- The weather outside is sunny and bright, and one is immediately struck by the cold and dampness of the tunnel.
- A few droplets also fall on us as we continue walking.
- It is pitch-dark, and some people are using torches while others are using the flashlights on their phones.
I look back and see the entrance receding into the distance.
By FRANCIS NDERITU
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It is a Sunday morning when I join a group of hiking enthusiasts outside Hilton Hotel in Nairobi. I will accompany them on an adventure through Kenya’s oldest train tunnel, Buxton Tunnel, in Limuru.
The tunnel was built in 1899 during the colonial era by Indian coolies hired by the British, and was part of the Kenya-Uganda railway line, nicknamed the Lunatic Express.
The railway line began in Mombasa and ended in Kisumu, previously known as Port Florence, from where it would extend to Uganda.
After a 40-minute drive we reach Limuru, perhaps better known as home to Bata Shoe Company. In addition to walking through the tunnel, we intend to follow the railway line for quite a distance. It passes through tea plantations and a small forest.
We also plan to stop at Jumia House for lunch, and will end the day at Lakehouse in Tigoni.
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Our guide is Mr Alex Kamau of Let’s Drift, a hiking company.
Our first stop is an Administration Police (AP) camp to pick up three officers to accompany us through the tunnel, since we have been told that it can be unsafe at times.
We begin the walk along the railway line from Limuru, passing through farms green with tea, maize and other crops, as well as some very tall trees. The environment is serene and the air is fresh, a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi. As we walk, we hear voices raised in praise and worship in the many churches built close to the railway line.
On approaching the tunnel, we spot a small light at the end, which makes it look short — until we get in. The weather outside is sunny and bright, and one is immediately struck by the cold and dampness of the tunnel. A few droplets also fall on us as we continue walking. It is pitch-dark, and some people are using torches while others are using the flashlights on their phones.
I look back and see the entrance receding into the distance. I look at the walls and notice the messages left by previous visitors. Some simply announce, “Alex was here” or “ziwa gang was here”. But more striking are the love messages such as “Sam loves you Vivian”, which was repeated many times, making one wonder whether this is the tunnel of love. As we talk, our voices and laughter echo the length of the tunnel, creating an eerie feeling. Perhaps this is what led to the rumour that the tunnel is haunted.
We complete the 950-metre walk in less than 22 minutes, and are relieved to feel the sun’s warmth after the cold, damp atmosphere. We take some group photos and congratulate ourselves for conquering the tunnel. We are told that the tunnel is used by cargo trains from Nairobi to Malaba a few times a week.
We even spot some drops of oil on the railway line. We also note some huge nuts used to bolt down the railway bearing the initials EAR, which stands for East Africa Railway, a sign of how old the railway is.
The walk ends with a breathtaking view of sunset from Lakehouse as we have snacks and discuss future adventures.
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