Sergoit Hill, Kenya

Despite its magnificence, Sergoit Hill, in Uasin Gishu county remains little known. 

Sergoit Hill is a nondescript landmark feature and a rock outcrop that rises up above the Uasin Gishu Plateau. It is located on the west side of the Great Rift Valley and has an elevation of about 6,857 feet (2,090 meters) above sea level, according to sources.  Sergoit Hill is 20 kilometres northeast of Eldoret and some 3 kilometres off the Eldoret – Iten road towards Moiben. It has a healthy climate that attracts tourists and is surrounded by prime agricultural lands. The hill also doubles up as a wildlife sanctuary. The Sanctuary is co-owned by the Kruger Family, who have lived at the foot of the Hill since 1908, and the Sergoit Golf and Wild Resort.

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An aerial view of Sergoit Hill (camera facing south-west). The Kruger Family farmhouse is at the foot of Sergoit Hill (photo courtesy of https://hiveminer.com/Tags/kenya,sergoit

At the hilltop, one is able to enjoy great views of the area.  It is also an ideal place for hiking. Its terrain can be rough and challenging but exciting. On a clear day, one is able to glimse Mt Kenya to the East, Mt Elgon to the West, the undulating Nandi Hills to the South,  and the expansive Cherangany Hills to the North.

Sergoit hill gained its name sometimes around 1800 when some Keiyo elders made it to the hill to offer sacrifices to their god, Asis, following a severe drought that hit Uasin Gishu plateau leaving a trail of carcasses on the land. It is said that soon after the elders arrived home rain began to pour. They named the hill “sereee- goit,” meaning “our journey was fruitful.” The hill has since been known as tulwop Sergoit (Sergoit hill).

Sergoit, is also thought to the Kalenjin epithet for ‘good luck ahead.’ It is a treasured site and shrine by communities living around it in both Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet Counties, and especially the ‘Keiyo and Marakwet’ sub-communities of Kalenjin.

Alternative pronunciations for Sergoit are; “Sirgoek,” “Sergoek,” or “Sirgoit.”

Geology

Sergoit Rock was formed by sheets of phonolitic lava accompanied by basal tuff and gritts, which entered from the South-East from the mobile floods which spread over peneplained surface in Miocene times. Inliers of Basement System gneisses and quartzites protruded through the lava flows to stand above the level of the surrounding country (Sanders, 1963).

History

The area around Sergoit Hill was an open veld (grasslands with isolated tree growth) with abundance of game. It was unoccupied territory until around 1800 when the Illwuasin-kishu Maasai began to move in and used the area as their grazing fields before the colonial government subsequently pushed them towards Trans Mara. 

Sergoit Hill is highly revered hill and is regarded an important cultural site of the Kalenjin people, especially the Keiyo and the Marakwet.

Sergoit hill
Air photograph of Sergoit Rock taken by the  No.82 Squaredron of the Royal Air-force in 1950. Camera facing northwards. Source: L. D. Sanders. (1963). Geology of the Eldoret Area. Degree Sheet (34). Ministry of Natural Resources. Geological Survey of Kenya. Nairobi.

A story is told of a certain “brave Marakwet man who reached the top of Sergoit hill and found a Maasai woman who lived there alone,  with her large herd of cattle. Her name was Chebo Wangola (daughter of Wangola). On the advice of Orgoiyot, the man outwitted and seduced her. She accepted him as her husband and was absorbed into Marakwet society.”[1]

In the early 1900’s Sergoit became host to some Afrikaners who had migrated to Kenya from South Africa during the British rule. 58 Afrikaner families, led by Jan Van Rensburg, arrived in Sergoit Hill in 1908. Van Brenda surveyed the land around Sergoit Hill and distributed it to the White Settlers.

An English Settler, Arthur Cecil Hoey, who settled in Uasin Gishu side of the Nzoia River (Hoey’s Bridge and now Moi’s Bridge), wrote how he spotted the first caravan of Afrikaners who had moved to Kenya from South Africa in a distance, from the top of Sergoit Rock while watching three lions playing.  “I grabbed my binoculars and looked again and saw a line of ox-drawn wagons, in what appeared to be a column of white smoke, covered with a dirty white cloth—the van Rensburg caravan, and the first influx of Afrikaner pioneers from South Africa.” [2]. 

Hoey, who was also a great hunter, accompanied W.S. Rainsford, an American writer, for a year’s safari to the Sergoit River in 1913. Hoey himself had started serious farming, first near Sergoit Rock, and later in the Cherengani Hills, where he established his own farm, Kapsirowa (later bought by the Duke of Manchester) after the Second World War.

Myths about Sergoit Hill

A common myth associated with Sergoit hill is that a huge snake with magical powers lived at the hilltop. That the snake would descend at night to feed and drink water at a nearby dam. Kids were warned not to walk at night alon.  Another common myth was of a mystical three Maasai morans that appeared on a rock holding spears.  These were later found to be watermarks that formed on a rock. The feature has since disappeared.

[1] Kipkorir, BE, with Welbourne, FB, (2008).The Marakwet of Kenya, a preliminary Study; East African educational publishers Ltd. Nairobi, Kenya.

[2] Anderson J, et al, (1969). They made it their home. Printing and packaging corporation limited Liverpool road, Nairobi, Kenya.

[3] Sanders L.D., (1963). Geology of the Eldoret Area. Degree Sheet (34). Ministry of Natural Resources. Geological Survey of Kenya. Nairobi.

[4] Tarus, I. (1994). The Keiyo of Kenya during the early colonial period, 1902-1939. U.O.N. Nairobi.

©William Kiptoo 2018 Email: wwkiptoo@gmail.com

About William Kiptoo

I am a peace-building practitioner, educator, and researcher. I am also a psychologist. I live in Eldoret, Kenya, born and raised up in Sergoit, about 22kms from Eldoret town. Sergoit is a beautiful place, wealthy, and has a rich heritage. It also has an undying South African Boer connection. It is also in the high-altitude zone of Moiben plateau, with rich fertile soils that are ideal for all-grain farming including wheat, barley, and maize, plus beans, other vegetables, and dairy products like milk butter, and cheese.
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