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When you board a bus from Nairobi to Kakamega, expect to travel about 223 miles. You can use three different routes while traveling by road: the first one is through Kapsabet, which is the shortest. The second is via Eldoret while the third one is via Kisumu City. Kakamega town lies in the larger Kakamega County, of which it is the headquarters.
One of the top things that fascinated me about Kakamega is the mode of transport. Maybe you are used to public vehicles – trains and airlines – but Kakamega is no ordinary town – Boda Bodas, as they are famously known, rule this town. A good number of young men depend on these boda-bodas to feed their families and this business somehow helps to curb the unemployment rate. Make sure you board a boda-boda and enjoy the ride, which will most likely cost you less than a dollar.
If we had something like the Seven Wonders of Kenya, Kakamega would carry one of them. It is in this town that you will find the Crying Stone. This eight-meter tall stone oozes water and resembles a human being crying. The good thing about this natural site is that it is near the highway and you will pay nothing to enjoy the view. This structure is very significant to the locals, who perform various rites to appease their gods. The locals believe that every time the stone cries, it signals that good things like a bumper harvest are on the way.
Have I talked about the Kakamega Forest Reserve? I am sure not. If you love the sweet scent of nature, than this reserve is a must visit. You cannot cover it all in a day because it is expansive, covering about 238 square kilometers. About half of it is covered by indigenous trees, which makes it one of the most unique forests in Kenya. You do not have to worry about getting around because there are guides who will show you the way. You can also enjoy camping within the reserve to remove yourself from the everyday hustle and interact with nature.
Do not be scared when you meet a group of people singing at the top of their voices and blowing whistles following a bull. This town is known for bull-fighting competitions, which attract large crowds. You shall find an entire village supporting ‘their champion’ as he goes to fight with others from other localities. This culture runs deep in Kakamega, and even their legislators support it. Boni Khalwale, the former senator from Kakamega County, has been nicknamed “bullfighter” as he sponsors several events and his bulls are always top contenders. You shall find some of the healthiest bulls competing in this sport. Bullfights happen at least once per month in various venues, such as Bukhungu Stadium that neighbors the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology.
The streets are always buzzing with activities, although most businesses close by 10 p.m. There is an open-air market that operates all week long, and you are guaranteed to get fresh foodstuffs and affordable clothes here. The busiest market days are on Wednesday and Saturday, and some of the streets are impassable on these days. Many people from the upcountry flock to the market as they come for their weekly shopping, and vendors from neighboring towns also bring their wares. You are assured of meeting women with baskets on their heads hawking all sorts of edibles. Ensure that you taste simsim, which is a special delicacy that you will find only in this part of the country.
One of the most interesting things about this town is the warmth of its people. Their traditional dances and songs never disappoint. Their signature ‘mabega dance’ is known all over the country. Songs from this part of the country rule the airwaves and people who do not even understand the words always try to sing along. It is common to find a group of people singing at the side of the road with a big crowd surrounding them. There will also be skilled men playing several musical instruments, such as the Isikuti and traditional drums.
The locals in this town value food and that is why you will find a hotel every five shops or so. Some of the most amazing hotels that you can dine in include Shieywe Guest House, Kakamega Golf Club and Kakamega Guest House among many others. You shall also find food vendors by the roadside. You can get all sorts of edibles ranging from roasted and boiled maize, roasted yams and sweet potatoes, sugarcane and mandazis.
You will require more than a day to experience all that Kakamega has to offer. However, do not run when you find a procession of people wailing as I did when I landed in this town for the first time. The luhya’s are known for wailing loudly as they mourn the dead.
Finally, be sure to attend a live match at the Bukhungu Stadium if you are lucky enough to visit the place during football session. Bukhungu Stadium houses two local soccer team; the Kakamega Homeboyz and Western Stima.