Travel stories to discover

Western Kenya and Teso tribe

House in Chamasiri village
House in Chamasiri village

The border crossing between Lwakhakha, even though it doesn’t exist on many maps, as for African conditions is very easy one to cross. Leaving the border turmoil it quickly turns out that Western Province is a land of friendly and smiling people of Teso tribe. We cycle several extra kilometers and reach the Chamasiri village, where we get to know Emoit family. There are three or even four generations of family members, plenty of cousins, brothers, sisters, children and their children’s children, that is already a substantial number of people.

The sun is just about to set and the whole party of little Emoits is playing on grass by clay huts. This is the moment to take out a wooden toy from my bike bag, an innocent looking (but only in European conditions) imitation of a green snake. The first reaction of the children is the fear, horror and screams, but eventually laughter and great fun for kids who constantly try to scare each other with “the snake” for the rest of the evening.

Fresh milk for Kenyan tea
Fresh milk for Kenyan tea

Upon pitching a tent, we are invited to have a cup of tea served with warm milk straight from the cow, which one of the grandmothers has just milked. The hosts show us around, we are visiting their homes by traversing in the dark through cassava plots and rows of peanuts. We explain that many people in Europe don’t have land, so they don’t plant food, then the host asks with a big surprise, “If someone in your country does not have land, how is he able to survive?”.

Emoit family, Chamasiri village
Emoit family, Chamasiri village

Before going to sleep are invited to share ugali, a dish made of corn flour, cooked on the hearth, which is then served with cassava leaves.

The night passes smoothly, but in the morning we wake us up to a pig sounds nearby the tent and decide it is high time to stand up the moment when the pig starts to burrow at the base of our tent. In the morning we have another cup of Kenyan tea and the housewife shows us the process of roasting peanuts, which she always refers to as groundnuts. We exchange small gifts with the family and get a substantial portion of energetic freshly toasted groundnuts.

Cooking groundnuts
Cooking groundnuts
LifeStraw
LifeStraw

The road to the town of Bungoma is very quiet. At some point we cross the main road and railroad only to plunge into the wilderness again, this time the road heading towards Kakamega. We overcome some exhausting climbs, but also enjoy relaxing rides downhill. There are rivers down in the valleys, at this time of year I guess some of them would be suitable even for canoeing.

Delicious mandazi
Delicious mandazi

In the rural Western Kenya it is hard to find a place for an afternoon break to have beer. Finally we find village Nambacha and there we see the first bar from crossing the Ugandan-Kenyan border, already more than a hundred kilometers away. I think we made it to a local feast or something, because everyone is pretty much completely wasted, local dudes are sipping vodka, brandy, there is a music aloud and it is very hard to communicate with anyone. Yes, in the end, we manage to get a Tusker, Kenya’s flagship beer.

Tusker, the taste of Kenya
Tusker, the taste of Kenya

The meeting in Kenyan high school

We get to Kakamega. I buy a delicious pineapple and intend to find Shiseso, the village where an American girl lives.

Unfortunately, no one knows the way to this tiny place. In the end, there is a trustworthy elderly women, claiming that she knows the area. The road is so complicated and none of the bicycle taxi drivers is able to record all the turns and small passageways so ultimately we convinced one of the young cyclists to take the lady onto his bike trunk to have as our guide and moving GPS in front of us. This is a stretch of about 7 km and we made it after sunset, just before nightfall.

GPS on wheels
GPS on wheels
Madeline's hut in Shiseso
Madeline’s hut in Shiseso

Madeline Boyd works as a teacher of physics and chemistry in Shiduha Secondary School in Shiseso under the program found by the Peace Corps, an American organization. She is a smiling, full of energy, blue-eyed blonde from Oregon. In addition to the standard classes, Madeline also conducts weekly Guidiance and Counselling, which focuses on talking about practical life issues with teenagers.

Shiduha Primary School's kids
Shiduha Primary School’s kids

Taking Madeline’s suggestion, together with Signe we become special guests at one of these meetings to answer student’s questions from the perspective of our countries, as well as some individually directed questions. Among them there are some quite thoughtful (i.e. whether in our countries one can see women in leading government positions) and more due to natural curiosity (for example, why I have such a long beard, what do Europeans eat for breakfast, what do they do when temperatures fall below zero and so on).

Guidiance and Counselling, Shiduha Secondary School
Guidiance and Counselling, Shiduha Secondary School

After classes Madelin offers us her own home-made ginger beer and in the evening we go for a short trip to the village Khayaga hiring bike taxi piki-piki.

True recycling
True recycling
Pimp my bike
Pimp my bike

Unfortunately we need to carry on and leave this remote place. After a few kilometers the gravel road ends. In the village at a marketplace I notice a machete seller’s stand. I take a quick look and take one of these in my hand. He recommends this one saying, you can use this to cut down a big tree”, but after a short discussion he recommends another type which can cut “even bigger tree”.

New machete
New machete

The road which seems to be busy turns out to be unfrequented by cars. Landscape turns bright green, the hills are filled with vast tea plantations to the horizon. There are plenty sharp climbs and downhill parts letting our bikes with two loaded side bags to accelerate to speeds exceeding 60 kilometers per hour.

Tea plantations on the horizon
Tea plantations on the horizon
Unilever Tea plantation
Unilever Tea plantation

At one point we see a huge valley and vaguely visible on the horizon mountain ranges. These are Nadi Escrapment and Mau Escrapment, tectonics formations tens of kilometers wide which we realize we will have to deal with in short future.

We decide that large cities such as Kisumu, are best just to avoid and get around. That’s why just before the Winam Gulf at Lake Victoria, we turn left and continue along the dusty, gravel road cutting right through sugar cane plantations.