Kalenjin women like their alcohol. I know this because I have dated one. On our first evening date, she downed seven Tusker Malts in a span 83 minutes. My brother who had joined me along the way had an anthropological shock written all over his face. I guess he had never seen a 20-year old liberally order beer like a frustrated 51-year old father.
By the way, I should have seen this as an harbinger of our breakup. Because, two months later when we dumped each other, she returned photos we had taken together randomly at the Coast when we went for a brief vacation. Never mind, we were both at university, she studying a course that needs an A-plain and yours truly a finalist.
I remember all this because I am in Kaplong. In front of me are two women, could be barmaids or call girls, I am new in the town. One is dancing drunkenly and has fallen down twice in a space of 40 seconds. The other can hold her ground. It is a backstreet bar that happened to be the only one that is opened on this Thursday night. It is 2258H.
I am here because I have arrived late and want something to eat. The only available thing is beef stew and ugali. I order and from the look of things, I will be luck not to be attacked by a bout of diarrhea. Will share about this later. Keep it locked here. It is one of those kitchens you see firewood, charcoal, unwashed utensils from three days before and a foul smell about it. The surrounding environment is rank with human urine, so potent it pains your nostrils.
For the Geographically challenged folks from Central Kenya, Eastern and Coastal folks, Kaplong is in the Southern part of Rift Valley. It is closer to the border of Kisiis and Kalenjins(mainly Kipsigis) in that infamous place called Borabu for the Kisiis and Chepilat for the Kales. Kisiis call it Chebirate, because as Bantus, we don’t like consonants hanging out independently, we support them with appropriate vowels. It is called linguistic and phonetic responsibilities.
Kaplong is a small town that sprung when the Nairobi-Kisii highway by way of Narok was re-carpeted a decade or so ago. It is a small, unassuming town.
I am at here to attend a funeral of my Uncle Laban who had passed on after a long protracted kidney complication. At 77, he had turned himself in. Since I am anti-people I prefer traveling all by myself. So I left Nairobi 1600H. I am travelling with 13 Kales, feeling very Kenyan. After being stuck in traffic for about an hour and half, we finally snake down Mahi Mahiu and our vehicle breaks down at the foot of the escarpment. It is 1807h. The villagers are milling around as the sun idyllically sets down and cold wind breezes through. An hour later, the wiring is fixed and off we go.
I arrive in Kaplong around 2345H. My first mission is to get a lodging. There are few boda boda chaps hovering around the station, the driver directs me to a somewhat decent storey building and I walk the 20 or so yards and I meet a youthful man by the door step. I ask him if there is a room and he tells me there is one. As soon another man shows up with a somewhat beautiful lady, beautiful in that sense of ‘been-there-got-banged-a-dozen-times-beautiful’. I can guess they wanna shag. Luck bastard.
Lodgings intrigue me. This particular looks fairly decent. The stairs are tiled and under the poor glow of the 45W bulb there is a false sheen of class to the building. He ushers me to a room in the corner. No.26. I check in and a cursory glance shows me two pillows, a simple bed, probably made by an apprentice at some carpentry shop. There is a wooden chair and a table. Then there is a huge wardrobe. Who needs such a humongous wardrobe in a lodging? I go to fix me a meal before I come back to scrutinize the lodging.
It is at the hotel cum bar that I am looking at the aforesaid two women. There a handful men engulfed in the evening talk. What do guys talk in bars in Kaplong on Thursday nights? The TV is showing Citizen TV and my former TV crush Anne Kiguta has panelists discussing Lupita’s Oscar. Seriously; I see there is a Social Media expert, some old professor she used to bring Live during her days at KTN. Nobody seems interested in the tube. I am served my Ugali and beef. There is not even a drop of onion or tomato. Kalenjins have are not famous for their terrific cooking. Some badly cut seven pieces of beef that can scarcely measure the quarter that I had ordered. The man delivers soup in mug that is broken around the brim. I hurriedly eat and disappear. Along the way, I meet a reasonably tall and elderly man whom I believe is a cop. He asks me where I am coming from and where I am going. I don’t look drunk so he lets me go to my lodging.
Back at my lodging, I go examining the room well. The mosquito net looks so dusty that if I try to use it, I will sneeze, cough and will be dead by morning. There is a switch for hot shower and I am relieved that I can enjoy some hot shower. But as you would have guessed, the shower stopped working in 1992. The building was built in 2005, though. You read that right. The toilet looks bad. Like real real real baaaad.
Then there is that small lodging soap. My bad! Must it be that small? That soap is too small; if you have a forest of pubic hair it can hardly sustain a good shower. Or big boxers that need some washing after a sweaty journey. What are they trying to achieve with such tiny soaps? Deter folks from masturbating. Personally, I don’t trust folks over 30 who are constantly tapping their phones. I often infer that they are googling porn. The tissue is the cheap, dusty affair that can leave a light-skinned chick itching in the wrong spot.
I tuck myself in, only the bed to be the noisy type. You know the creaky thing that you can’t even sleep with a woman on. The mattress is a thin affair. The beddings sound clean but seem to have been washed by river water. I spread one of my clean shirts and I sleep. I dream that I just won some Ksh 50,000,000 from Safaricom and I have been given a huge bamba 50,000,000 to wit. Do dreams come out more bizarrely? At some point, I can hardly tell where in this ungracious planet I’m.
In the morning, I wake up and try to hurry things up given we didn’t agree the checkout time the previous night. Don’t want to be surprised by an enraged Kipkorir telling me that past 8 o’clock you have to pay for the next day. I step into the shower and I have to contend with the cold water from an algae-infested jerrican the jerrican. The jerrican by the way is the same that served Jomo & co at Kapenguria. I am certain because the amount of dark green algae inside the jerrican is stuff that keeps archaeologist in business. Trust me. The water was patently drawn from a river and obviously untreated.
I reluctantly shower. I dress up and find my way to the stage. I board a probox to Sotik town and find my way to Chepilat. From there I board a boda boda to climb up to the place where my uncle was being laid to rest.
Coming back, I board a Transline bus. Then a man sees a bed bug taking a calm afternoon on my collar. At first he is afraid of telling me-can be embarrassing-but he discovers that there are bedbugs all over the place and we quickly alight and thankfully, Transline knows how to take care of their customer, they bring us another bus. I find my way to the city…
All in all not bad a trip. And I can confirm that the meat I ate did cause a terrible stomach upset. I am still nursing…