You do not have to be a tourist to enjoy the stunning views of nature along the Route A104 that links Nakuru, once the cleanest town in Kenya, to the Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
Located right on the bed of the rift valley, Nakuru has the serenity of a small African town, despite its load of political significance weighing down on its standing as the capital of the rift valley province, the largest in Kenya, and numerous tourist attractions.
As you drive out of the town towards Nairobi, you can not miss the rather old museum-like railway station on your left, the Uganda railway being the basis of origin of the town, like many other towns along the Uganda railway, or perhaps more significantly, on your right, the Nakuru State House, which was a home away from home for both the late president Jomo Kenyatta and President Daniel Arap Moi, its flag-painted long wall fences providing the perfect allusion of state power.
Away from the grandeur of power, Lake Nakuru is perhaps the next big thing. A rift valley soda lake right in the middle of the Lake Nakuru National Park, the lake is world renown for being a natural haven of flamingos, the beautiful fuchsia pink birds that from the route A104 will appear as patches of pink water along the shores of the lake.
Because of its warm waters, the lake hosts abundant volumes of algae which, according to scientists, provide about 250,000 kilos of food (algae) per hectare of surface area per year for the flamingos.
It is therefore no wonder that the hundreds of thousands, and by some counts, a million flamingos make Lake Nakuru one of the most spectacular sites of bird watching in the world.
Nakuru (meaning ‘dusty place in the Maasai language) also gives free views of the perfect backdrop from the Mau escarpment which together with the scintillating attractions of big game in the national park, make it a tourist haven.
By the A104, you will be graced with the views of herds of impala or indigenous cattle under the watch of red kikoyi-clad Maasai herdsmen, perhaps in their signature pose; One hand leaning on to the walking stick, and one leg balancing onto the other.
Yet, if you delve deeper, you will see the big game, deep in the wild savanna, the acacia woodland, within which you will see the lion, the leopard, the rhino, for whom a sanctuary exists, the giraffe and the buffalo.
The lake itself is a shallow 62 square kilometers of alkaline water, surrounded by mash, black rocky cliff and stretches of unique plants, 550 to be exact, among which apart from the allure of the flamingos, boasts of an ecological diversity of 450 bird species; pelicans and the rest, aside from the largest forest of tits kind in the world, of cactus like euphorbia trees.
You will be forgiven to assume that Lake Nakuru has too much to offer, for in the same lake basin, lays Lake Elementaita and Lake Naivasha. The Naivasha, also a soda lake, has an interesting history, having dried up earlier in the 20th century, its bed farmed before later being flooded by heavy rains to recreate the lake.
It derives its name from a Maasai word Nai’posha meaning ‘’rough water’’ resulting from afternoon winds and storms which sometimes make the lake to go wild. Lake Naivasha is the heart of horticultural boom in the region which many of the flower farms use as a water source for irrigation.
Between the two lies Lake Elmentaita which from the A104 affords the closest and most spectacular view of the lake.
The beauty of the landscape along the Nakuru-Nairobi highway is underscored by the historical significance of this area. Located two kilometers to the east of Lake Elementeita along the main Nairobi-Nakuru highway, is the Kariandusi museum, an important prehistoric site where stone hand axes and cleavers were discovered in 1928 by Louis Leakey.
Also, on the western side of the lake, is the famous Lord Delamere’s farm. Lord Delamere, an important figure Kenya’s period as a British colony, settled in a 100,000 acre farm, in this area and pioneered the east African dairy industry, crossbreeding local breeds of cattle, sheep with the likes of the Australian merinos, and English cattle breeds, and farmed chicken, bred hardy wheat and was the first European to own a maize farm.
The current Kenya cooperative creameries apart from the booming dairy industry in this region, evidenced by exotic and crossbred cattle farms along the road is direct development from Lord Delamere’s work, and whose descendants still own an estate in this area today.
The most breathtaking observation along the whole stretch is perhaps Mount Longonot. A dormant young stratovolcano rising above the rift valley, located southeast of Lake Naivasha, it is thought to have last erupted in the 1860s.
Its name is derived from the Masai word oloonong’ot, meaning “mountains of many spurs” or “steep ridges”. From the various observation points lined by the roadside, which entrepreneur natives have set up, with curio shops to tap the shilling or occasional dollar from tourists and people enchanted by the site, the bulk of the mountain slopes appears lined with spectacular fissures and laval canyons.
On the top of the mountain is a huge crater on whose bottom forest grows and is filled with herds of buffalo, giraffe and zebra, never mind that steam emanates from fissures in the carter walls to emphasize the volcanic history of the geographical features abundant.
The rolling green between the escarpment onto which the highway snakes along and the humongous cone of Mount Longonot is interrupted by a remarkable set of white round dishes on the rift valley floor, that mark The Longonot satellite earth station, to complete a proper blend of man’s ideas and God’s art.
One of the downsides is the petulant view of vast land area covered by speckles of white squares, which from close proximity reveals, white tents housing internally displaces people, as a result of the recent post election violence in Kenya, which played out and scarred, to a great extent, the rift valley province.