This is my visit to Kisumu, a port city in western Kenya. Kisumu is the third-largest city in Kenya after the capital, Nairobi, and the coastal city of Mombasa; and the third-largest city (after Kampala, Uganda and Mwanza, Tanzania) in the Lake Victoria Basin.
My trip was so sudden that I decided to join in just a few minutes when my friends Shewit and Merhawit along with their two beautiful kids told me they were leaving for Kisumu to spend the weekend at their friend’s Okal, parents’ villages around Kisumu. I have always been a random boy when it comes to travel.
After we sip our macchiato at a local cafe, we went to my place, packed in 5 minutes and spent the night at Shewit’s house.
There are many options to reach Kisumu from Nairobi. We set off from my friend’s house around Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, at 8am through Thika Road > Muthaiga > Limuru road to Mai Mahui.
Breathing the fresh air and enjoy at how the monkeys react on passengers descending down the beautiful Kiambu escarpment, 20kms after leaving the outskirt of Nairobi and passing through semi urban horticultures, at 9:40am we were at Mai Mahui, starting the 90km more to Narok, and 290km more to Oyugis, where we will spend the night.
Driving on the flat land ahead, we reach Suswa, which is 60km before Narok. On arriving at Suswa, a road banner fixed like an entrance gate reads “Welcome to Narok, home to the Mara, 8th wonder of the world.” The small town of Suswa forms a junction of three counties: Nakuru, Kajiado and Narok.
Throughout the way, it is common to see separate girls and boys schools. We crossed the SGR (Standard Gauge Railway) several times.
Leaving Mount Suswa Conservancy to the left we drove straight forward on the Kaplong – Narok – Maai Road. Passing through the small urban villages of Ntulele town, Eor Ekole and leaving Maasai Mara Technical College to the left, comes Narok. Ate breakfast, drank coffee, and bought some stuff at Narok, Ol Talet Mall. Narok lies along the Great Rift Valley and is the district capital of Narok County. It has a population of around 40,000 people, mostly Maasai.
This is Maasai Mara area. Maize is the main crop produced in the area, probably because Eugali is the main dish served in Kenya. It’s high harvest time now for the Maasai Mara people.
After about an hour in the town, we headed forward and passed Ololulunga, another small town in Nakuru county. We were passing by Kipturgut and Koitamugul villages at 12:49pm. Animal farms and maize constitute the main income for living in these areas.
We were greeted by traffic police everywhere. Man, if you have an NGO plate in your car, especially of the UN, you are a king of the road. Kenyan police traffic will sport you happily. You’ve the pass by default. I like their communication skills, most Kenyans are good at it.
The traffic police who stopped us on the road were very polite to ask for information. On checking everything, he asked if we have packed water for drink. He was grateful to be given just one. You see traffic police everywhere on the road. They are not like those Ethiopian traffic policemen who populate the roads only when holidays approach, and who bribe the amount they need, not what you’ve.
Past the turn to Silibwet Market, we found Kapkwen. Crossing a bridge on the Malla river marks the end of Nakuru county and the beginning of Bomet county. Mulot Sunset, Mulot Central, Longisa and Kipsarwet town villages will greet you before you reach Bomet town. It looks like drivers love Bomet, for it was over crowded by heavy trucks. Bomet is also famous for its Dairy farms. The Fair Hills and The Famous Gates Hotel are both on the roadside outskirts of Bomet town for anyone who likes to serve a meal or drinks.
Crossing the Sisei river and driving a bit of a flat slope, we reached the small urban villages of Chebole, Kamureito and Kaplong town at a junction. Turning left at Kaplong and driving through part of Sotik town and crossing Kipsonoi river, we turned right at Chepilat. It was 14:11 at Chepilat.
We followed the Sotik – Ikonge Road, which is also a border between Nyamira and Bomet counties. This road takes you through the beautiful tea farms of the Sotik highlands. The landscape of the Sotik highlands is breathtaking. The tea plantations and dense eucalyptus trees give your life back. The rich highlands of Kenya exist here.
After a few kilometers of curves, ups and downs we reached Nayankono village (14:29) and Borabu hillside. The Kisii area. Nayankono forms a junction point of three counties: Bomet, Kericho and Nyamira.
Then comes the Ikonge urban village, a land of bananas, avocados and many more fruits. Ikonge forms a crossroad between Nayankono, Chemasit, Chabera and Ekerenyo. Driving forward to Chabera on the Soitik-Ikonge road.
Taking the turns and Bisembe river (crossed at 14:39) and driving uphill we were at Magwagwa urban village of Nyamira County(14:43). Then Kapsuseri, Matongo adventist and then down slope to Kiamatonga.
At Chabera town of Homa Bay county, a junction to Kisii and Kisumu, our time read 14:53. Leaving Kisumu to the right, we turned 90 degrees to the left to Kisii. Driving down a slope on the Kisii-Kisumu road through the banana and maize farmlands.
