Travel. Dine. Read

Reading Time: 13 minutes

After promising his fans a novel for four years, Silas Nyanchwani’s Sexorcised was released in September to a lot of fanfare, as his gang traveled from Nairobi to launch the novel in his home county, Kisii. Rehema Zuberi joined them, and here is her report. 

The Rides

We begin the tale from the moment I met the others. While I believe in punctuality, on this day, my careful spirit failed me. At my arrival, I was met by faces that had long been waiting. I put a face to Sydney whom we had been communicating over the phone. After a quick ‘hi’ to the other three, I was hastily put in the backseat of a car. I made myself comfortable knowing our departure was set.

From the vantage point near Kenya Cinema where the two cars were packed, tyres kissed the road. We were two in the car, myself and the man who introduced himself as Dominic. He asked questions here and there but I was determined to keep reading the book I had planned to finish over the course of the travel.

We cruised the roads to end at The Bowery, the intended meeting place. While Dominic made greetings inside the liquor store, I plastered a casual smile as I didn’t know the people. Diana, one of the ladies intoned her name and as opposed to the Resh I use in social situations, I mouthed Rehema. There were no name introductions with the second lady but I marked her off as Vee as is in the Whatsapp group.

With a height closer to Silas’ towering, Brian was wearing those macho glasses of the bad boy vibe, his cap facing the back in the hip hop fashion with a longish vest to boot, came to interrogate me further insisting I have “an easy face to look at.” A drink in his hand and a delicious smile accompanying his face, he asked. I answered.

I am one of those people with few interests and cars are unlucky not to fall under this category. When Diana confessed she was at a loss whether to drive in the Lexus or Mercedes, I put my lips on mum mode as I had no clue what she was talking about. At the various stops we made at petrol stations, it is when it dawned on me that in fact, she was in the former with Brian and Vanessa (Vee) while I was in the latter. Two models of cars learned in a span of a couple of hours. Check!

It was past four o’clock when the long drive out of Nairobi began. To my knowledge bank, an extra car that happened to be a honda was shown to me, driven by Riogi who joined us on the road. Was I or the people I was with on a roll of car identification? Can I confidently point out and label cars appropriately? No, but we are a step ahead.

Our destination: Kisii. Cause? A book reading.

***

I was in high school not too many years ago. During one of the holidays, we were granted, crammed with assignments, I had happened to see an advertisement for a new newspaper on TV. When I read the name, The Nairobian, I instantly knew I would become a reader. And so it was that I began buying the weekly paper whenever I could. Therein, I met a column: The Retrosexual run by Silas Nyanchwani.

Some may call it petty but I am highly influenced by looks. The photo before the byline was pleasing to the eyes; an almost smug look but with a lurking smile somewhere. However, that is not what drew me to the writer. It was his style. His sarcasm. His raw approach to saying what and how is.

What I was aware of up until then was I was good at the writings we needed to do in school for our exams. Over and over, I was praised for my creativity. I had a stint as a member of the Journalism Club in my high school, a club that didn’t serve me as well as it should have. All in all, the last thing I thought I could become was a writer. An editor was the dream for me.

Post high school, it almost became a life mission for me to meet Silas Nyanchwani in flesh and blood. To breathe in the air he exhaled as I drunk his cup of wisdom pertaining to the words he penned. Several attempts later, I learned my very first lesson in the world, that strangers will go a longer way for you than acquaintances, friends or family ever would.

Through an email to Sarah Haluwa, I poured over her writing and pitched therein how I worshipped her colleague, Silas. She did her thing and beyond my wildest dreams, I not only got the contact but the man behind my Nairobian purchases, agreed to meet me.

***

I did not need any convincing to buy anything Silas had written, especially a book. When the cover was released and the announcement to preorder made, I was shaking with pure elation as I typed in my details. September 4th was a well-marked date for me. Things did not go according to plan and a week later, many of us were still waiting for the book to come out. When another proclamation came, this time announcing slots to travel for the first book reading of the book, Sexorcised, I knew it would kill me not to be part. Book or not in hand.

