Mai Mahiu Catholic Church
The cache is hidden in the beautiful small garden of a tiny church built by Italian prisoners of war, working on constructing the Limuru - Mai Mahiu - Naivasha road in 1942.
During the Second World War, British and Imperial forces captured more than half a million Italian soldiers, sailors and airmen. Although a symbol of military success, these prisoners created numerous problems for the captors throughout the war. See here for access to significant parts of ‘The British Empire and Its Italian Prisoners of War, 1940-1947’ by Bob Moore & Kent Federowich (2002)’ which looks at how the British addressed these problems and turned liabilities into assets by using the Italians as a labor force, a source of military intelligence and as a political warfare tool before their final repatriation in 1946-47.
The Conclusion & Annexes summarise the huge issues involved and give fascinating background details.
37,000 Italian POWs captured after defeat in Ethiopia were interned in East Africa including many in the Rift Valley where amongst other activities they were made to build the Mai Mahui road, which must have been quite a feat of engineering, ascending some 450m up the steep easternwall of the Great Rift Valley as it climbs up from dry hot and dusty Mai Mahui on the valley floor to cool, wet & green Limuru on the high plateau. Many POWs died of malaria and TB in the war camps.
The captors were at least compassionate enough to allow them to build in 1942 this tiny Catholic church which is certainly the smallest of this faith in Kenya & must be one of the smallest places of worship of any religion in the country. It has survived the test of time, seen the colonials leave, and witnessed several changes of regimes in Kenya. People of all faiths call here to appreciate this haven of peace adjacent to this busy road, which is a major transport link both for heavy trucks and for tourists accessing the Maasai Mara National Park, and pay homage to the prisoners who built it.
The small white screw-topped pharmaceutical pot is hidden in the base of the magnificent old specimen of the exotic Schinus molle (Peruvian Pepper Tree) the only surviving tree of three planted in the church grounds at the time of its construction. Although the tree provides a certain amount of cover, please take extra care to conceal or disguise your activities (an extra person, camera & binoculars are useful tools for this!) and ensure that the cache is well hidden on replacement to avoid it being discovered and muggled!
Note: access to the church is free and from 08h00-18h00 daily
Check out these links for more information:
For an absorbing 30 minutes interview with Ann Nyakio, the church caretaker, during which she provides many details of the church and her long involvement in its maintenance, see here.
For information on the pepper tree – see here and here also see here for a summary of its numerous medical benefits.
See here for a fine slideshow of photos of the church and surroundings.
Finally see here for details of the Italian War memorial church in Nyeri where 676 POWs are buried + for more interesting background of the ongoing Italian-Kenya connection which started with the WWII POWs.