A previous post alluded to the fact that I had at one time lived at the foot of Mt. Kenya which is true, I have. Twice. That is, on two separate occasions in three separate locations, Ring Road being the third of them. True to country living, Ring Road is set in a sleepy hollow where residences , although a quick three-minute car drive to the main town of Nyeri, boasts the occasional cow, goat and chicken livestock variety. The area set a-top one of Nyeri’s hills, known for its stone wall chimneyd-homes with expansive compounds, typical to the colonial era, was ‘initially’ inhabited by British settlers. With its name derived from a single road that loops right back to its initial starting point, it is a favourite with the expatriate and exchange student community due to its proximity to town, nearby Green Hills hotel (With Spa) and the colonial gem Outspan Hotel beloved by Baden Powell himself. (Don’t know who he is? Remember that Atlas I had recommended? An Encyclopaedia would go nicely with it too and there’s even an App for that!)
Ok, enough with the touristy wish wash and twaddle. Let’s delve into the nitty-gritty! What is it really like to live in Ring Road? I’d say fantastic but I believe that would be misconstrued as a biased opinion since I love fresh air and all things green so I’ll take this from an objective ‘watching-from-the-shop-window’ stand point and try as much as possible not to gush.
Ring Road is whimsical/quirky little place to live with neighbours who sell fresh milk and hay, pink cottages, gates embossed in metalwork camels (I moved from Ring Road a year ago and up till today I still wonder exactly what message these homeowners were trying to convey) and a Chinese clinic, which were you familiar with Nyeri, would know that this occurrence is slightly short of being labelled just plain weird. Then there was the abandoned farmhouse that was going to be taken up by a church much to the annoyance to neighbours who dreaded the interruption of their Sunday morning’s rest by loud ‘Can I get an Amen!’ from the would be spirited (all pun intended) pastors. Thankfully enough this has not yet come to be!
No neighbourhood is worth its salt without a good scandal and Ring Road is not immune to that because perched on top of its hill sits the home or should I say ‘stately fortress’ of a woman who was rumoured to be the former President’s not so legal second wife. I can honestly say I have never seen a compound walled so high with an automatic gate that wheels shut so quickly and guarded by men in dark suits whose stocky build is quite as reminiscent of that of body guards, like this here specimen. These strange scenes are enough to ignite even the most innocent of imaginations.
Ring Road inhabitants are big fans of pets, specifically dogs and one highly fanatic crude inhabitant has even gone to the lengths of nabbing his neighbour’s prized Japanese Spitz but ignoring this slight stain on its loving community vibe (I put the old ‘one bad apple- whole bad bunch’ theory to question here) Ring Road’s numerous dogs are free to roam and it’s not surprising to catch a glimpse of a familiar little doggy face some few kilometres from his master’s home, it’s all in the name of fine country living. That is along with the aroma (oh yes aroma) of fresh cow dung early in the morning that I just love (You city folk won’t get what I’m saying). Speaking of mornings if an early morning run is just your thing, Ring Road will make this experience even more thrilling with its hilly topography, thick morning fog. Oh! The excitement!
In Kenya you can tell when your area qualifies well enough for designation into the ‘leafy suburb’ category when you have the occasional amateur Gospel music artist and dance troop lip synching and emphatically carrying out a very well choreographed dance number right by your lush green fence or rock garden. With Ring Road it is quite the norm. (Nothing to see here people just move it along!)
The demographic in the area is diverse both age and race wise. A few Indian families here and there who true to their savvy entrepreneurial nature, own some of the big businesses in town. They have been living in Nyeri for generations since the inception of the railway line by the British in 1896 when they sourced for cheap labour from India. Expatriate families and students on exchange from Europe and the Americas who have become the new welcomed addition to the cultural melting pot, embrace life as citizens of Nyeri whole heartedly and have even been spotted at some of the local food joints in town making a dandy meal of githeri*.
Kimathi College, named after Kenya’s most defiant (read patriotic) freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi, and the Provincial Hospital Outpatient Clinic which serve as edge markers, are situated on opposite ends of the main road that cuts across the neighbourhood. Within their confines lies Ring Road with its well framed mountain view and rustic charm secondary to none. A fine mix of old and new with just a dash of bizarre to tie it all in et Voila! Perfect neighbourhood! …Ok, I admit to gushing just a tiny bit there, I couldn’t resist!
githeri*: maize and bean stew typical to the Kikuyu people of Central Kenya.