A Spontaneous Roadtrip around Central Kenya… part 1!

At 4.30 on Friday afternoon, I got in the huge car – lent to me by the family I stay with who are on holiday – to somehow find my way to Tom’s house.  It didn’t take long for Africa to strike:  the road to Tom’s house is closed for repairs, and the only bypass is still under construction and has no access roads.  So already 20 minutes late, I had to drive all the way to the start of the bypass, to then drive all the way back, and reach Tom’s house in a state of flustered sweatiness…The plan:  a relaxing weekend in Kericho.

I was in charge of driving, Tom in charge of directions.  A potential recipe for couple disaster? 🙂

Off we went, with google maps confidently promising a 3.5 hour drive, and the house staff at my house telling me “Gabi, if you’re a really reeeeally bad driver, it will take you 5 hours”.  It turns out I must be a horrific driver.

Half an hour after leaving Nairobi, we reached Limuru – little did we know that fields and fields of tea were available on our doorstep.  Tea plantations being our main motivation in going to Kericho – home to the big tea plantations that export yummy tea around the world.

After 2.5 hours of driving, we reached Nakuru, the second biggest town in Kenya…and promptly stopped for dinner.  This was not going to be over in 3.5 hours- we were in for a long night, we realised.  Dinner consisted of our favourite:  nyama choma, chapati, and kachumbari – all hungrily devoured with our fingers, much to the amusement of the locals, who always seem bewildered by our appearance in the most dingy of local hang outs.  Then it was back in the car, and onwards to Kericho.

Having reached the turn off to Kericho – a horrible excuse for a road: more potholes than road surface – Tom happily announced “we’ll be there by 11”.  Just for us to run into a diversion, pointing us down a rough dirt track.  Off we turned, at 20 km/h… after 15 minutes of bumping along up hill, we turned around, sure we had missed a turning.  Stopping locals to ask for directions – locals who did not speak English – we got to try our Swahili knowledge, and fail sadly.  But we did glean that we had to turn around once again, and continue uphill on the dirt track.  An hour and a half of bumping later, we were high up in the mountains, in the pitch black, with absolutely no idea where we were… and a growing sense of alarm.

The occasion lorry started to ease our panic:  surely, lorries come from big towns.  If we continued, we were bound to find some sort of civilisation.  Yet on we bumped, through the wilderness.

Finally, at around midnight, we came out into a village… and found the other end of the roadblock, that had subjected us to the huge diversion.  “The Tea Hotel is just past the petrol station, before town” said a helpful security guard, so with renewed hope we ploughed on, and soon enough pulled into the Tea Hotel at Kericho… finally having reached our destination after a 7 hour gruelling drive.

First things first, we ran into the hotel bar – demanded two Tuskers, and collapsed into comfy armchairs in the corner.  The Tea Hotel is an old colonial relic – the bar boasting high-backed arm chairs, and a tv in the corner.  The hotel is decaying sadly, a ghost of its former glory – like many a colonial palace in Kenya.

After a couple of beers, it was time to face facts:  we did not have a room in the hotel, we were camping, and our tent was ominously wrapped up in the boot of the car.  We plodded out to the campsite in the grounds of the hotel, and at 1am, in the pitch dark, set about putting up our tent.

Much to our merit, within half an hour our tent was standing (relatively solidly), and we were still a couple (not having had a single tent related fight).  We settled in for the night, on the very bumpy ground, wishing we weren’t so cheap (aka. adventurous) and had paid for a room.

We woke at 7.30 in the morning to our annoying alarm, telling us it was time for breakfast – in preparation for our tea tour.  The tea tour was the point in our coming to Kericho – a fine walking tour of the plantations was promised, watching the tea pickers at work, and a guide of a production factory to conclude.  Our guide arrived, took us out into the grounds of the hotel, and stopped at the first plot of tea.  After a short speech, she announced “I wish you would have booked a day or two in advance, I would have booked you on the real tea tour.”  Fuming, I pointed out that we had booked, a week in advance.

Little was to be done, there was no tea tour to be had.  So by 9am, we were finished with Kericho – the swimming pool being out of order, the tea tour having been ruined by hotel’s incompetence, and well – Kericho not having much else to offer.

After a bout of teary anger, and flick through the Lonely Planet, I turned to Tom: “Shall we just pack up and go to Nyahururu, it’s only a 4 hour drive, and I’ve always wanted to go”.  And so our relaxing weekend in Kericho turned into an epic roadtrip around central Kenya…

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