Real Kisumu do exist

We’ve been in Kisumu for a while and we’d heard that Kisumu had a team in Nationwide League One (the league below the Kenyan Premier League), that they played regularly games in Kisumu but we hadn’t seen a lot of concrete evidence.

Kenya’s newspapers give scant coverage to football that this not in one of the glamour leagues of Europe or the Kenyan Premier League. In such a football crazy country it seems a little odd. Scouring websites didn’t yield much about when and where games actually took place.

So we looked around, asked around, even visited Moi Stadium a few times to see what we could learn or because we’d heard whispers of a game happening. But we only found things that definitely weren’t football, like Christian Crusades or political rallys.

Finally, we managed to be at Moi Stadium on a day where Real Kisumu were playing at home. Although at first we thought we were out of luck again, when the gates of the stadium looked firmly closed. But then we noticed a small trickle of people entering via a wee little gate and decided that we should at least peak inside.

And yes, there actually was a game and even a decent, small crowd so we joined in. Moi Stadium itself is somewhat run down, the pitch is very uneven, the grass long in places, just bare mud in others and if the wind comes in from the wrong way, you get quite a whiff of the city’s rubbish dump next door.

But the game itself was entertaining; even with the pitch making things tough and with the game involving a lot of thumping and scrambling around the ball. Slowly the crowd got into the game, including a pretty annoying chap with a Vuvuzela.

Real Kisumu at first looked at little shaky as their opponents came at them. But then after a few very fortunate bounces they were 2-0 up and the opposition started looking stretched. By the end Kisumu ran out 4-0 winners, which is even more impressive as they hit the woodwork twice and had a goal disallowed for offside.

Next year the city will finally start rehabilitating Moi Stadium and hopefully Real Kisumu can use this result to revitalize their Nationwide League One campaign and avoid relegation, so they can finally play in a somewhat decent facility. However, right now Real Kisumu are bottom of the league and staring relegation in the face.

But someone should also put a little more effort into promoting the team and its matches (along with the league as a whole) as people would come but they have to know when and where.

Lurching from one crisis to another…

We’ve had a flour (unga) crisis, a petrol crisis, a maize crisis and a fat crisis while we’ve been here, where goods suddenly disappear from sale and the price doubles overnight leading to long queues in the few places that have stock and desperate pleas for help.

Sugar Cubes.

So in September we currently have a sugar crisis, as you can’t buy sugar in most major supermarkets or local shops, aside from a few traders who are charging over 250Ksh for a 1Kg bag and over 500KSh for 2kgs. For perspective, when we arrived in Kenya the prices was 190Ksh for 2Kg bag.

Friends of ours have skipped bread & blueband or mandazis (cause flour and fat is too expensive) for breakfast and now can’t even drink tea in the morning (cause Kenyan’s love weak milky tea with tons of sugar) because they can’t afford the sugar to make it tasty.

And like all the other crisis, this one will quietly dissipate, sugar will return to the shelves, the prices will fall somewhat… and then something else will be in crisis.

Food insecurity, lack of transportation, lack of storage facilities, lack of planning and other factors have really created space for some ruthless merchants to really make a lot of money at the expense of the ordinary people of Kenya.

Rain, rain and rain

I feel like I brought this on myself. Last week, I was answering a query online about if it rains in August in Kenya, and I of course, noted that it was rare being that we’re between the long and short rains periods; if it rained at all then its normally briefly and in the evening.

On saturday Beth and I rode out to Kiboko Bay for a change of scenery and to discuss some up coming plans for a charitable venture we’re launching. It was a little overcast but a really pleasant day.

About 1 hour later it started raining, before turning into a downpour and then the wind kicked up and suddenly it felt more like a tropical cyclone than just a brief storm. The trees bowed and bent, the waves of lake victoria started breaking rapidly on the shoreline and the wind howled.

Eventually we made a break for it and by now most of Dunga’s streets had some form of standing water. We were soaked within minutes and the rain kept coming. Climbing the hill by the Impala Park you could feel the weight of the water against your wheels and much of Milimani’s street were under rivers and streams, mixing with mud and rubbish and all rushing to lower ground.

