One day you will find yourself in Rumuruti. A ruracio. A wedding. A funeral. Or whatever takes people to far-flung corners of the country that people don’t go to unless there is a reason. For instance, nobody goes to Bungoma unless you come from Bungoma.
But for people who know the therapeutic beauty of a road trip in the green countryside, you don’t have to wait for a wedding or a funeral to take you to Rumuruti.
It is a shame that I am almost 50, and I had never been to Nyandarua and Laikipia County. Nyandarua County is like that girl in class that everyone overlooks. She turns 18, and blossoms into the hottest, curviest, sexiest thing. She kinda blows on your face. If you are not keen on details, you will miss her, because you are attracted to the light-skin who ignores you.
Nyandarua is the quiet guy at the party who is telling funny stories to a small group at first but who by the end of the night wins everyone over. He is not noisy, or showy, but if you are keen and sober, you realize he is the most read, maybe the richest, and the most well-traveled. Nyandarua is the girl who shows up in a nice, wifely dress when every girl wore denim or decided to ratchet it up for the party. Not that the girls who turned up dressed down are wrong. Just the one in the dress has you curious.
I may have overlooked Nyandarua and Laikipia, but I am lucky I went there at the right time. In early December, we took a road trip to experience Nyandarua and Laikipia, just to tick them off my bucket list. My expectations were manageable. I didn’t expect much. I used to be told that Nyandarua is all cabbage and potatoes, nothing much. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The best decision we made is to leave Nairobi at 9 a.m. That means 10.30 a.m. found us leaving Naivasha on our way to Rumuruti. The mid-morning tranquil beauty of the roads is catharsis in motion. Two things make road trips worthwhile: Fine female company or mature male company. Fine female company basically means a beautiful girl in a dress who can tell a good joke and has the intellectual mettle to sustain a 4-hour conversation without touching her phone. Good luck. Mature male company on the other hand is enjoyable, and you can play rumba without annoying anyone. We were three guys bantering about the recently concluded elections where President Ruto delivered a masterclass on how to win.
A mandatory stop at Thompson Falls was handy. We had to see the famous falls discovered by some Scottish dude. I couldn’t help imagining what a Scottish man was doing deep in the pubes of Nyandarua for him to discover the waterfall, hidden in a thick forest. We did lunch at the restaurant by the fall, a thoroughly lovely place, especially if you eat outside on the lawn, though food goes cold very fast. With lunch done we set out to Rumuruti. Final destination: Daisy Chalet.
I have a cousin I lived with in Fort Ternan, Kericho County, back in the day. More than a decade later, we still agree that Fort Ternan is the most beautiful countryside in Kenya. The cousin later became a Tour Guide and recently told me that he spent a night at Daisy Chalet in Rumuruti, and he loved the place. He told me that as a writer, I should consider it as the place I can spend a month editing my next novel, if I want a bucolic, serene place, with no distractions. My cousin knows I am a sucker for cool and quiet places.
And we found ourselves at the Chalet, a kilometer or so from Rumuruti, around 5 p.m., with the sun setting to the West, and Mt. Kenya shy and demure to the East.
The chalet is an architectural marvel, designed by one of the best architects in the country I was made to understand, by two different people who have spent a night at the chalet. The chalet sits on 50-acre farmland. It is a huge compound with a lawn that made me wish I had gone with my daughter so that she could run around, play a ball, or I could play hide and seek with her. The whole chalet has a homely vibe, a place you want to retire to and spend time with your caring wife, tending to cute grandchildren on long holidays.
We were shown the goat and the free-range chicken (kienyeji) that were due for our dinner. We were served the customary evening tea. Though I like beer or a shot of something strong in the evening, there are days when tea is a healthier choice. Like when you visit Uncle Samson who is a church elder and who doesn’t know that you started drinking.
We shot the breeze, catching up with my friends, been a long while since had had a drink and there was a lot to catch up on.
I am not a big fan of the so-called five hotels that serve the most boring dinners, almost always some dreary broiler chicken made with zero love, tasteless salmon, uninspiring beef, dry sauté potatoes, and chapatis made of dry wood. When spending in big hotels, I don’t look forward to mealtime. But the chalet had a special surprise for us. Magical.
