Even after seeing the roaring falls of Niagara in Ontario Canada, and the majesty of the beautiful Victoria in Zambia, who would’ve thought that a mere falls like Zania would still create bubbling excitement for me?
Yet indeed she did.
November 12th 2017. It was another supposedly typical Sunday morning in Nairobi – for everyone else. Not for the Women Who Hike and the men who support Women Who Hike. We left Nairobi closer to 7am as we got onto the Thika highway and headed towards Nyeri. Destination: Zania Falls – a place I had only heard about but had yet to discover. The stories were always the same: Zania Falls was a spectacular waterfall discovered by hiking through lush green valleys in the Aberdare Ranges.
The drive to Nyeri was long. At least 3 hours on the bus before we arrived at our destination where we were greeted by rangers, guides and muddy trails. A quick introduction to our guides, a five minute stretch session, and a short introduction to the term “forest bathing” (no, not with shampoo or soap) later, the group of 34 was off on the trail that would end at Zania Falls.
Hikers crisscrossed the murky trail, trying to avoid the patches that were flooded with water. None of it mattered as it just made it harder to walk, so they took it in stride and walked through. We came across a dodgy looking 15 foot bridge, under which the cold water of Zania River flowed. There are many who walked across it like it was just another step on the trail, but there were others whose inside voice was yelling at them saying “WHAT IN THE WORLD DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? YOU ARE NOT MADE FOR THIS! ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?” If you looked down, the flow of the river could make you dizzy…but you had to look down to see where to step! The fearless ones lent a helping hand to those who were shaky in their pants. Strangers assisting strangers. Some joked, some laughed, some screamed their mama’s name, some even danced across, but everyone came together as a team. It is moments like these that we must ingrain in ourselves, when we put our own fears aside and lend a helping hand to our comrades. The power of compassion.
Once everyone was across the infamous bridge, we continued the trek through the forest. The path was narrow, so we walked along in a single file. We found ourselves amidst the spectacular valley in Zania Forest. The air was cool and fresh, the hike was kind, and the weather was perfect. With a sense of peace, everyone “bathed” across the forest. In ancient Japanese, the term Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing refers to taking in the forest atmosphere. Intuition has always told us that being in the forest can calm, relax and rejuvenate the body. For me, it did just that.
Zania Falls eventually peeped out from the various twists and turns of the forest. She fell there, in the distance, wholesome and wet, calling out to all the adventure seekers to come closer to her and experience her natural wonder. She drew us in with her rumbling cascade and surrounding landscape. What a beauty.
The hike back through the forest seemed shorter. Zania’s constant weather in the last few weeks leading up to the hike made it impossible for us to move forward where I hear there are spectacular caves. So for now, we shelf the balance of this hike as part of our to-do list in the near future and continue the trek back to where we started, hugging trees along the way, and developing our inner radar for the wonders of the woods.