Nanyuki: The Settler Town That Refused To Sleep

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The sign at the equator. It is a popular spot for tourists coming to see a demonstration of the effect of the Coriolis force.

The sign at the equator. It is a popular spot for tourists coming to see a demonstration of the effect of the Coriolis force.

Nanyuki is a small town with a population of 68,552 (2009) people. It is now the headquarters of the newly formed Laikipia County. It derives its name from a Maasai word ‘Engare nanyuikie’ which means the river of blood. A long time ago, the Maasai had a fierce confrontation with the Purko community along the banks of one of the local rivers. Many Morans were slaughtered in the battle and there was heavy blood shed which led the river to be known as the river of blood – a name that was later adopted for the town.

The town was started by British settlers in the early days of colonial Kenya in 1907. Some of their descendants still live in or around the town. The town is the market centre for farms, ranches, game parks and wildlife conservancies in the region. It’s also the base for people seeking to climb Mount Kenya.

Climbers and backpackers visit Nanyuki on their way to or from Mount Kenya along the Sirimon and Burguret routes. Because of its proximity to the mountain, the town has many hotels including the famous Mount Kenya Safari Club and the Sportsman’s Arms Hotel. Just next to the hotel is the Nanyuki Sports Club that shares a fence with the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) grounds that also house the British military training base here.

Nanyuki abounds with a variety of eateries including the oldest of them all – The Marina – which is still fairly popular. Several years ago, a restaurant was opened south of Nanyuki built inside a huge tree. Named ‘Trout Tree Restaurant’ its main attraction is trout prepared in various ways.

Barney’s Bar & Restaurant at the Nanyuki Airfield, about 5 km south of Nanyuki town on the main Nanyuki-Nairobi road is another popular eating place opened in 2005. There is also the Simbas Lodge just near the Likii slum where you can treat your taste buds to nicely fried ‘kienyeji kuku’ (local chicken) with fried potatoes.

Coming back to Nanyuki after many years, I see the town has transformed although some remnants of its settler past still linger here and there. Shopping here offers a whole new experience with one of Kenya’s largest supermarket chains – Nakumatt now having a presence here. For the nostalgic ones like me, though The Nanyuki Service stores and the Settlers store (this store was established in the 1930s) do still exist.

The Equator line, which passes 6.5 km south of Nanyuki, is a popular spot with tourists because of the supposed effect of the Coriolis force. The force makes draining water swirl clockwise or anticlockwise depending on whether one is on the northern or southern hemisphere but science shows this only happens in the lab (so what exactly happens at the equator if it is not the Coriolis force?).

In physics, the Coriolis Effect is caused by the rotation of the Earth and the inertia of the mass experiencing the effect. When Newton’s laws of motion, which govern the motion of an object in a inertial frame of reference, are transformed to a rotating frame of reference, the Coriolis and centrifugal forces appear.

On the northern side of the town as you head towards the Kenya Air Force base, is the Nanyuki Spinners and Weavers self-help group. Run by a group of women, they weave beautiful carpets and other household items for sale. They will normally allow visitors a tour of their workshops where one can see how their products are made, starting from carding, spinning and colouring the wool to the making of carpets, wall hangings and other things.

Nanyuki also sits on the edge of the massive Laikipia plateau, which is currently one of Africa’s most important wildlife conservation sites. The Ol pejeta conservancy which is about 17 km south of Nanyuki town is a shining example. Here in the plateau, communities are encouraged to share their space with wildlife and learn to coexist together.

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23 comments on “Nanyuki: The Settler Town That Refused To Sleep

  1. Juliet on said:
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    Nanyuki is such a wonderful place to be I can testify to that. With the Leisure Garden Hotel just 5 minutes from the town along Meru road and very new. The hotel has vast grounds for backpackers and camping, bush parties, bonfire etc., as you view Mount Kenya. Cottages and tents are available for accommodation. Did I mention we are the only hotel in Nanyuki that the famous Liiki River passes by our camping grounds with our guests allowed to do fishing!! If you want to be spoiled try us. Our cuisines are mind blowing!

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    • eltravelogueadmin on said:
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      Hi Juliet, would you mind Enchanted Landscapes doing a review of the place one of these fine days? Let us know through a comment here. Thanks for passing by our blog.

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      • juliet on said:
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        Of course you’re welcome anytime for i would highly appreciate that! looking forward to that.

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  2. Henry Muuthia on said:
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    Hi Folks. It is great to see the comments that have come out of this story. Nanyuki, like any other growing town in Kenya has grown by leaps and bounds in te recent past. The roads are really nice and they now have Nakumatt which is really giving the old convenient stores we grew up around a run for their money – I recently had breakfast at the Marina – i do not know if it was me but it also seemed to be a wee bit shell of its former glory. If you visit the former suburbs of Second Avenue and Mela Singh, you will be utterly shocked – so much development is happening there. The former wilderness around the old St. Georges church is now gone and replaced by a great leafy community of posh homes for the rich. It was truly amazing revisiting Nanyuki after such a long time.

