My last destination, before heading back to Nairobi, after a 12-day round trip that began in Kisumu and later in Kakamega, was the small town of Nyaru in Elgeyo Marakwet County, about 45 KM 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 famous 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, the development arm of the ACK church, the ICT centre in Nyaru was targeting mainly the youth in farming.
The project has so far received overwhelming response from the community, to the extent that the CDF hall has now been converted to an ICT centre because of the new value placed on ICT knowledge by the largely farming community.
While here, I paid Chief Silas Kigen a visit, his office being near the ICT centre. About half an hour later, as I emerged out of his office, I had a lot to ponder over what he had said.
He spoke of the greatest tragedy in Africa as one where the African was busy eating all the eggs plus the golden goose that laid them. “What follows is poverty levels like you have never witnessed before because what else is he left to rely on when his very source of livelihood has gone?” he asked me. I did not answer.
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 lays them as if tomorrow would never come.
You see it in the high rates at which our water masses, forests and wildlife areas are disappearing. Yet there seems to be no end to our insatiable desire to put all our hens to death. Allow me to end that discussion here for now.
That day back at the Racecourse Inn, where I was staying, I realised I had no desire for any chicken, whether roasted, fried or boiled – notwithstanding 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 8 KM from Eldoret town, along the Eldoret-Kisumu road, is quite an old establishment, going by its colonial look and feel. I was particularly amazed at the sheer size of my room.
The last I stayed in a hotel in Kenya with such room space was probably at the Izaak Walton Inn in Embu. The Inn’s older colonial rooms are even bigger, I think. I also recall hotels in Uganda and Ethiopia tend to spoil you for 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 powerpoint that was already occupied by an old Cathode Ray Tube TV. What is it with hotels in this region and old TVs?
Under such circumstances, you quickly develop 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 your laptop.
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 probably on tips for maximising your travel experience with limited resources.
My bathroom experience was near-hilarious, especially when I suddenly realised that I was the same height as the Lorenzetti instant shower head! It was just too low for any comfort!
To cut a long story short, I did somehow 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 this establishment.
You may then have to settle for a poor but discernible analogue signal on the old CRT TV set I had mentioned earlier and that is a no walk in the park.
But trust me, you will not die because you lacked any of these things. My writing of this story is proof I survived and so your stay at the Racecourse Inn could still be an enjoyable one as it was for me, considering.
You will particularly find their their freshly cooked food with fresh vegetables and meat fetched from the local market, quite enjoyable.
Leaving accommodation, sanitation and culinary matters behind, let me tell you about this ancient town in the north Rift. Eldoret traces its humble beginnings as a small village to about 118 Afrikaans-speaking Boer families from South Africa who settled here in 1908 and 1911.
They had probably come to Kenya to explore opportunities for skilled skilled labour. They were known to be particularly good in the management of bullocks. At least Lord Delamere had used them in his Elementaita farm for this.
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’ came about because the Post Office was 64 miles from the Uganda Railway rail head at Kibigori.
Farm 64 originally belonged to a Mrs. Ortleppe. I gathered that the only thing which remains of Mrs. Ortleppe’s farm today is the Central Lounge built by her cousin, Willy van Aardt.
Let us now come to its present name. The name Eldoret, is derived from a Maasai word, ‘eldore’, which means stony river. Incidentally, because of the nearby Sosian River, whose bed is very stony.
But an article in Old Africa Magazine describes a totally different story. Apparently, the settlers in those formative years of Eldoret used to flush park their Ford Ts on the only main street back then.
Now, if you recall our earlier story on the Ford Ts, they were not very good on brakes. Drivers would use stones as stoppers to prevent the cars 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. I liked this version better!
As I boarded the 10 AM Easy Coach bus from Eldoret back to Nairobi the next morning, I was one tired but really fascinated traveller. 12 days and 11 nights wandering across western Kenya, Nyanza and the far sides of the Rift Valley had proved an eye opener for me as I beheld the beauty that makes Kenya a really amazing country.