I was invited to Kiriaini by one Roselyn Mwangi for her “Kuhanda Ithigi”. Finally, an opportunity to learn how African Wedding Culture is celebrated. This peaked my interest, an opportunity to learn how the negotiations happen! (Story for another post). Besides the opportunity, it was an exciting chance to learn about the county.
So off we were on Thika Road, and to my surprise, within the hour, we were in Murang’a. Murang’a had literally changed considering the last time I was here in my schooling days. There is Town Council managed parking and well done roads. A branch off towards Kiriaini drew my breath as I saw the other side of the busy town. The hilly landscape is divided by the Mathioya River. Dotted with green scrub bushes, you’d be surprised at how blessed with views the place is. One sees beyond the windy road to appreciate the steep hilly topography we have locally. We made a stop and you can see some of the pictures here.
The rest of the drive was marked by clay brick making and small colourful shopping centres. Othaya is introduced by Kiriaini, a small but busy town, with architecture much similar to Murang’a’s. I must tell you a walk on foot calls for preparation to climb those steep hills.
Those hills! Several homes here bring their produce to the stalls outside their gates to sell. Also several milk cans were spotted upside down on some stumps stuck outside their gates. “Milk collection happens in the mornings”, my host confirmed. There are also many collection centres, as most families here grow tea and coffee and deliver them here.
A few hours after arrival I was raring to go. I got a tour from a very bright and welcoming girl Shiru, who has recently joined Chinga Girls. She showed me the local cattle dip, now overtaken by personal animal care techniques.
While I was only looking for landscapes to photograph, we quickly found company in some curious children who wanted their pictures taken. Soon after, Shiru was ecstatic about showing me the local church, PCEA Gathanju; but there was a big hill that needed to be conquered if we were to get there before the sun came down. That hill had me on all fours with the camera on my back! It was so steep I was clutching at every root I could see. Almost on all fours and out of breath, Shiru coaxed me to look behind me. Kiriaini is very beautiful, all green, trees, bananas, grass, everything is green here. We stumbled into someone’s tree cutting area, which gave us some material for this adventure.
Breath caught, we reached the church and I got to meet one of the gems of this quiet neighbourhood. Big surprise, it turned out that my host’s brother, (Eutychus Mwangi who’s directed a movie, Undu na Hi!) had been their Sunday school teacher and they were coincidentally preparing for the provisional level drama festivals to happen the following day. “What are the chances? A Sunday School Kikuyu Drama Performance?” I thought.
Their performance blew me away. I have not seen dedication, love & discipline from kids so young! They were united, had big smiles, and they could not wait to show what they had been preparing for over the months for one last critique! Turned out it was in English, choreographed by a 2nd year student at Kenyatta University. He was nurturing talent at the roots. One’s heart could not help but swell in pride. I hear they came through 10th in the competition.
As darkness drew in and a new morning dawned, I got a tour around the neighbourhood, graced in tea and coffee farms.
I managed to walk down a hill of tea to enjoy a good old bite into a piece of sugarcane. The slide down that hill though, they are so steep!
One of the highlights of the trip was seeing Chinga Dam. Eerily beautiful, the calm surround of water welcomes its guests on boat rides. One can also experience a taste of the tiny fish for sale. Our few minutes stop was interrupted often with tourists stopping for a photo. This quiet place is popular in its own right. The dam is bordered by Chinga Girls High School, which is Shiru’s high school. The girl can spot her home from her dormitory!
What’s a trip without talking about the best part, THE FOOD! Othaya River feeds the farms along it. Apart from tea & coffee, there is a lot of arrowroots, sugarcane, maize, cabbages & fruits. So experience it and dress warm because the temperatures drop dramatically in late afternoon. And one last thing. Brace yourself for those tough hills!