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  3. ashok patel on said:
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    i left nanyuki in 1962 to india studied engineering in india went back to kenya in1973
    Went to usa in 1973 i am in usa since then iwent back to kenya twice. My father owned
    Patel trading store and caltex gas station.

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      Thanks Ashok for this insight. We just love the discussion that has been happening around this article!

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    • Ishver Chauhan on said:
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      Hi Ashok,

      My name is Ishver Chauhan. I have 2 brothers named Raman and Babu Chauhan. My fathers name is Vanmali Kalayan Chauhan and my mothers name is Santaben Chauhan all born in Nanyuki. My father had a shoe store and a restaurant/bar over Mathews Chemist shop.

      We have never met but we may know each other indirectly through our small community. Send me back a message on here if we may know one another.

      Thanks,

      Ishver

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      • Yasmin Khan on said:
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        Hi guys, I went to Beehive school and Nanyuki Indian Primary School, My father’s name was Mr. Jalil Khan and he was the foreman of Marshalls, and a very good customer at your bar and restaurant, I remember we used to go and see old movies up there, the first horror movie we watched there was Frankenstein, I remember we kids didn’t sleep the whole night we were so scared. During my time at Nanyuki Indian Primary School, the headmaster’s name was I think Mr Patel, and my teacher was Hari Bhai Master, there was also a lady teacher who used to wear dark glasses, she used to teach standard 3-4 and 5. Still miss Nanyuki. Love to hear from everyone.

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        • Enchanted Landscapes Traveller on said:
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          Hi Yasmin. I can tell you for sure Enchanted Landscapes does not own any bar and restaurant in Nanyuki but hearing your story was truly refreshing. Hope you will be able to connect with old buddies of Nanyuki Indian Primary here. They now call it Nanyuki Primary School. Never heard of the Beehive school though so that’s a new one. Thanks a lot for the comment.

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        • Babu Chauhan on said:
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          Hi Yasmin it is good to hear from you. I finished Nanyuki Indian School in 1963. Yes, Mr. Patel was headmaster. I know Haribhai. I have my school photo class of 1963 I will post it soon what year did you finish and where do you live now?

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          • Enchanted Landscapes Traveller on said:
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            This is getting interesting. Babu, we have began a section on our photo gallery we are calling ‘Our History’ where your photo can really fit. If you would like to post it here, feel free to use this link /elforms/f_submit_photo/

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    • Chander on said:
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      Hi Ashok,

      I think we were both in the same KPE class. I hope you are well and lets try to keep in touch

      Regards
      chander

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  4. Babu Chauhan on said:
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    I left Nanyuki in 1966 went to Nanyuki Indian school till 1962. I still have a school photo my dad owned a bar on top of Matthews chemist shop called new Kenya bar and restaurant. I have never been back, I reside in Toronto Canada. I still miss Nanyuki. I would love to hear from everybody.

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      Hi Babu. Thanks for this post. Would be nice if you could send us some of this old photos so we could relieve the memories as they were. You could use this link /elforms/f_submit_photo/

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    • Henry Milgo on said:
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      Hi, am currently working in Nanyuki. The town is growing at an alarming rate. More people are putting their investment in this town. The climate is very favourable. the breeze from mount Kenya is quite enjoyable. Please make arrangements to pay a visit soon. Nice time.

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  5. GD Star Rating
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    I was in Nanyuki recently and stayed at Falcon Heights Hotel located just after the hospital. It is a new hotel with great rooms and excellent food and service.

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    • Mike on said:
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      Thanks Joe for the wonderful feedback,I am the Architect of the new Hotel.Welcome back.

      Mike

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  6. Schumacher on said:
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    A very good story. Nanyuki town has always been this sleepy yet active town with so much to offer. Once i stayed at the Nanyuki Cottage but now sadly it seems that is another landmark in Nanyuki now gone. But at least the Sports Club is still there and golfing is as alive as ever.

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  7. Mohamed Ali Hirsy on said:
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    My granddad, Mr. Ali Guled, was the first African to build a stone house (now known as Lenana ) around the forties amongst the Indian community. All his sons and some of his grand children, including myself, studied at then Nanyuki Indian Primary School. Granddad was very popular amongst the Indian and African community. I am currently resident in London and my last visit to my home town was in 1980. Long live Nanyuki.

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  8. GD Star Rating
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    My Grandpa started the Nanyuki Settlers store!

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    • GD Star Rating
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      Yes – such a shame that Settlers Stores is being sold

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      • GD Star Rating
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        That was truly a great place to shop. They are among the few landmarks of Nanyuki town i can remember having spent a great deal of my early childhood there. I hope it is being sold for better things. But either way, we must keep such memories alive – they are priceless.

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