Limuru is a place of many intriguing historical gems. From being at the centre of Kenya’s rich tea history to its place in the Happy Valley saga when colonial slay queens and kings reigned supreme, Limuru is a definite bucket list destination.
Back in days now gone by, Limuru’s infamous donkey dung infested streets earned it the title of Kenya’s donkey capital. Actually, its name is a corrupted version of the Maasai word, ilmur, which means donkey dung!
In case you are wondering, Limuru still is the unchallenged home of the Bata Shoe Company, the pre-world war shoe behemoth which traces its humble origins to the small town of Zlín in southeastern Moravia which today is part of the Czech Republic.
You might also be interested to know that somewhere in this farming countryside lies a coffee farm that once belonged to Harry Adamson, George Adamson‘s father.
Yes, the one and only George Adamson of the Born Free fame who came to bear the banner of Bwana Simba, father of lions. Harry was initially destined for South Africa from India but when he arrived in Kenya, he never left!
This former white highland destination also has bragging rights to the title of one of the coldest places in Kenya. But you already knew that! What you may not know or know little of is that in Limuru exists the longest train tunnel in Kenya, the Buxton Tunnel.
This infamous tunnel, finished in the 1940s, is part of the legendary Lunatic Express, itself completed in 1901. The reason being, the metre-gauge Lunatic Express, has had a number of shifts since its completion over a century ago – one of these shifts happens to be the Buxton Tunnel.
At one point its notoriety for being the scene of numerous crimes including murders, made the 1.7 M Buxton Tunnel lose its fascination as a colonial marvel – it instead became a place of horror where everyone except the trains that plied this route, avoided.
As I stood here this afternoon, it was years after a major police crackdown had wiped out the gangs that operated in the darkness of this long tunnel. Yet even then, I could not bring myself to venture anywhere inside it despite there being no apparent reason for alarm – better to be safe than sorry, I wised myself!
I was still taking shots of this otherwise stunning place when I heard the loud signature honk – the Lunatic Express was on its way and there was nowhere to hide! In my hasty retreat (for what reason I still do not know), I awkwardly stumbled and found myself heading for the hard railway tracks, left knee first.
The second horn, now sounding even nearer, edged me painfully back to my feet and I took cover, on the railside just as the train emerged around the corner – giving me barely enough time to recover, compose myself and manage to capture a few memorable moments on my phone camera.
This was a newer model but it still elicited such a euphoric feeling to have been that close to a piece of Kenya’s history and heritage in motion – a few metres from the Buxton Tunnel. I had come in because of the tunnel, I also got its user!