the view of the falls which was breath-taking though it was difficult to get lost in the moment considering how hurt we were to part with such an unexpected expense. The boat ride back was shorter than we had anticipated and we were back on land in a jiffy. We then paid the boat driver and proceeded to pay our guides though unwillingly. It was at that moment that we realized that the falls were equally as visible from the side and path we had originally been on before they diverged and conned us into crossing the river with the claim that the falls were only visible from the other side of the bank. The frustrations we felt could not be fathomable by mere words. We had a quick lunch by the riverside after which we drove back home in low spirits. We had been fleeced.