In the creation of Dru Wambugu it was decided that Nyeri would serve as his umbilical cord. Meaning every time I travel to this town, it awakens childhood memories when my brother and I and my dad included, would pass by this town as we headed to my grandparents’ place
Nyeri was about tea farming, sweet potatoes, arrow roots, the mentally ill man from Kiathaimo village, hilly dusty roads, yellow speeding lorries that ferried bags of picked tea leaves, learning and forgetting how to pick tea, news of government announcing tea bonus and…and Chinga dam which was forever calm even with its humongous water body that evoked awe and sometimes fear especially when we were narrated stories of humans committing suicide in that dam.
Every time somebody mentioned Nyeri, my mind played recordings of my Shosh and her ageing hut and her cupboard and the fireplace and her 3 ‘convertible chairs’. I’m sure you remember the convertible chairs back in the day that were only found in shosh’s place.
At some point in life, I deserted Nyeri. Life became so eventful that to plan a trip to ‘Rware’ as is known by some, became too bureaucratic. Then 2016 happened and the gods ordered me to be making frequent visits to this nostalgic town.
This is what I have gathered so far;
I got fascinated the other day while walking in one of the streets only to meet so many shoshos queuing. My mind toyed that it was about Pesa ya wazee, but I was wrong. These shoshos were queuing to buy tobacco. How So? Yes in Nyeri we have tobacco vendors located in the down-town area, where it is packed using dried banana leaves. Actually, the smell of tobacco is so strong that you can’t miss it.
The funniest thing about Nyeri is that you can never get photocopy services on a Sunday. Ignoring the question why someone would be in the look for a photocopy shop on a Sunday morning; that’s beside the point. My friend and I traversed the entire Nyeri town with no success. That was a first for me. But the bars were alive and kicking way before Mututho hours especially those in shadowy streets hehe.
You have to believe me that this town is the safest of them all. You know, only in Nyeri do we have a large concentration of kleptomaniacs that chances of stealing from a passerby could lead you into problems. Anyway, i just made that up. But truth be told, I always feel very safe in Nyeri than in any other town. In fact, I hardly check on my wallet while paddling in these streets.
I have deliberately avoided to discuss Hotels-in-Nyeri just to forget my disappointments and shocker escapades. You see, if you are not willing to spend sh.700/- for lunch, I can bet that your lunch date in Nyeri will be upsetting. From the waiters, to the type of plates, to arrangement of the foods, to the baffling look of the overcooked veges; my advice would be to order for porridge that is usually served in a calabash.
Very disturbingly, the size of a typical entertainment house in Nyeri is the size of your table room. I’m not kidding you! Most clubs are very tiny and congested. Right from the entrance, you can order your beer, ask for a request from the DJ as you help yourself in the washrooms. By the way, I’m not referring to places where John De Matthew frequents or places you could dance to Kihiki Understandingo or Thie ukiumaga (A very vulgar song). No! Actually joints where the likes of Joseph Kamaru would visit, are quite spacious.
To the matatus in Nyeri (Coughs)…..If you happen to be plying between the neighbouring smaller towns and Nyeri, and the day coincides with a market day, then brace yourself for a long day. The thing is, matatus in this place don’t believe in 10 or 14 passenger capacity. Actually how closer they are to 10 or 14 pass is subjecting the said number to the power of 5 or 7. Now, still on market days, conductors will insist on ferrying a 360 kilogram sack of sukuma wiki and fit it in a seat that would normally accommodate one passenger. Mind you, the sack would be 6 feet tall. Then picture yourself sitting next to this sack which means you will be hanging on the edge, squeezed by half a dozen humans hanging on the door, and few more dozens inside.
A strategic street like Gakere Road in the heart of the town is converted to a market on weekend afternoons trading everything from pumpkins, to affordable handbags and those popular music sold in River road. It’s always an epicenter of hawkers and endless mammoth of humans in their ups and about. In Nyeri we have vendors who go beyond selling maize; they do roasted yams, sweet potatoes and arrow roots as early as 9am. There is also this chap who sells Dawa ya mende dressed in a white suit and very official shoes and a tie in tow.By the way, this is the same town that caused stampede when residents flocked the popular Naivas Supermarket escalators to have a feel.
Something more important; Nyeri shuts down at 7pm. At this time you will bump into people running home especially the lazy and drunk men agonising how the encounter with their violence-talented-wives would turn as soon their site is spotted. Except for the bars and the usual tiny clubs, everything else between the borders of Nyeri town safely logs off at this hour all for a day’s work.
Call it the price of keeping the ancestors happy and making peace with the umbilical cord.