When the Growler rumbled into Karura Forest that morning of Monday 28th July 2020, the sun was still hiding beneath the eastern horizon. My car’s flashlights were piercing the semi-darkness as I drove slowly along the earthen road that snakes into the forest. I parked at a new spot that my friend Uwineza had suggested. A spot where the forest sits pretty, right in front of you, a mere inches away. You can simply lean back in your car seat and converse with the trees before joining them for a walk, run or cycling.
My Nile Tulip shoes (they are in their final days and need replacement) smashed into the right peddle and I began cycling. The time was 6.45AM and the sunlight was finally seeping through the tree canopies above me. But the semi-darkness was still hanging in the moist atmosphere and I loved that. It felt like constantly sniffing an intensely fresh aroma.
A sudden burst of morning wind blew into from the thousands of leaves around me, causing a raucous rustle. What a beautiful sound, I thought. This same thought trickled into my mind when I descended to the banks of Karura River and heard the roar of the baby waterfall. The only reason this baby waterfall exists is because the river overran the bridge. These days, cyclists like myself have to use the pedestrian footpath a few meters away from the bridge that has now become a riverbed.
I wish I could ride up this steep ascent. I thought as I pushed my bike up the track that ascends from the river to join Wangari Maathai Track. But my bike gears were not changing smoothly, so I didn’t want to risk messing up the bike and having to walk it back to the parking. That would be a shame because bikes are created to be rode, not walked.
A bird chirped. I barely registered the chirp since at that moment I was hurtling down Wangari Maathai Track. The whoooooa! Was filling my ears and charging my spirit. But despite that, the soft chirp still managed to fly into my ears. I wish I could know exactly which bird that is, I thought. I once met an avid birder in Watamu, Kilifi County, who spits out birds names as soon as he hears their chirps. How does one even differentiate between these chirps! I wondered as I jumped off my bike at junction 33.
There is a little tree at junction 33 that I usually lean on to catch my breath and just soak in the nature around me. I blew a kiss at the tree as I sank into the ground and leaned against its slender trunk. Aaaah, it felt good. A breeze crawled through the hundreds of trees in front of me and brushed against my eyebrows. I took a deep breath. My chest danced in joy.
The breeze changed into a wind and some leaves broke free from the trees. They started flying around, unsure whether to aim for the sky or fall to the ground. They were just there - suspended in a gentle salsa. Another chirp penetrated the wind’s loud howl. This particular chirp was deeper and louder. It was soon followed by an even deeper one, then a softer one. But I couldn’t see any of the birds. They were walking in the footsteps of the wind - they could only be felt and heard, not seen. I closed my brown eyes and took another deep breath as I listened to the beautiful forest sounds - rustling leaves, singing birds and a howling wind.
These sounds kept me going for the fifty kilometers that I cycled in the forest that morning.
What are the soundtrack of your life? Whatever they are, be sure to click 'play' on the sounds of nature, from time to time. In the words of Bwak the Bantu Poet, 'nature's music flows from God's bosom. It stirs the spirit and engraves a smile into your heart.'