On Saturday 29th December we set out at 7.30 a.m. with Revd. Maritim and his wife to travel far into the neighbouring county, Elgeyo Marakwet, for the next part of our orientation.
We were to attend a betrothal ceremony where there would be feasting and celebrating as the two families came together and concluded the final negotiations as regards the number of cows which would change hands.
Our journey was to take us through Iten, the town where long distance runners from Kenya and indeed from all around the world come to train.
We had been warned that once we had completed our descent from the escarpment we would need hats, water and sunscreen as we would face quite a different environment. This is the dry season, when the fruit ripens on the trees and the new crops are planted ready for the rains from April to September.
All through the night, it had poured with rain as it has done during several other nights. This strange weather pattern has been commented on here almost as much as last summer was in the U.K. The words “climate change” resounded ominously…..
As we finished our descent into the valley we realised something was very wrong. We would not make the betrothal ceremony as the road was impassable: how disappointing!
But how that disappointment paled into insignificance as we viewed the devastation before us.
The heavy, unseasonable rain had coursed down the mountain side, gathering both strength and mud and had swept roads, houses and people before it. Several people were dead, whole families had lost their homes and the local chief was stranded on a rock in the middle of the rushing water. The community were out in force pulling together.
We could do very little to help and it was so frustrating. Maritim used his contacts through ADS to speak to a government department to mobilise official help. We gave some money for petrol for the chainsaws that were being used to clear the trees. We stood and wept as we saw the pain of one family. “Pole”, the beautiful Swahili word used to convey sympathy, was all that we could say. Together with the local rescue team, we were given hot sweet Kenyan tea and yet we had done so little…..
Resounding through our heads was the fear that we had done too much: climate change has an immediate and devastating impact in locations such as this…how much had we contributed to that change?
“Pole, Kenya, Pole.”