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Roadtrip Africa | Snow in Kenya and Iten (Home of the Champions)

It's snowing in Kenya, a Chinese masterpiece (read HIGHWAY) and Home of the Champions, the birthplace of the marathon. In short, part 2 of the roadtrip through Africa is again full of highlights.

Scooter breakdown in no man's land

It's bad this morning. Completely my own fault, because I'm always too impatient to properly tie the rubber strips with which I tie luggage on the back. The result is now that these strips have ended up in my rear brake. The scooter won't go any further. And I'm somewhere in a no man's land in between Barnley's Guesthouse en Kitale. Searching in vain for that meticulous nature reserve where the only Sitatunga antelopes frolic about. Fortunately, I am in East Africa. Because only here do the boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) race past continuously. The young men (I've never seen a boda boda driven by a woman) always have a set of spanners with them and can really do anything with them.

Today is no different. Three men on a boda boda stop and work up a sweat to fix the problem. They fiddle with it for an hour (they scrape the rubber off the brake hub) and then it works again.

Meanwhile, a donkey passes by with a few jerry cans of water. Apparently he knows where to go…

A donkey in Kenya carries water | Roadtrip Africa
A donkey in Kenya carries water | Roadtrip Africa

The new way of the Chinese

I give up on the search for the sitatungas. I say goodbye to mister Richard. He warns me that I'm up to something Kapenguria have to knock off. The new road is almost finished. Only the exit is not ready yet. You have to go up a dirt road first.' Richard gives me his mobile number just in case.

I don't really notice it, but when I consult the Pocket Earth app (recommended if you want to know the current altitude and speed), I'm sure. Kitale was already at 1.900 meters and now I am riding above 2.000 meters. To my left are the outlines of Mount Elgon, which reaches over 4.200 meters. Mount Elgon forms the inhospitable border between Uganda en Kenya. I drove around it.

The land of Pokot

This is the country of the Pokot (Wikipedia here). I visited them once in 2018. Then I was literally stranded in the mud. After a grueling journey on dirt roads, which had turned into a mud puddle after a downpour. My scooter then went on a truck. Together with about fifty mango sellers I traveled with them to Lomut. There was a market there. During this ride I received several marriage proposals. Some Pokot ladies wanted to marry this mzungu. The stumbling point was the dowry. I thought 25 cows was a bit much.

Kenya has 44 ethnic populations

Kenya officially distinguishes 44 ethnic populations. The most recent 'tribe' is formed by the Indians (emigrants of Asian descent). The government recognized them in 2017. The Kikuyu (Wikipedia here), make up the largest group (20%). The Kalenjin (Wikipedia here), known for the marathon are fourth (7%). The Pokot are a sub-group within the Kalenjin and number about 800.000 in Kenya and 200.000 in Uganda.

Map from 2007 (NB Kenya will have almost 2022 million inhabitants in 50)
Map from 2007 (NB Kenya will have almost 2022 million inhabitants in 50)

Traditional dress and language

As an outsider it is often not clear to which ethnic group someone belongs. Nairobi, for example, is a great melting pot. But elsewhere they are indeed distinguishable. This distinguishes the Turkana, Maasai, Pokot en Samburu by their traditional attire. Just ask locally. If you learn words like hello and thank you from their language, the ice is immediately broken. By the way, for Kenyans you are 'mzungu' or white person. By the way, 'Mafrika' means black in Swahili…

In 2017 in Lomut, Pokot
In 2017 in Lomut, Pokot

Land of hidden treasures

I am now officially in West Pokot. I drive under the welcome sign. This is definitely not a touristy part of Kenya. So the slogan 'Land of hidden treasures' is very appropriate. Because there really is plenty to see and experience. As will turn out…

Welcome to West Pokot
Welcome to West Pokot
A Pokot lady at 3.200 meters with a cow
A Pokot lady at 3.200 meters with a cow

Heavy showers at an altitude of 3.200 meters

After about twenty km I found the dirt road that connects to the new road. Just to be sure, I'll check with a goatherd. The road is not in Google Maps (last check November 2022: other apps such as Pocket Earth and iOverlander do not show the road either). But it's really there and what a road! I doubt if you could get to Iten through these parts at all before.