In our compound we discovered that due to their rush to subdivide it up, they hadn’t allowed for drainage and we now had about 4inches of standing water and it was rising quickly. There was no where for the water to go and the corner of our compound was now the lowest point around. By the time evening fell, the apartments at the far end started flooding! So I joined my neighbours and compound workers trying to empty the floodwaters. We tried all kinds of things: digging a trench to drain the water away, filling up any all flower planeters, throwing the water over the wall, whatever we could do to slow the advance. Luckily with the easing of the rains and the arrival of a small pump, further flooding was prevented.

Unfortunately others weren’t so lucky. Traffic on the Kisumu-Nairobi road was at a standstill for 8hrs, bridges were washed out, families were flooded out in Nyamasaria, Dunga, Manyatta, Bandani and Mamboleo (basically all of Kisumu’s poorer neighbourhoods, where people have pretty basic houses and informal streets/passages and so are really susceptible when bad weather like this turns up).

It was a really miserable experience for everyone (much of Kisumu is not built for any rain, let around a deluge like this) and luckily the predicted rains on Sunday missed Kisumu and we’re all muddy but slowly drying out.

Round the Lakes

We just came back from a flying visit to Nakuru, Lake Nakuru National Park and Lake Baringo.

We headed to Nakuru primarily to see Kenyan National Schools Music Festival, which was crazy (over 100,000 students participate each year), so many children. We ran into both Kisumu Girls and Kisumu Boys’ students and luckily got to see Kisumu Girls perform in the spoken English verse competition. We also caught one of the Kisumu boys winning the Solo African Drum competition, which was an excellent result.

After that we headed to Lake Nakuru National Park the next day. Our driver was a little sick and really quiet so mostly we had an expensive taxi driver. Nevertheless we saw tons of Flamingos and storks as expected, along with Baboons, Hyenas, Lions, Buffalo, Giraffes, Gazelles, Dik-Diks, Maribou Storks (who feed on all the dead storks/flamingos), Rhinos galore, Secretary Birds and much more. Its really an amazingly beautiful setting for a day of animal and bird watching; we really enjoyed it.

The next day we headed out to Kampi ya Samaki on the shores of Lake Baringo. A word of warning that just because a Matatu claims to go somewhere, doesn’t mean you actually will. After passing through the North-Rift, crossing the equator and heading past all of ex-President Moi’s land we arrived in Maigrat, only to be handed over to ‘local transporters’ to complete our journey to Lake Baringo. We ended up in a clapped out Toyota station wagon which held 8 adults, 2 babies, a sheep and about 200 litres of milk. At first the car couldn’t be persuaded to go and so we were pushed back and forth in the Maigrat stage, until the car could be coaxed into life. The road from Maigrat to Lake Baringo is in really bad shape due to recently floods and we scrapped the bottom of the car on many occasions and every once in a while we had exit the car, scramble over a ditch and rejoin it.

On arrival at Kampi ya Samaki all visitors have to pay a registration fee to the local community, and then finally after meeting about half the community and hearing about all the boat rides etc we finally arrived at Robert’s Camp. Roberts Camp is a mix of large camping sites (mostly used by large tour groups in their Overlanders), small bandas and family sized cottages, which are nestled on the shores of Lake Baringo. Hippos patrol the grounds at night and you can often hear them munching on grass and moving around; pretty spooky. If you’re self-catering (as we were) you will want to pick up the bulk of your food in Nakuru or Maigrat as pickings are slim in Kampi ya Samaki itself.

We spent most of our time at Robert’s Camp just relaxing though we did go on a few walks to see the local bird life, which is abundant. We also headed out on the lake itself, which is beautiful. There are several islands out into the lake where fancy people stay (the places looked amazing but had prices to match) and a few which are home to communities of James/Masai and other local people. The lake offers more fantastic bird watching (such as Golden Weavers, Kingfishers, Fish Eagles, Night Herons etc) as well as a chance to get close to Hippos and Crocodiles.

Aside from the horrendous trip back to Kisumu (another cramped dodgy car ride into Maigrat, a packed Matatu back to Nakuru and Easy Coach (bouncing along the terrible Mau Summit-Kericho-Kisumu roads), we had a great time.

