I can count the number of Kenyan towns I have visited outside of Nairobi with disturbing ease: Embu, Kirinyaga, Naivasha, Nakuru, Machakos, Watamu, Malindi, Mombasa and Eldoret. That’s it – less than 10. In truth, I can hardly even remember what most of these towns are like, either because I was a child when I last visited or because I barely explored the town outside of where I was staying while I was there. The number of towns that I have really visited is more like 5.
How pitiful is that?! And more importantly, who or what is to blame?
Well, to start with, I blame myself for not being adventurous. I also blame my parents for not taking me anywhere besides Mombasa and Embu when I was growing up. I blame my friends for not organizing enough road trips. I blame my bank account for not facilitating my need for travel. But most of all, I blame this disappointing lack of domestic travel on a lie that I grew up believing: the lie that Kenya is not worth exploring, that the best vacations were taken in London or America, that a holiday outside of Mombasa was not a holiday at all – it was just a trip to your (or somebody else’s) shags.
It is only over the past year that I have really made the effort to “tembea Kenya”. And do you know what I’ve discovered? That Kenya, all of Kenya, is beautiful! If in doubt, just read the Beautiful Kenya column of the Daily Nation. Every weekday, they profile a new magical destination, from millennia-old acclaimed historical sites in Turkana to enchanting giant oak tree forests in Meru.
The Beautiful Kenya column in the Daily Nation is the only fuel I need for my wanderlust. Every featured destination invites us to believe the truth: That Kenya is worth exploring. It reminds us that there are countless places to discover in our magical country. Just last month, I learned that next to the Koitalel Museum in Nandi, there is a Nandi Bears Club that commemorates a now extinct species of bear, known as kerit. Legend has it that kerit was a ferocious carnivore and had a particular taste for the brains of its victims (Wikipedia). How creepy is that? This country is so full of wonder!
Inspired by Beautiful Kenya, I have committed to traveling to as many different parts of our country as I can. I started this year off with a trip to Watamu (which I talked about here). In a month’s time, I will attend the Lamu Food Festival. After that, who knows? Maybe Kisumu, or Laikipia, or Nandi – home of the legendary kerit! The entire country will be my Wonderland (feel free to call me Alice). Because now I know that my Kenya is beautiful. And most definitely worth exploring.