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Eldoret, the town of marvel

By Thorn Mulli | May 9th 2017
Some of the cottages at Poa Place. (Photo: Courtesy, Standard)

I was on the road to Eldoret recently. While on the approximately five-hour long journey covering some odd 300 kilometres, my mind could not help but flash an old feature by Tony Mochama; The Road to Eldoret. The story painted a not-so-flattering image of Eldoret during one of Kenya's worst seasons; the 2007 post-election. Coincidentally, I was on the road to Eldoret during what some termed very heated primary elections.

I, however, saw a different Eldoret. A beautiful town with rolling plains and hills dotted with livestock and greenery. The town is named after a Maa word 'eldore' meaning 'stony river', a reference to the bed of the Sosiani River (a tributary of the Nile), that runs through the town. Eldoret is also the second largest urban centre in Midwestern Kenya after Nakuru and the fifth largest urban centre in the country.

Thanks to its resident world runners and high-altitude, it is also a renowned sports tourism destination. Eldoret hosts Kenya's oldest creamery, Doinyo Lessos Creameries, who began making cheese in 1964. You should know them from their Highland Cheddar cheese range all hand processed and produced in small batches, with particular attention paid to the tradition of the cheese maker's art.

Textile companies Ken-Knit and Rivatex are based off Eldoret too. I did make a stop at Moi University located in Kesses where I learnt that the institution purchased the defunct Rivatex from the Government of Kenya in 2007 as a facility for research, product development, extension and production. The university holds the patent to Tami Dye, a natural dye made from Mexican marigold which was previously considered a weed in the surrounding regions.

This dye, invented by the Professor of mycology and Moi University's former Vice-Chancellor, Richard Mibey in 2008, is credited for turning the fortunes of the company around. The company had been chocked by the high cost of imported dyes.

Last time I visited Eldoret, in 2014, I was en route Iten for a half-marathon event.

I had stayed at the Boma Inn; a luxury hotel and spa fully owned by the Kenya Red Cross, situated in Elgon View, one of the more affluent suburbs. On this visit, however, I was keen on a different experience.

My agent recommended Poa Place; a boarding house that I discovered lived up to its name. Located on the junction of the Eldoret-Nakuru Highway and Eldoret/Kaptagat, I was in awe. Apart from its hugely popular pool that draws the residents on sunny days, Poa Place hosts an enviable number of beautiful conference rooms where patrons can meet. And this is besides its three restaurants, two bars, night club and a pizza hut.

Paul and Blondie sunning at Poa Place nature park. (Photo: Courtesy, Standard)

I say that Poa Place is unrivaled because of its amusement park that outshines Nairobi's Lunar Park and a snake park that Nairobi Museum's Snake Park and Watamu's Bio-Ken Snake Farm have nothing on. The snake park is located in a nature park and cultural centre which hosts an animal zoo with lions, cheetahs and crocodiles. There is also a botanical garden with native flora and fauna; and a section dedicated to the Kalenjin traditional homestead culture. The Kalenjin community consists of eight culturally and linguistically related groups.

Poa Place had another surprise for me. The 'resident's only' section is a lovers' paradise. The twin restaurant that seems to float on an oasis pond is sure to melt a hard heart as will the 15 grass-thatched en suite cottages whose nightly cost ranges between Sh7,000 and Sh15,000. 

Later I ventured into the town. I had previously always experienced Eldoret's CBD under dusk and while always on the move. I thought that this was finally my chance to really explore the sprawling town but work assailed me till night fell. I however got to sample the vibrant nightlife. Apart from the Rumours Night Club, I sampled Delasco Lounge in the CBD, very popular with the mature crowd and later, the Timba Grill which is a more youthful haunt.

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