By Joseph Maina
I commenced my three-day trip to Kitui County on a cloudy midmorning in May. I boarded a 14-seatermatatu belonging to Kinatwa Sacco at the Oil Libya petrol station near Afya Centre along Tom Mboya Street, Nairobi, paying Sh500 for the trip. We left town at 12:30PM amid mild traffic, taking Mombasa Road, to the chagrin and dismay of some of the passengers.
The passengers said they preferred the other route, which goes along the Thika Superhighway and crosses through Thika town, but the driver just drove on. Heavy rain pounded us as we branched off the Nairobi- Mombasa highway and made towards Machakos. Arriving in Machakos town, we took a short break as the driver draped some luggage on the roof with a polythene sheet, as even more raindrops pelted us.
Shortly afterwards, we coasted out of the town to more agreeable weather. We cut through the hills and valleys of Machakos County, traversing several hamlets bustling with activity, on an excellent stretch of tarmac that winds and binds the outcrops of hill and dell that make up this immaculate countryside. On occasion we encountered piles of nicely carved rock for sale by the roadside, the kind used for laying tiles.
We passed by Masii town, where you find Masii High School, one of the big names in education in Ukambani, famed forits legendary prowess in sports. We then passed by Makutano and moved onward to Wamunyu, the small centre famous for woodcarvings.
A short distance later, we crossed Athi River and moved through the trading centres of Katangi and Kyua, before crossing the boundary into Kitui County. On entering Kitui County, I saw a land bathed in lush green, a Canaan of sorts. I saw remarkable beauty and promise of bounty in the vast landscape, all covered in dense foliage. We saw farms bristling with produce – maize at an advanced stage of flowering, and pockets of cowpeas, known in the local tongue as “nzuu”.
I arrived in Kitui town at 4:30PM, and immediately felt at ease in this friendly little town, free from the chaos and cutthroat bustle of the city. The streets looked clean, neat, nicely swept and with moderate traffic, although not all the roads were named.
The town boasted of a respectable skyline, with a good number of buildings going up to five storeys and more. Plenty of matatus thronged the town’s bus park, along with a number of key bus brands – Modern Coast, Renecom, Tahmeed, and so on.
From the Kitui bus stop you can comfortably connect directly to Machakos, Mwingi, Embu, and various destinations at the coast. I booked into Hotel Heritage, located a stone throw away from the CBD, and got a superb package with breakfast, WiFI and a sweeping view of town from my third floor room. After booking the room, I hit the streets looking for a place to eat Muthokoi.
And after a lengthy hunt that took me into several hotels in the CBD, I gave up the chase and settled for fries. I learned that not many restaurants in town serve muthokoi, so one might have to venture deep into the villages if you wish for the dish. At dusk, I wound back to my room at Hotel Heritage and watched the Gor Mahia match against Hull City, and stepped out after the match to explore Kitui’s nightlife.
A good number of vehicles and boda boda zoomed past, a handful of restaurants were open, music blared from various nightspots, but a majority of businesses were closed by 9PM. I made my way to Fuse Club along Mbusyani Road and ordered some mbuzi, and the dish went particularly well with the folksy tunes of the live band on stage.
Later, sated and entertained, I ambled out of the club and back to my hotel room, where I slept like a baby till the next morning. Kitui’s weather felt fine in the nights I stayed, and the bed was cozy. The next day, after breakfast, I met up with Richard, a boda boda rider who quickly became my buddy. Richard took me to the county offices for a courtesy call to Mr. Munyasia Musya, Kitui’s head of communications.