Part of the reason, the food is sourced directly from the farm, fresh and healthy, hence it has all the flavour, unlike the big hotels where foods are stored in freezers and fridges until all the flavors are dead. On our dinner table were kienyeji chicken wet fry, a mbuzi dry fry, assorted vegetables, salads, chapati, ugali and potatoes, and fresh juice. If you needed a proper foundation for some finely aged whisky, the variety on the table was the perfect fit. I threw out my weight loss program, and indulged properly, considering I am a big feeder.
The only missing thing was music, preferably Fally Ipupa’s Sweet Life playing on my JBL speaker.
Sunrise in Rumuruti
If you are a traveler like me, you either like sunrises or sunsets. I love sunsets. When the clouds burn in their glorious orange, as the sun goes to sleep, preferably behind a large water body, it awakens the dead romantic in me. However, it is not every day I will wake up in Rumuruti to witness the sun rise from behind Mt. Kenya.
I woke up at 6.20 a.m., and went out, only to find the clouds playing treacherous games, wasting my waking up. I went back to get an hour of my sleep back, and as someone who lives in a concrete jungle, the birds chirping, announcing a glorious morning was godly. The house’s design ensures maximum darkness at night, to reset your circadian rhythm spoilt by city lights and screens. In the morning, the sunlight sips in through the angular cracks on the roof, nudging you to wake up in the most natural way.
Breakfast was served from a verandah of one of the cottages. The morning was brilliant, the air sinfully crisp. The chalet has a way of overdoing everything. The breakfast was kingly. I have never been served gizzards for breakfast, but there is a first time for everything. The usual breakfast culprits were there. I love bacon. Pancakes (relief for a bachelor). Freshly made mandazis. Bread and butter. Spanish omelet (or how do you like your eggs?). Of interest to me was the honey made right on the farm’s apiary. Ever spread honey on bread?
It was a breakfast you eat, and you feel like a python; you want to lay in a shade for three weeks. But that would not be healthy. The healthier choice was to take a walk on the farm, to witness sustainable farming. It is an expansive farm, where different horticultural crops are at different stages of growth. Onions, capsicum, kales, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and maize are all grown on the farm. It is an onion season since the farm is market-driven and it looks like earlier in the year is the best time to harvest onions. The farm manager, Kevin Kariuki, a young agronomist explains how the farm works, and why they prefer dealing with local women to men.
“Women are good nurturers and have the patience to deal with the intricacies of onion farming. Men are good in heavier work, such as loading and off-loading, but on the farm, they don’t have as much patience,” he explains, how the farm has changed the livelihoods of people who work on the farm, giving them access to job opportunities, water, and electricity. If you are inclined to pick up commercial farming, the walk would be worth it, and you will appreciate how hard the farmers work to ensure that we eat quality food.
The chalet also owns a 30-acre natural forest where goats and sheep are reared, feeding off the natural herbs and shrubs. The forest is also home to traditional medicine that has kept Maasais, Samburus, and Kalenjins agile, virile, lean, and healthy for millennia. Elijah Rotich who runs the farm knows his onions about traditional medicine. The backs, leaves, and roots of the various trees, shrubs, and climbers cure a myriad of ailments; The medicinal common colds, stomach upsets, malaria, fatigue, headaches, wounds, joint pains, arthritis, diarrhea, erectile dysfunction (upon which, Rotich swears is super effective when taken with goat soup or honey). There is another one whose leaves are used in flavouring mursik, Kalenjin’s treasured sour milk. Rotich shows us the best breeds of goat and sheep.
The nature trail is refreshing. It is like a walk in the arboretum, but far from Nairobi.
The Charm of the Rift Valley
What makes Rumuruti even more charming is its centrality and access to the Rift Valley and Central Kenya, making it easy to access the base of Rift Valley, the nearby ranches and conservancies in Kerio Valley as well as National Parks. In a simple drive, you can enjoy the Aberdare Ranges in the background which on a brighter day has the Swiss Alps vibes. Mt. Kenya is visible. Nanyuki is an hour’s drive. Depending on your mood, you can drive to Naivasha or Nakuru. Or you can come back to Nairobi.
It is a two-day trip that can give you a break from Nairobi. Whether solo or in good company, I can’t think of an easy, affordable way to unwind, enjoy the bucolic quietude of the Nyandarua/Rumuruti bundus, connect with nature, enjoy Daisy Chalet generosity of healthy foods, and be back to the misery of the city.
The place is ideal for couples, families, or a bunch of friends who want a rural setting for catching up and unwinding. For families and foreigners who may wish to spend time doing local projects, and learn about local culture, the chalet will be useful.