I hadn’t planned on visiting Eldoret. I thought I’d go from Kampala, Uganda straight to Nairobi, Kenya, then on to Mombasa, Kenya and then on to Tanzania.
Well, two reasons made me change my plans. As I mentioned in my post about Christmas in Burundi, a wonderful Kenyan named Carole let me stay at her place in Burundi during the holidays even though she wasn’t there. She was at home in Eldoret, Kenya for the holidays.
Originally, she planned to return to Burundi by land around the same time I’d be going to Uganda. It seemed like our paths would cross there. But no, she stayed in Eldoret longer, so why not actually meet this wonderful, nice person?
Secondly, I was going from Kenya to Arusha, Tanzania for a safari. From Nairobi it’s only five hours including crossing the border. From Mombasa it’s a bit farther, but it’s still not too far away. Still, in the weeks leading up to my visit to Kenya a few incidents (Example 1, Example 2) happened where grenades were thrown at foreign tourists. Anything can happen at any time anywhere in the world, but that, plus malaria-carrying mosquitoes, plus preferring to see a countryside city instead of another big city pushed me to Eldoret for sure.
There isn’t a whole lot to see and do in Eldoret. It is the training grounds of hundreds of Kenyan runners, those guys who always win marathons. Eldoret has the right climate and altitude for optimal training. In fact, I randomly bumped into the 2003 Boston Marathon runner-up at a restaurant here and he has his own running academy!
Eldoret is one of Kenya’s fastest growing cities. It’s only a set of a couple parallel streets at its center with neighborhoods sprawling out in every direction. It’s also home to several universities, giving it a young average age that gives it a vitality and energy few cities of similar size could achieve.
There are many opportunities to explore nature. Many resorts cater to tourists looking to escape the city and soak up Kenya’s beautiful nature.
I tried nyama choma in Eldoret, or grilled meat. In my case it was goat. It was served with some vegetables and ugali, cornmeal cooked with water to make a hard dough. Ugali is a staple here, by far the most inexpensive stomach filler you can find. It serves the same purpose as rice in the east, chapatis in India, bread in the west, etc.
Kenyans take their nyama choma seriously. It’s ordered by the kilo and it’s a common (though expensive) dish to be shared among friends, family, and when men go out with friends.
All in all, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable time. It’s a great place to stop when traveling between Kampala and Nairobi and I hope you all get a chance to visit someday!