I have been on a long road trip these last few days moving from Nairobi to Eldoret through Narok, Kisumu and Kakamega.
For some towns like Kisumu, I was coming back after more than 15 years! It was a lot of fun seeing the amazing transformations western Kenya has gone through since then and to see what it now has to offer the intrepid traveller.
Going by road and choosing to use public means, made the experience all the more insightful and colourful. My choice of transport from Nairobi to Kisumu was the Easy Coach Bus Service that plies this route quite regularly.
For KES 1,350.00 you get safety and reasonable comfort – not to mention the small packet of biscuits the ‘cabin crew’ offers passengers just to boost their glucose levels – which was kind of cool, especially being the first time in a long time I was travelling by bus on such a distance – actually on any distance.
Being my first time, I found Easy Coach to be a great bus service. In fact any mishaps I had on the trip were external and quite minimal, mainly because of the many rough diversions set up to pave way for the major road works happening here and indeed across the country as President Kibaki embarks on an ambitious national road upgrade project.
We began to see glimpses of Kisumu City at around 6 PM. Here the journey gets even rougher – the diversions are numerous. On a bus, that is not a good thing. So I did not get the kind of grand entry into Kisumu City I had expected after more than a decade away and that was a bit of an anticlimax really.
We soon left the Nairobi-Kisumu road, the highway of diversions, and got into Ondiek Road to behold the larger than life structure that is the Nakumatt Mega City which you see to your right as you approach the city from the Nairobi side. I am told this is the largest of all the Nakumatt’s in Kenya. “But do we say?” I am informed.
Sadly, this wow moment fades away as quickly as it appears. Just next to the largest supermarket in Kenya is also the largest pile of stinking garbage I have seen in a while.
How the home of the largest lake in Africa allowed such an eye sore to grace its main entrance to the city still puzzles me but then I remembered Mombasa, the coastal capital of Kenya was no better. There’s just something with our cities and giving visitors and anticlimax of an entrance – or is it because I am a Nairobian?
Nakumatt and its garbage heap aside, Kisumu city is otherwise growing reasonably fast with numerous ultra-modern buildings coming up everywhere you look and yet you can still catch glimpses of its old rustic side dominated by ancient buildings that carry in their workmanship a rich, hidden history of this lake city the world must know of some day.
It is also quickly obvious that the major business owners here are from the Asian community going by the many business premises one comes across bearing Indian names – the most prominent are schools, social halls and hospitals such as, of course, the Aga Khan Hospital, which is a household name here.
My short-term abode was the Le Savanna Country Lodge, a really nice place, tucked away in the quiet suburbs of Kisumu where one is easily set free from the hustle and bustle of the CBD. Located next to the Dr. Robert Ouko Estate, Le Savanna, as they say, is a place where ‘you can dine, tweet, swim and sleep the night away in unrivalled class.’
Am told a few more classier hotels will be opening their doors to clients pretty soon – that is quite impressive, especially, remembering that back then the only decent place was the Sunset Hotel. I learn that time has ripped its glamour away though.
Kisumu, these days hosts the Kisumu International Airport, Kenya’s 4th International airport after Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Mombasa’s Moi International Airport and the Eldoret International Airport in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret. If you are not a fun of road trips, then you can just fly-in. A lot has been happening here since the town was elevated to a city.
While in Kisumu I visited Kabondo, the home of Sweet Potatoes. I get surprised to learn that 80% of Kenya’s sweet potatoes come from here – I had always thought the largest producer was Meru.
In Kabondo, I met a group of youth who are learning to use Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to improve access to better market prices through an SMS application called m-farm.
M-farm is helping farmers access the most competitive prices for various crops in the market and it is proving to be a powerful tool that is supporting the making of informed decisions about where to sell farm produce competitively.
I also had a chance to visit the ICT Centre set up by the ACK church through its development arm, the Anglican Development Services (ADS), in collaboration with other partners. At the centre, farmers, especially the young ones, are learning how to use the computer and the mobile phone to keep track of their farm records and use the Internet to access information on new farming techniques.
The centre also doubles as a sweet potato collection centre where farmers can bulk their crop and sell collectively, which enables them to get better prices.
After spending 5 nights in the lake city, it was time to embark on the second leg of my journey that would take me to the western town of Kakamega. I learn the meaning of the town’s name, loosely translated, means ‘to pinch’?
I cannot wait to get there and find out more about this pinching business. Stay with me because I will be sharing my findings in my next blog article coming soon.
- I had a bit of a challenge accessing the WiFi facility in my room at Le Savanna but after a few hours, the very hospitable staff were able to sort me out. It seems there is a connectivity problem. Overall great place.
- Would be great if Easy Coach could throw in a complimentary bottle of water alongside the biscuits. What do you think guys! Overall great service.