And here were 9 human people divided into four cars traversing the roads to get to Kisii before the curfew meant to contain Covid-19 to flatten the curve. The racing for the forward and ahead spot was cut short at Mai Mahiu where traffic was threatening to have us as overnight campers.

When the roads cleared, we made a stop at Narok for a meal to brace us for the rest of the journey. My favourite part of the meal was washing hands with hot water flowing directly from taps! Boiled meat, hot soup, ugali, and kachumbari was devoured while people stood. A few of us, the cultured, were seated to enjoy the meal exclusively. Full stomachs birthing happier faces, we made our way back on the road.

The gang stopped between Mahi Mahiu and Narok. For a drink.

My host family was making calls as I had made a poorly informed decision of announcing I was in Kisii when I was merely entering the environs. We arrived when the sirens were supposed to go loud but people were out and about minding their business. No masks on the chin like us Nairobi counterparts as Corona is only present in the capital. I washed the tiredness off my body with a cold shower and proceeded to a restless fit characteristic of new beds before sleep engulfed me.

Diana had tried recruiting me to be part of the swimmers but I had cited not having a costume as an excuse. My biggest reservation, however, was the unpredictable weather I was warned Kisii was fond of. The following morning, as I parted the curtains, I was met with a glistening glow of the sun promising the cling of a jealous lover. I dressed and joined the parents of my host for breakfast as she had to run off to work, it being a Friday.

The rest of the crew had spent the night at Dallas Hotel where I was headed to join them. Brian and the ladies, I later came to know had gone to spend the night in Nyamira. Keeping me waiting for almost half an hour, the boys finally emerged with their belongings. They had breakfast: matoke, githeri with tea as I ate their sausages served as a side.

It took me the longest while but I finally pinned the man who joined in later as Ombuna. Him and Silas sat down for a shine of their shoes as Dominic and I drove off to the Kisii Cultural Centre. The man of the day was set to have an interview there.

The sun was now glaring into our skin pores and we every so often sought the comfort of the huts around and the tree where the videographer was stationed. Stella Kay, the interviewer was a tall lady dressed in a long sleeved black dress and creamish beret completed with yellow Vans. She was a statement of style.

In the sweltering heat, Stella and Silas took their seats and the interview commenced. By this time, scenes of me in the waters of a swimming pool in Kisii town had begun forming in my mind. The interview was short. We embarked on a brief photography session. The men, led by Sydney followed it with groundnut eating. I found myself in the car alone as everyone had been swept to the office of Duke Mainga, or Echate as he famously known, who is the Minister of Youth and Sports in Kisii County.

The author and Minister of the Youth and Sports of Kisii County, Duke Mainga

We were sanitized at the entrance of Ufanisi Resorts. We followed the path to the swimming pool. One of the staff instructed us to keep our masks on which was laughable considering we were headed to the pool.

Brian arrived with the ladies when we were long settled by the poolside. The procession of us, four ladies, went to change into swimming attires. Dipping into the pool, awaiting the menfolk to join us, we realized we had been duped. What has the world come to? What a shame that close to a dozen men can sit their bums watching a display of women at their finest, refusing to join them. Only one, a man whose height I couldn’t discern, Riogi, cut the waters in his black shorts. The gents sat idle nursing their beers, legs apart in their jeans, talking and laughing loudly as they cast glances where our bodies floated.

The Sultan, refused to undress and swim, but he couldn’t resist a photo-op.

Music blasted from the speakers, mostly Rumba, to cater to the aging needs of kina Silas. Clicks of the camera saved the memories. Laureen, my bosom buddy with a friendship awaiting a decade mark, joined me and we had a jolly time catching up over wine.

