Road trip to Namanga

I think I’m so in love with the place because we just woke up and decided to go somewhere, anywhere, and that ended up being the destination. There is something about impromptu road trips that leaves one light hearted. It’s like a pleasant surprise.

So anyway, weirdly enough I don’t think I’ve ever been to Namanga. I say weirdly enough because I’ve been to Tanzania several times, but all those times I think we used the Oloitok tok gate, where one branches through Emali, unlike this one where one branches through Kitengela. And I now get why.

So going, we branch off from Mombasa road to Kitengela, and there is a tiny bit of jam. And that’s because it’s a weekend so there are less cars on the road. Again, having never been to Kitengela, I would say it’s actually way larger than I expected. And I don’t know where to hide when saying this, but it’s ‘smarter’ or just a little bit more posh than I expected it to be. Given how many people I hear say they live in Kitengela and the affordability of houses, I had always assumed that it’s an upgrade of pipeline.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find good looking apartments in their droves. Which is as well given that it’s a residential area. Slightly outside the town people have bought plots and have built some beautiful houses, alongside the ones being sold by development agents. And it is quite dusty. Like the air has more than it’s equal share of dust, giving it this haze that never seems to end, but clears completely once you get out of the town.

Past Kitengala, the climate is more semi-arid. Bush trees and a plain land dotted with factories. Like there is a whole stretch there where one doesn’t drive for over 8 minutes without seeing a huge factory somewhere. So from Kitengela to Kajiado town, one passes through a section of dry land that is being commercialized while in between there is the rare farm and cows.

Past Kajiado, one starts to get the feel of Maasai land. It looks like a dry woodland with intact forests of dry shrubs. Population disappears at some point, and this is where the drive gets sweeter.

Along this way we encountered some people cycling, it looked like they were from Nairobi cycling to Namanga. I kinda admired them. I do know the feeling of loving something and wanting to test the limits. Plus they choose such a scenic route! Like seeing all that beauty without any hurry.

One now starts seeing hills on one side. Presumably the one that has Amboseli. There is a road linking Amboseli and Namanga road but we didn’t venture into it. And the road is so perfect at this point. One can drive for a while without passing any cars, and we saw the occasional people cycling. Some had given up on the way and were tying their bicycles on vehicles for an easier ride home. The road is smooth, but at some point they haven’t marked it.

Along the way there are countless rivers with beautiful Maasai names. Most are dry which is as expected in August.

But what stole the show, was Oldonyo Orok mountains. They are an escapement of these huge beautiful hills that roll into each other endlessly. From afar one can tell that that’s quite a high mountain not the hills we’ve been passing. And getting a closer look reveals this cold beauties that I would love to hike. From what I saw on Google, they are also referred to as Namanga hill. Or that could be one of them near Namanga that has the name. Others refer to it as the Black Mountain, I guess because of its dark green color plus clouds that doesn’t allow one to truly see their precise structure. But I’m definitely planning to go back one day, but hiking this time.

Ol donyo Orok mountain

So we get to Namanga town, and as is expected during these Corona times, it’s quiet. No vehicles coming in from Tanzania or going. Lorries are packed at the customs and I doubt they’ll get out of there until the stalemate is resolved.

Namanga town

So we got a little confused and wanted to turn back because we know Kenyans at this time aren’t allowed into Tanzania, but the officer at the customs beckons us to drive to the exit gate. He tells us that we can actually drive past that exit gate without any documentation, but only for 15 kilometers. Then we can turn back. Another one asks us if we are going to lunch on the other side. From what I saw, people can actually drive just a little while to the other side for lunch or something and then come back.

So we drive that a little bit, and the language changes immediately to kiswahili. From what we call beauty shops to ‘duka la vipodozi’. All signs are in kiswahili, including church signs.

We would have loved to explore Tanzania a bit, but I guess we’ll have to shelve those plans till the covid 19 situation stabilizes and the two governments resolve the impasse. For today, we turned back a few minutes later and came back to Kenya from the free man’s zone.

The drive back was faster, but given that Namanga is only 150kilometres from Nairobi or thereabouts, there is no need to hurry.

Umma University

Along the way I saw Umma University. I had sincerely never heard of it. And it’s huge and so well structured. I loved the architecture of it’s buildings. It has this Arab kinda thing going on. All it’s buildings are well thought out, like one could easily transport it to the middle East and it will fit perfectly. Anyway, it’s a Muslim university, not sure whether it was opened up to KUCCPs placement along with the other private Universities.

Of course we stopped along the way back for Nyama Choma. Wanted to be as close to home as possible given that there is a curfew. The Nyama Choma was delicious, or maybe it’s because I had really been looking forward to it. And I was quite dissappointed to find that they are not selling Alcohol in the eateries, something I had totally forgotten about.

And coming back I saw the most beautiful sunset I have seen in a while. This beautiful ball of red. I didn’t manage to take pictures of it given that we were in the Kitengela jam , but it was one of those moments when your heart stops and you behold something magical.

I enjoyed this road trip. Also because those beautiful plains and rolling hills makes one think things through easily.

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