Sunday Nation pg 3, Oct 28, 2007
The river rapids, the cool breeze rustling the majestic tropical trees and the lush green shrubbery held Mr William Kinuthia in awe. His gaze would shift from the brown rocks, some the size of elephants, to the rushing waters, and his ears tuned into the singsong chirping of birds. That was back in 1985, and he was only 15, but this scenery on the Sagana River left an indelible mark on his mind. Mr. Kinuthia, who hails from Mathioya in Murang’a, had been visiting relatives who lived a kilometre from the rapids and would walk every day to the river to take in more of the awesome attraction.
“I spent four days with the relative,” he recalls. “I would wake up every day, go to the falls and spend the whole day watching them and the surrounding scenery.” Sitting under partly cloudy skies, an idea struck him. He vowed that when he grew up, he would buy the piece of land and turn it into a tourist attraction where people looking to escape the humdrum routine of daily life could find tranquillity.
Then it was only a lad’s dream. Slightly over two decades on, Mr. Kinuthia is not only a grown man but he has, against a stack of odds, transformed the virgin grounds into an attractive spot now called Rapids Camp
“I dug the well by myself since I had no money to employ anyone,” he says. “Everyday I’d dig and scoop out the soil using a debe (tin). There were people who discouraged me, but I refused to give up. The effort paid dividends, with my first crop of tomatoes fetching Sh5,000.
But that was not enough for his long-term project. After farming for a while, Mr. Kinuthia’s ambition took him to Nairobi in 1992 where he began hawking men’s trousers in Makadara estate.
“My dream of transforming the beautiful scenery kept returning to my mind, even though I had moved to the city. Even to date, I think about it”, he says. After hawking, Mr. Kinuthia was employed as a clerk at Hyundai Motors and Later Kamsons Ltd where he was soon promoted to be clearing forwarding manager. But he quit Kamsons in 1999 and set up Willies and Lillies Enterprises Ltd, a clearing and forwarding company specialising in vehicle imports from the then fledgling Dubai used car market. In 2001, he registered a second company, Massive Power Systems, through which he tried his had at marketing.
His love of the outdoors, he says, is intertwined with his love for sport, and his next venture was the formation of a company known as Mt. Kenya Trackers, through which he hoped to promote athletes and seek scholarships.
“I was a natural in sports since my boyhood,” the six-footer says. He attended sports conferences in Greece, Germany and South Africa. At present he is the Kenyan representative to the World Sport Ministries, headquartered in Bristol, England.
How did he make it? “Persistence, determination and focus,” he says. “People quit even before seeing results. Kenyans especially quit too soon. We should learn to be more persistent when we venture into business.”
Foreign Affairs assistant minister and immediate former Mp for Kiharu Hon. Kembi Gitura attended the launch of Rapids Camp. “It is a strong, rich area considered marginal in the minds of the people but has and will change the economy of lower Kiharu and other parts of the district and bring revenue to our country,” Mr. Gitura said. The Kenya Tourist Board managing director Dr. Ong’ong’a Achieng’ said the camp is a good example of Africa entrepreneurship.
“The perception that the tourism industry is Western culture and a venture for foreigners and well-established Kenyans only is wrong. Kenyans must change, stop fearing, take the risk and invest in the tourism industry,” he said
Rapids Camp has set up a website, www.raftinginkenya.com, on which they have posted information on camp activities that include water-rafting, bird watching and rock-climbingin Kenya.