Came the time for lunch. The organizer, Sydney, was close to breaking point as we were not ready to leave the cool waters when he summoned. The ladies nearly drove him nuts with the extended makeup procedures. He decided the quorum had been met and the go-ahead to munch was given. Plates were filled and the men who refused to get out of their jeans for a swim ate to their fill. Typical of men, one put ice cream into their soda or whiskey. The rest, in the fuata nyayo of experimentation creamed their glasses claiming the Amarula feel.

Looks like Riogi just said something incredulous. And Cathy can’t believe her ears. Thankfully, nobody heard it.

We congregated on the steps overlooking the perimeter wall surrounding the pool. It was the defining moment following the full tummies. The content in Sexorcised being revealed from the pages bound in a book to our eager ears. It was a calm evening broken by laughter in our midst. It was decided the best way to conclude the evening would be a drive to Nyamira.

Brian, the Moses, part the Red Sea and we the Egyptians followed to Canaan, LITERALLY! We picked rooms at C2 Lounge and Grill, freshened up, and assembled at one of the open huts meant for socialization.

By my arrival to the pack, rows, and rows of sugarcane peels were splayed over the tables punctuated with the gin everyone takes, Gilbey’s. We shared a meal of chicken, managu and ugali.

Last Man Standing: Let Me Finish

The hours had droned on and the devil was now overlooking the horizon. Drinks having flowed pre and post the meal, voices grew boisterous. Topics switched from men to women and the elephant in the room; when the genitals of the two genders interact to become sex. Alcohol percentages now sufficiently fused with the blood, tempers rose and rose almost spiraling to a fight. For containment, courtesy became to shut off the other person with, “Wait, let me finish first…” “Acha amalize.”

The clock ticked and one by one, two by two, men and women left the table to put their sleepy, tipsy selves on beds. In the end, there remained five of us.

The novel has no shortage of cringeworthy humour. Not necessarily bawdy.

The drama of the magnitude having been greatly reduced; conversations became more chilled. The items revolving around career, family, marriage, and the state of the country. We were scheduled to travel back to Nairobi the next day and the consensus was we should get some rest. The time was closer to 3 a.m. I emptied my glass. With the cold slicing through my skin to the bones, we walked to our respective rooms.

Potato. Po-tay-toe.

I woke up with a migraine that could only be attributed to the two bottles of wine I had downed. I was more than glad to hear we would spend the extra day in Nyamira and travel back on Sunday. The order of the day was to have a discourse over choma. We walked to another Canaan led by our Moses. He promised us the freshest of fresh juices to ever grace our taste buds. We convened around a table. The waft of fries had welcomed us and all our senses had been directed to a craving of the same.

The freshest fresh juice available was of the passion fruit. I was slumped a little since it is not among my treasured. We each ordered a copy of the same; passion juice with a plate of fries. We ate as we discussed the poor development and progress of the town. As we departed, my head decided it had given me enough peace. There was a drumming akin to that of the Akurino. Wincing as I walked, I refused all forms of medication suggested to me. The cure was some laying down and drowning my system in water.

Silas Nyanchwani signing an autograph for a big fan.

A few meters to the lounge, we met Winston, Ryan and Stella who had been with us the previous day and were joining us for the afternoon. In Stella’s hands was the most beautiful baby on the planet. Brian took him from her and so embarked a period of him switching in strangers’ hands, calmness, cries, and being shoved back to the mother. We changed into fresh clothes after showers then headed to the outdoors where tables were set.

Sydney became the father of the year as the child would only settle in his arms. Laureen joined in with Vivian from church, it being a Saturday. Simple talk spread across the table until the rain wanted to join in the fun. We moved inside to the bar area.

Having had lumps of ugali after ugali since we began the trip, I switched to roast potatoes when the waitress came round taking orders of the accompaniments. It was the best decision I made other than wanting to be in the first collective reading of Sexorcised. Covered in aluminium foil, they remained hot throughout my slow eating. On a different plate was roasted and boiled meat, matumbo, greens and kachumbari made with avocado. And my oh my, the orgasms that run in my mouth through the oesophagus!

