Eldoret: the party road trip
January 1, 1970
by Awuor Mugeni
I’ve been invited to Domino parties several times since it began in 2012. I always found a reason not to go. Most of the time I blamed work but now I realize it was just me, being lazy and absolutely boring. This time, I got the stick from up my a** and just did it. The party was going down in Eldoret (Eldy) and this being my second time in the town; suffice to say, it was a charm.
Road travel by public means
My pal Dee and I took a North Rift Shuttle behind Afya Centre in Nairobi’s Tom Mboya Street. The fare to Eldy on a normal day is ksh. 800. North Rift Shuttles are very comfortable since they carry 11 passengers and maintain good speed.
It’s a 5 hour trip from Nairobi to Eldy by road. We made a stop at a resort in Nakuru for about 15 minutes. The stop is important since that’s the only potty break you get. It also gives you time to shop for light snacks, food, refreshments, and allows you to walk around and stretch your legs.
We arrived in Eldy at around 2 pm. Another friend was already there so it made things easier. We took a cab for ksh. 200 (which is the standard Eldy cab rate, let no one fool you) to a hotel called Bandaptai.
Bandaptai Hotel and Restaurant
Bandaptai hotel has a very well stocked bar: manned by a very nice gentleman called Steve. We said hi to him as we took note of the alcohol selection and bookmarked it for later. By this time, we were very hungry so we ordered a simple meal of ugali and mutton stew. Accompanied it with a glass of Mursik, a local Kalenjin delicacy. It’s made by fermenting milk in a special guard. Mursik is claimed to cure all manner of things, and athletes swear by it but the only thing I’m sure of is that it induces very strong feeling of siesta. The hotel charged us at ksh. 1000 per room, without breakfast. With breakfast, it came to 1500 per person/room.
The night scene in Eldy was more excitable than we anticipated. The thing with Eldy is that it hosts several universities, so most times there are a lot of young bloods who just want to have a good time. Meaning there are enough people who want to paint the town every night.
Then there’s the fact that the main highway is a key trade route between Kenya and Uganda, so there are a lot of travellers and truck drivers going through the town every day. Another thing that’s made the town thrive is its people are large-scale farmers, industrialists and athletes in training (and retirement).
The crew decided that Club Timba would serve us well for Friday Turnup, especially since most of us were feeling like we needed to dance. Club Timba is unlike any club I’ve been to before and I wish I’d taken photos but I was too lit for the night. So I’ll try my best to describe it. The walls are entirely made of wood, (Timba is wood in Swahili) and it’s designed in the manner of an amphitheatre. So, you have several levels with nice cosy seats from the very top, lining the wall to the middle where there is a platform for the DJ. This means that everyone sees what is happening on the floor. And the DJ is lit, you more than just hear it, you see it. The bars are conveniently positioned on both ends of the club. One at the top and another at the bottom and the washrooms are on your way to the exit. I think.
For lack of a better word, I’ll term this trip to Eldoret as Party Tourism since that was what we were going to do in Eldy. Club Timba was great. There were 2 DJs who played very good music and had the entire club dancing wildly, but we left at around 2 am. Which is actually a bit early, but a good number of us had travelled for the main event – the Domino Party, which was the next day. So we had to rest, properly.
The Sikh Union Gulab Lochab Club
I spent Saturday afternoon at the Sikh Union Gulab Lochab grounds, an Asian members club, watching the Domino Revolution management team putting up tents for the party. It low key felt like a gypsy caravan had decided to stop in the town and set up their home for a few days. Once I’d had enough of gypsies, I figured I might as well find a shady spot to shield me from the very hot highland sun. Dee and I were introduced to the club’s nice, clean swimming pool that costs ksh. 300 for an entire day of swimming, coupled with an attentive trainer and a dedicated lifeguard. And yes, I was tempted to swim in my underwear since I didn’t carry any costumes but good manners prevailed that day.