Some photos are here.

Places stayed:
Kivu Retreat, Nakuru – If you can negotiate down their rates it could be ok. Breakfast is better taken at Cafe Guava in town. Needs a little TLC and building work during the day combined with nearby club make it less than idyllic.

Hotel Avenue Suites, Nakuru – A fantastic hotel for the money. Very clean and well maintained. Only downside is that its on Kenyatta Avenue in the middle of town so there is a decent amount of traffic noise. East side of the hotel rooms have balconies with views of Lake Nakuru.

Robert’s Camp, Kampi Ya Samaki, Lake Baringo – Beautiful secluded site with Bandas, permanent tents and cottages. Camp has a decent little cafe/bar called the Thirsty Goat. Prices are a little high for beer but it does have to come a long way. Bandas are clean and quiet with a shared kitchen/washroom. Can swim next door in the Lake Baringo Club for a small fee. Loved it.

Places visited:
Lake Nakuru National Park – Awesome. Expensive in high season at 75USD for non-residents but well worth a day. Can see most of the park in about 6hours. Highlights are Rhinos and the bird life.

Lake Baringo – Beautiful. Not a lot to do outside of bird walks and trips on the lake, but very relaxing and the landscape is stunning.

Planet Fries, Nakuru – Nice veranda area. Standard fare for a Kenyan restaurant but some veggie options. Prices are decent but food is nothing special.

Cafe Guava, Nakuru – Given Nairobi Java Coffee House a run for its money. Clean, comfortable with great coffee/shakes. Food isn’t as good as the drinks. Service is relaxed but can get busy at times with tour groups.

Kokeb, Nakuru – Beautiful location just outside of downtown’s core. Very green and spacious. Pretty decent Ethiopian food, great service let down only by the interior space which feels like a retro 80s wedding. Very popular bar at the back of the restaurant.

Thirsty Goat, Roberts Camp, Kampi Ya Samaki, Lake Baringo – Food is decent though a little expensive (though you are in a remote location), not everything on the menu is available at any time so check ahead. Has snacks and soft drinks available throughout the day.

Hotel Tamarind, Kampi Ya Samaki, Lake Baringo – Food was decent again with similar prices to Roberts Camp. Much smaller menu but restaurant and bar is in a spacious airy banda.

Guava Lounge, Nakuru – Sister bar to Cafe Guava (part of the same complex). Nice space, plenty of seating but with Nairobi prices unfortunately.

Taidy’s, Nakuru – Three floors of eating and drinking. Very popular later into the evening. Food is pretty good with a typical mix of Kenyan and Western dishes. Lots of balcony seating and a very popular pool room on the first floor.

Soi Safari Lodge, Kampi Ya Samaki, Lake Baringo – Fancy conference hotel with great views over the lake. Bar is very open space which is light and airy. If Robert’s Camp is full then this could be a good option to stay especially if you’re not into roughing it a little.

Thirsty Goat, Robert’s Camp – A relaxing space to end the day with ice-cold beer. What more could you really want?

Things to do in Kisumu – Part II

Not much changes in Kisumu, but we’ve recently found a few new places and things that are worthy of attention:

The Kisumu Peace Festival held on the 4-7th August, promises to have lots of drama, art, discussions and events which will be very welcome in this sleepy lakeside town. Most of the festival is centred around the Jomo Kenyatta Sports Grounds, though sadly not a lot of promotion has occurred. We do know that Yawa will be performing :)

The Art House, Kisumu – On Mosque Rd near the Mamba Hotel, is one of the few spaces in town offering locally made jewelry, art and crafts. The owners are really trying to do something positive as there are so few places for arts and culture in Kisumu. Most days you can actually buy direct from the artists themselves.

Barcadia – Its a new bar in town, just around the corner from Quorum. Shiny, modern (Kisasa!) and an expensive, so you can experience Nairobi prices without actually having to travel there. But at least it gives you another option in town.

And we always forget what a nice breezy space the Hillbrow restaurant/bar is in the Sports Ground. You can sit upstairs with some cold pop on a hot day and watch local football matches and most of Kisumu walking by. Foods not great but the space is very relaxed and casual.