Othoro semi urban village, Nyapalo village (15:00), Oriang area, Misambi village and driving straight forward we found Kadongo town, leaving Ayiengo to the left. Everywhere were churches of Seventh Day adventist.
Past Ringa town we were at Mikai. Mikai means the first woman. In Kenya, a man can marry several women as long as he can survive supporting all of them. After driving a bit forward following a pin given to us to find our village for the night, we were lost in Marewa village either due to a wrong or inaccurate pin. Went out back to the Tarmac and drove a bit forward into Oyugis town, a commercial and financial centre of Rachuonyo Sub-County in Homa Bay County of the former Nyanza Province.
Reached at Sikri town and Nyatindo village, both in Kisii County. It was 15:51
Voila! We arrived at Kacheinge village, thanks to Okal, our host. The house of big families is really beyond my description. A very neat, green, standard lodge. I’m totally impressed by everything I found there. Their hospitality, kindness and friendship is very welcoming.
Evening Walk & Night
Our final resting place was at Kacheinge village, a very beautiful rural village whose people are very hospitable and live on subsistence agriculture. A very humble family welcomed us to their parents house, and introduced us to the rest of the family members. We were served with the best buffet of food in an open air compound of their residential lodge.
After dinner, we walked through the narrow passageways of the neighbourhood homes to a small river with fresh water flow. We enjoyed a colorful sunset through the tree branches and remote escarpments. Due to a more strict local COVID curfew, we had to be home early before 19:00.
After having dinner and desserts and chats, the night was very peaceful.
In the morning we walked through the farmyard: banana, maiz, Jack, Cassava, mango,… can be seen everywhere. Many of their produce was on the dish during dinner and breakfast. You feel safe and healthy when you are served live from the backyard.
What caught my eyes was the Jackfruit. The jackfruit, also known as jack tree, is a species of tree in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family. It was everywhere in the compound with its huge fruits hanging down. The jack tree is well-suited to tropical lowlands, and is widely cultivated throughout tropical regions of the world. A number of them were in the farmyard of the Okal family and their neighbours. It bears the largest fruit of all trees, reaching as much as 55 kg (120 pounds) in weight, 90 cm (35 inches) in length, and 50 cm (20 inches) in diameter. According to research, a mature jack tree produces some 200 fruits per year, with older trees bearing up to 500 fruits in a year. The jackfruit is a multiple fruit composed of hundreds to thousands of individual flowers, and the fleshy petals of the unripe fruit are eaten. The ripe fruit is sweet (depending on variety) and is more often used for desserts. Canned green jackfruit has a mild taste and meat-like texture that lends itself to being called a “vegetable meat”.
Breakfast was served. It had a variety of home produce menus. Roasted fish, cabbage, sukuma, cassave, ugali, rice, chiken, egg, oggi, and many more whose names I can’t really remember.
This remote western part of Kenya borders Uganda, Tanzania and has connections with South Sudan. During the old colonial days, it was used as a chamber for smuggling slaves, ivory, and other precious materials.
This is mostly the Luo land. The Luo community is one of the largest tribes in Kenya forming 13% of the total population. The ethnic group inhabits the western Kenya (Nyanza) region. The Luo are a Nilotic-speaking group, who are believed to have originated from Sudan, and are now settled around the Lake Victoria basin in Kenya and Tanzania. Other Luo groups are found in Uganda, Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan. These people depend on fishing as a source of their livelihood. They usually say that without fish, no Luo is complete. They are the best roasters of fish. These people have many beautiful traditions and lifestyles far beyond the scope of this journal.
The land is very fertile red-soil, naturally rich, and productive. The people are educated, very conscious and humble. One of the highest concentrations of schools is found here. Seven Day adventist is the most common religious practice. Their respect for trees and plants has a different level of thinking. Out of their love for nature, there is a tradition in the community that when a person dies, you’ve to plant a tree on his grave.
The Luo speak ‘Dholuo’ which is part of the Nilotic language group. Known as ‘Ramogi’s descendants,’ the Luo community are particularly known for their musical skills and instruments. The dance is usually elegant and graceful, the Luo use traditional costumes and ornaments that are designed to improve and make more evident the movements rather than to beautify the wearer.
Notable Luos include: the former Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga; the former president of the United States of America, Barack Obama; and the environmental scientist and Nobel Prize winner, Professor Sam Odingo.
Their jungles could have helped them to achieve the legends told about their fame as mighty warriors, as in the story of the legend Luanda Magere.
Kisumu, The Fish Market & Lake Victoria
Thanks to the beautiful families, Merhawit and Shewit who were the reasons for me to go there and Eve & Mike, who hosted us, introduced us with their amazing family back there and provided us with everything we need.