From Eldoret With Love: The End of A Traveller’s Trilogy

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A section of Eldoret town on a rainy day.

A section of Eldoret town on a rainy day.

My last destination, before heading back to Nairobi after a 12-day round trip that began in Kisumu and later in Kakamega (read my Kisumu and Kakamega posts), was the small town of Nyaru in Elgeyo Marakwet County, about 45km from Eldoret city. In Nyaru, I visited a community ICT centre housed in what used to be a multi-purpose social hall built through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

At the ICT centre, farmers are learning vital ICT skills that they can apply in accessing important information on modern farming practices and market prices right from their mobile phones.

Like other similar initiatives implemented by the Anglican Development Services, development arm of the ACK church, the ICT centre in Nyaru was targeting mainly the youth in farming. The project has received overwhelming response from the community such that the CDF hall has now been converted to an ICT centre simply because of the new value placed on the knowledge of ICT skills by the largely farming community.

The centre was just next to the chief’s office and so I took the liberty of visiting and and spending some quality time with Chief Silas Kigen who imparted some really wise words quoting an old African proverb I had heard some time back as I was growing up in rural Kenya.

He talked of what he regarded as the greatest tragedy in Africa – that Africans are eating all the eggs and when they are done, they descend on the very hen that lay the eggs. “What follows is poverty levels like you have never witnessed before because what else are they left to rely on when their very source of livelihood has gone?” he asks.

As I left Nyaru, engulfed in a thick smoke of blinding fog that reminded me of cold days in the tea-growing highlands of Limuru, Chief Kigen’s words rang constantly in my mind. Indeed everywhere you look in Africa today, you see a society very busy eating the eggs and the hen that lay them as if tomorrow will never come.

You see it in the high rates at which our water masses, forests and wildlife are disappearing. There seems to be no end to our insatiable desire to put all our hens to death. Let me end that discussion here for now.

That day back at the Racecourse Inn, where I was staying, I discovered I had no desire for any chicken whether roasted, fried or boiled – despite knowing too well that Chief Kigen’s words were only spoken metaphorically. I instead settled for some chips with a Spanish omelette and ushered them down with a strange mix of coffee and a cold Krest Bitter Lemon.

The Racecourse Inn, located about 8km from Eldoret town, along the Eldoret-Kisumu road, is quite an old establishment, going by its colonial design. I was particularly tickled by the sliding lever mechanism used to open and close the windows. What amazed me more though, was the size of my room.

I admit I have never come across a hotel room that is this big in a really long time since Izaak Walton in Embu whose rooms are even bigger (their old rooms). I have only ever seen this in Uganda and Ethiopia where hotels spoil you with space.

It was while at the Racecourse Inn that I perfected the art of distributing limited resources among unlimited needs because I quickly discovered that while my room was large, it only had one power socket that was already occupied by the Cathode Ray Tube TV.

Under such circumstances, one quickly develops a knack for priority. You no longer take for granted the crucial decision about what is to be done first – whether to charge the phone, watch the news, charge the camera battery or plug-in your laptop on power while working. At the end of the day, I managed to juggle all the above pretty well. How I did it though is material for another story – perhaps on our survivor Blog series.

My bathroom experience was near-hilarious especially when I suddenly realised that I was the same height as the Lorenzetti instant shower head! They have added some extra piping that makes the shower head too low. To cut a long story short, I did manage to shower successfully for the period I was at the Inn but not without conjuring up a few tricks of my own that would have made any master contortionist envious.

For those who love to watch an occasional documentary on DStv at night and heavily rely on the internet for everything they do in their lives except life itself, then you will quickly realise these facilities are evidently missing at the Inn. You may then have to settle for a poor but discernible analogue signal on the old CRT TV set I had mentioned earlier.

But trust me, you will not die because you lacked any of these things (I am writing this aren’t I?) and your stay at the Racecourse Inn will be an enjoyable one as it was for me. You will particularly enjoy the freshly cooked food with fresh vegetables and meat from the market.

Leaving accommodation, sanitation and culinary matters behind, allow me to now focus your attention on this ancient town in the north Rift. From its humble beginnings as a small village created in the midst of about 118 Afrikaans-speaking families from South Africa who settled here in 1908 and 1911, Eldoret is today one of Kenya’s main cities and really growing fast. Officially, the site of present-day Eldoret town began as a Post Office in 1910.

It was then known as ‘Farm 64’ by the white settlers and Sisibo by the locals. The name ‘Farm 64’ was created because the Post Office was 64 miles from the Uganda Railway railhead at Kibigori. The farm was owned by a Mrs. Ortleppe. I am told that the only thing that remains of Mrs. Ortleppe’s farm is the Central Lounge built by his cousin Willy van Aardt.

The name Eldoret, I later learned, is derived from a Maasai word, ‘eldore’, which means stony river because of the nearby Sosian River whose bed is very stony. I later developed my own theory about the origin of the town’s name from an interesting story I read in a copy of Old Africa magazine.

Apparently, from the story, the settlers in those formative years of Eldoret used to flush park their Ford Ts on the main street and since the Ts were known to have poor brakes, the drivers would use stones as stoppers to prevent them from rolling away. The end result was a street so littered with stones that the police had to issue a warning to motorists to remove their stones when leaving or face prosecution.

As I boarded the 10am Easy Coach bus from Eldoret to Nairobi the next morning, I was one tired but really fascinated traveller. 12 days and 13 nights wandering across western Kenya, Nyanza and the far sides of the Rift valley had proved an eye opener to me as I beheld the beauty that makes Kenya a really amazing country.

Which places have you been in Eldoret? Where have you stayed? What were your experiences? Would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

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About Henry Muuthia

Henry Muuthia is a travel writer and photographer. He writes for a range of online platforms including Technorati, Google+, EzineArticles and ArticleBase where he has published several articles, mostly on Kenyan travel. He is a resident writer for Enchanted Landscapes Travelogue and also occasionally writes for the travel section of Nakumatt''s SmartLife Magazine.
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