Road Trip Kenya

Posted on April 3, 2012

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This wasn’t meant to be a road trip. Yes, we were driving, but our destination, Kericho, was supposed to be our only stop for the weekend. Funny things happen in Africa.

The journey from Nairobi was a difficult one, eased only by a borrowed car  with a good suspension and UN plates. This meant we avoided injuries from the horrendous roads we were forced to negotiate and were waved through the regular police checks along the way. All was smooth at the start, though it emerged that Lonely Planet had hopelessly underestimated how long the journey could take. Just before Nakuru we stopped and chewed on nyama choma in front in shocked locals, before hitting the final stretch to Kericho. This is where it got tough. The road to the town was blocked by roadworks, which I presume have been going on for years and are nowhere near completion. The diversion was quite extraordinary, every second of the ninety minutes of it. The road could barely be described as such, and the ride was uncomfortable in the extreme. We thought we would never get there.

Eventually, we did. It was gone midnight, and we had a tent to put up. After a quick stop at the bar we bit the bullet and erected our temporary home by the light of the car headlamps. Surprisingly successful, we caught a few hours of sleep before rising early to go on a tea tour. Kericho is famed for its tea, and the hotel in whose grounds we were camped was aptly called the Tea Hotel. A dilapidated old colonial relic, it was probably the place to stay fifty or so years ago, but looks like it hasn’t been given a lick of paint since. The tour was interesting, though very brief. Though we had booked in advance, we were unable to tour the factories, and the fact that the hotel’s pool was filthy persuaded us to cut short our stay and leave.

So it was back in the car for the four hour drive to Nyahururu, also known as Thomson’s Falls, via a quick stop for samosas and beer at a Nakumatt in Nakuru.We had decided to treat ourselves here, booking ourselves into the Thomson’s Falls Lodge, from the garden you could see the falls themselves. The room was decent and the ambience was nice, not something we had experience too often on weekends away in East Africa. It felt like money well spent. After hiring a guide – for “security” – we hiked down the hill to the foot of the falls, were co-opted into posing for pictures with some young Kenyans and then climbed as close as we could to the falls, feeling the spray on our faces. Given the lack of rainfall recently (the Long Rains have been a little late in arriving) there was not as much water as usual, yet it was still an impressive sight. After scrambling back to the top of the hill we were taken to have a look at some hippos further along the river. These hippos seemed to be well used to people, observing us disinterestedly from only a few feet away, waiting for us to leave so they could come to land to graze.

After a buffet dinner and drinks in a very English bar that night, we set off the next morning having decided to try and squeeze Nyanyuki and Nyeri into a single day. This did not look like happening when we discovered we had a puncture, something we only came to realise after having several cars flash their lights at us and finally having a friendly Kenyan essentially cut us up and demand we stop. This same man ended up jumping in our vehicle and directing us to the nearest mechanic, who changed our tyre for Sh150, barely more than a pound. Nightmare averted, we bid farewell to our lifesaving friend and continued our journey. We grabbed a quick lunch on a rooftop restaurant in Nyanyuki, with slight views of a cloudy Mt Kenya, before heading just south of town where there was a sign marking the equator. Here we were treated to a definition of the Coriolis effect, with water draining through a whole in a clockwise direction twenty feet north of the equator and anti-clockwise south of it. On the line itself, of course, it drained straight down.

Suitably awed, we jumped back in the car and headed off to our final port of call, Nyeri. This town is famous for two things, one old, one recent. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouts, once declared “the closer to Nyeri, the closer to bliss”. Men currently living in Nyeri may disagree, given that the town has been at the centre of a media frenzy due to the amount of me being beaten by their wives there. Support groups have been set up and the press are refusing to let it go, totally disregarding the fact that husband-beating is still a very minor issue compared to wife-beating in the country. Thankfully, we managed to simply drive through the town itself without me stumbling across any of these famed females, instead heading just out of town to the Outspan hotel, which houses the cottage that Baden-Powell lived in from 1938 until his death in 1941. This part of town did indeed seem like bliss, his cottage overlooking lush lawns and high trees. I am sure the abundance of scouting memorabilia must have got on his nerves though.

From here it was back to Nairobi, a more hectic than planned weekend behind us but probably a more enjoyable one than we would have had stuck in sleepy Kericho.

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Posted in: Experience