Domino Revolution Party
Domino Revolution is a destination party organized by a few genius people. Two of them, DJs. The tickets range from ksh. 1500 to 1000 depending on when you decided to attend the party and they have hosted parties in Naivasha, Nakuru, and Elementaita, but Eldy is the party’s home.
Most people at the parties know each other since its fans find them through recommendation/word of mouth. They sell barbecue, alcohol and a lot of their merchandise at the event. This edition was mainly a house party and Moseh, the drummer was performing in sync with one of the DJs. I’m not a House music fan but the crowd got us going until very late/very early in the morning. That’s how we found out that it’s very cold in Eldy between 4 and 5 am, and there’s no Uber yet, so you need to have several cab numbers at hand just in case you decide you need to be in a warm room.
The party started out very slow and I remember wondering if it was going to be a flop. It picked up at around 10 pm when people started streaming in, most of them, locals. There were 5 DJs who played that night, each having a set of around 2 and a half hours. Since this was a House music party, a variety of House genres were played for most of the night, and we didn’t get to hear any West or East African tracks until way past 2 am. Most Kenyans love Nigerian music, but I noticed that in this party, the crowd did not mind the House music very much. In fact, they seemed to like it. But, the party really picked up at around 1 am, when everyone was gyrating to the music and allowing themselves to be a little more ratchet than usual. Western African music is very upbeat so coupled with a bit of alcohol, it always helps to get a party to its climax. Which was the DJ set pairing with Moseh the drummer. I had watched a few videos on youtube of these kinds of pairings but I had never experienced one live. It was exhilarating at the very least, and a performance that I would love to experience again.
Having spent most of our energy at the Domino party and acquiring well-deserved hangovers, we woke up very late on Sunday and opted to chill at a wonderfully charming and picturesque hotel called Noble, just a few kilometers away from Eldy town. I recommend this hotel if you’re fussy about your accommodation, and prefer quiet and fresh country air to the bustle of town.
With beautifully landscaped grounds, Noble has a well-stocked garden bar and very well prepared food. The goat soup and chemsha with ugali are highly recommended if you’d like to try a local dish. If you’re playing it safe, their chicken and chips taste homemade. (Un)fortunately, the food gets ready at a country pace so you need to give yourself ample time before you can indulge, especially if patience is not one of your strengths.
One peculiarly fascinating Kenyan habit is to cure hangovers with hot goat soup and more alcohol, so we indulged in tradition. And spent the entire afternoon and evening bonding with a lot of people who we had met at the Domino party. This is how people make friends here, over a bottle of whiskey, vodka, and shots of tequila. I did mention that this was party tourism, yes? After a lot of drinking and a bit of drama we figured we should wind down with a little reggae. Apparently, Club Signature has the best Reggae on Sundays, so after several false starts, we finally left Noble and made our way back into town.
The moment I walked into Club Signature, I realized we made a mistake by leaving Noble at 10 pm. The place was packed to the door and our table was right next to the exit. It didn’t help that it’s an underground club and I felt the ventilation was a bit lacking. After around 2 hours, it started to get claustrophobic and tiring. Steve’s bar at Bandaptai sounded like a great idea, so some of us decided to leave. Then, because this is Eldy, we met Steve at the stairs, going to the club. Because bartenders get a night off too.
ASK Eldoret Showground – Officer’s Mess
Monday was another late morning. The guys, who including a number of people who had studied at the Moi University in Eldy decided to treat us for lunch at the Eldy showground, officers’ mess. Ugali and wet fry chicken and wet fry goat was served outdoors, on a makeshift wooden table top balanced on some weird concrete thing. The food took about 2 hours to get ready. I’m sure right now you’re wondering if Ugali is the only food we ever ate in Eldy.
The thing is, Ugali is a staple food in Kenya. It’s basically maize flour continually mixed in boiling water over a very hot stove until it turns into a firm mixture, shaped into a mound. A gift to us from the Portuguese, I believe. Before that, most Kenyan communities used millet and/or sorghum.