The road eventually leads to an altitude of 3.200 meters. I literally drive through the clouds. That feels cool, but is very nice. The fun quickly ends when the first raindrops fall.

The new road towards Iten near Kapenguria
The new road towards Iten near Kapenguria

It doesn't stop with drops and I can count myself lucky. Just when the sky really falls down, I drive into a village. I stay there for over an hour and a half and have the greatest fun.

Big tam-tam party in the rain
Big tam-tam party in the rain
Donkeys don't mind the rain
Donkeys don't mind the rain

Snow in Kenya

Fortunately it clears up and the rain gives way to sunbeams. And now suddenly there is snow everywhere. In the photo you see a boda boda who, like me, stands in awe of a pack of snow.

Snow in Kenya or hail? 😂
Snow in Kenya or hail? 😂

The next day, the snow is even national news. On Kenyan TV, a weatherman declares that it was not 'real' snow. There is no snow in Kenya. According to the meteorologist, it was hail, which remained for a while due to the cold surface…

Other road users on their way to Iten
Other road users on their way to Iten

A short stop in Kapsowar

Google has finally got the hang of it. According to the map, I'm XNUMX km from Iten. Near the village Kapsowar. Time to stretch your legs and take a walk around the market. It provides the necessary view. Often I hear the word 'mzungu' from the mouths of the children in particular.

A school with a motto in Kapsowar
A school with a motto in Kapsowar
At the market in Kapsowar
At the market in Kapsowar

Welcome to Iten, Home of Champions

Iten needs no announcement, because the Home of Champions already announces itself. About ten kilometers before I drive through the meter-high entrance, groups of marathon runners are everywhere in training. Around five o'clock I arrive in the 'world capital' of the marathon. Iten is located at 2.400 meters and is known for numerous marathon world champions. Marathon runners from all over the world flock to Iten to watch the tricks of the local champions.

Iten: Home of the Champions
Iten: Home of the Champions
You can practice for the marathon in Iten
You can practice for the marathon in Iten | Home of the Champions

Tip:: Why is it that Kenyans always win the marathons? Almost all Kenyan marathon runners are also ethnically Kalenjin (not Pokot). That's no coincidence. You can read how that is this article.

After an hour I did see Iten though. It is a village with barely 5.000 inhabitants, who do their thing. However, it is on the edge of the Kerio valley (which I will admire tomorrow). And that promises the necessary spectacle because it is more than 1.000 meters lower.

Kilima Resort

It's Covid time and you notice that everywhere. Tourism has almost come to a standstill. Many hotels are closed or open but without guests. I book it Kilima Resort which is located a few kilometers south of Iten. This lodge invariably receives excellent reviews and the owner is from the Netherlands. To find the Kilima, I now have to pull out all the stops in the dark over difficult sandy paths. The unparalleled view of the Kerio Valley will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

Kilima Resort, Iten, Kenya
Kilima Resort, Iten, Kenya

Tip:: Look here for prices and availability for Kilima Resort

In the restaurant that, due to the Covid vicissitudes, also serves as a playground for the owner's kids (she is married to a Dutchman who is in the Netherlands). And there is actually a guest. A German marathon runner who has been training in Iten 'Home of the Champions' for a few weeks.

More about that in the next blog. Then I see him in training. Not between the Kenyans, but at an appropriate distance… And then follows a descent of 1.400 meters with the necessary spectacle!

Eric on a scooter in Uganda

Eric

What is it like to drive more than 10.000 kilometers in Madagascar on a locally bought scooter? Or on a pikipiki (scooter in Swahili) through East Africa? In more than 20 years I have visited more than 100 countries. This has resulted in a lot of priceless travel experiences, which I would like to share with you.

ERIC – OVER 100 COUNTRIES
– Currently in Kenya.
– Share unique travel experiences.
– Favorite destinations: Madagascar, Uganda, Japan, India and Colombia.

Seen a mistake? Ask? Remark? Let us know in the comments!

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Eric on a scooter in Uganda

Eric

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