A man I had not met before pointed out the jug with brown liquid asking me to try it. My friends chipped in and called it Onchuri. He informed a lady to his right that it helped cleanse the female system. I poured it to the side of my plate. Unlike the description I was given of it being bitter, it was completely bland on my tongue. Despite the lack of character, I was happy to eat it to boost my fertility.

Nyamira City

With the rain beating the roof as the background to the music controlled by the live deejay, Vanessa and Stella danced the afternoon away occasionally joined by Brian and Silas, who really couldn’t dance to save his life. His supreme moment being the few verses he Karaoked for the love of the classics. I spent my time watching the child in Sydney’s arms. I relieved him when he slept to derive the joy of the bundle.

The evening remained chilly with the hangover instilled by the rain. We resettled outside. My head still troubling me, I evaded the people, choosing to control the music instead. As night began exposing darkness, Brian suddenly jumped into the car asking to take me somewhere. My body feeling settled, I nodded. Vanessa, Silas and a friend to Sydney, Fiona joined us. A long drive to Ikonge for an impromptu dinner.

On the screen was the team I am supposed to be supporting but with the poor trail I have maintained, I am better off as a non-fan, Manchester United. Crystal Palace thrashed us 3 to 1 and the hurt I felt reminded me where my loyalty was. The dinner was a disguise for a birthday party by a thoughtful wife. When the introductions were complete, we got down to serving one of my greatest addictions: cake! There can be no more a perfect ending to anything than that which is sealed by cake.

We drove back to Canaan with our Moses and slept to the surety that we would wake to travel.

Packed and conveniently seated outside, we were served a king’s breakfast which we termed brunch like the cool kids we were. The most delicious, finger-licking matumbo was placed before us. Ombuna embraced the role to serve our plates with the goodness of well-cooked matumbo leaving us the opportunity to pile ugali and managu.

A selfie, before a brunch of ugali and matumbo, prepared by a chef who needs around the clock state protection. This is the backyard of the C-2 Lounge in Nyamira. Great spot.

Another hot day in Kisii town, we hydrated as we departed. In Brian’s car this time, the music was the best there is, and back to back, we jammed to the tunes of the old. Navigating the international scene before settling to our own roots when Kenyan music was music. They say the greatest things come in threes. This was proven when I, Vanessa and Dee were having the time of our lives but Ombuna, sat glum; oblivious to the greatness around him and displaying the worst moves on a man when urged to dance.

Dominic was driving with Stella and the baby. Unfortunately, the car broke down. While it was getting fixed, it was only prudent to spend the time to give Sexorcised the photoshoot it deserved. Endowed with a phone competing in resolutions with cameras, Vanessa snapped as we suggested idea after idea on how to get the right angles. As the hours kept lolling, Stella hitched a ride as we waited for the car to be proven roadworthy.

It was discovered the problem was bigger than we had anticipated and thus had to abandon the car and squeeze in the backseat. Packed like sardines, the ride was smooth until we met vehicles parked on the road. Ahead, five cows had been hit by a van. The owners had decided the matter was too grave for motorists to have their way. When all hope was being drained from ever leaving the grisly scene, engines began revving. Vroooooooom to Nairobi.

I was in my abode minutes to 11 p.m. The foreignness of having been deserted for a couple of days engulfed me. A hot shower gave my body the comfort to take on the night. When I finally slumped on my bed, weariness took over my facilitation to slumberland.

Bloopers: I didn’t go beyond page 4 of Wahome Mutahi’s Three Days on The Cross as originally planned. I chose to let the music control me.

Tip: Ensure a person in the envoy has dimples.

Bonus Shots

The pool looks inviting. Never mind the distraction.

The brains behind Travel. Dine. Read. Last book he read was a high school textbook. He reads all the Terms & Conditions though.

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