You can accompany Ugali with vegetables, meat or milk. It’s hardly ever eaten on its own since it’s very dry. It also makes for an amazing drinking diet since it’s so heavy, and when paired with a meat dish, it helps to ‘hold the stomach’ in readiness for alcohol. This generally makes it harder to throw up if you decide to overdo the drinking. While this fact is not medically proven, every Kenyan will advise you to do this. We figure our experience is enough proof and we don’t like being told otherwise.
At around 10 pm, it started getting extremely cold, so we went to hang out with Steve from Bandaptai, who introduced me to an awesome brand of Sambuca called de Sobrero. The guy knows his alcohol and is possibly the nicest bartender I’ve ever met. The bar was playing very nice reggae music but we couldn’t stay for very long since we were hungry and the Bandaptai kitchen was closed. That’s when we were introduced to one of Eldy’s best-kept secrets. Samosas. Aka Sambusa.
Maggie’s restaurant, aka Mama sambusa, sells the most legit beef and onion sambusa in Eldoret and for only ksh. 20 each. They come with chilli kachumbari (our equivalent of the Mexican salsa) which made the experience 120%. Sambusa’s are basically a snack of Indian origin made by frying finely minced beef/mutton in onion and chilies. The well-cooked mixture is then enclosed in a thin pastry formed into a palm-sized triangular shape and deep fried in very hot oil. It’s a favourite among many Kenyans and is usually sold in almost every restaurant and bar in the country and sometimes even on the streets. Our guide ate around 20 Sambusas, without breaking.
Shopping at Zion Mall
I discovered that there are stalls at Zion mall selling very legit tops and booty shorts at ksh. 500, and precious high heeled shoes for ksh. 3,000. The price doesn’t compare to Nairobi so impulse buying started happening. I could have gone through all the stalls but unfortunately, apart from running out of time, Zion mall also feels a bit maze-like. For some minutes, I found myself looking for one shop but kept finding myself at the exit, or vice versa. They have a supermarket, ATMs, cyber cafes, restaurants/food kiosks and very friendly stall-keepers who will show you a great time if you love to haggle. Unfortunately, the mall has little parking space for a mall its size.
Coffee at Java House
We did a short coffee stop at Java House – Rupa Mall, around 10 minutes drive from Zion mall so I wouldn’t travel hungry. I was curious to see if they maintained the standards from Nairobi and I was slightly disappointed. My Vanilla Latte didn’t taste the same! But I blame the barista. The coffee house is very spacious and airy, decorated in the standard Java feel, though I was disappointed to note that the paintings lacked the big-boned women so popular in the Nairobi Java(s). The good thing about Java House is that their menu is exactly the same everywhere, so if you’d like to have the same meal you would have had in Nairobi Java House, you’re sorted.
Suffice to say, it was time to leave. I was sad, but the reality was sinking in. My drinking trip was over, and it was time to get back to Nairobi. We got back to Bandaptai hotel and I packed up.
Going back to Nairobi
The North Rift stage was filled with people waiting for Shuttles. We found out that I’d be in shuttle number 10. We resisted that story because it seemed like a long wait and found another shuttle company. Great Rift. It took an entire hour and a half to fill up and I wondered if I should have just waited for the North Rift Shuttle. (Murphy’s law). The Shuttle left Eldy at 6 pm. Bad driver, that one… Strange speeding habits.
We arrived at midnight and I called an Uber but he took forever then switched off his phone so I cancelled the trip. Uber fined me Ksh. 150 and I was not amused. I decided to call Taxify whose cab arrived in less than 5 minutes in the form of a really swanky Honda. I got home and awarded the driver and the party tourism 5 stars.
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April 17, 2019
A well written piece. A true reflection of Eldie my home town. Glad you enjoyed yourselves.