A day in the life of Kericho Town

Katrina Kilkenny, Kericho Fellow 2014

The first rays of sunshine cast a glow upon a maze of tea leaves in Kericho, a town located in the highlands west of Kenya’s Rift Valley. This agricultural town enjoys status as the country’s tea capital, with its origins rooted in the seed planting of British colonials during the late 1800s. At 7am flocks of men and women in tattered aprons trudge the narrow path down to the tea plantations, ready to fill baskets with 60 kilos of the fragrant leaf that Kericho is famed for. They walk to the uproar of bird-call merged with the chatter of Vervet monkeys that watch from up high.

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In the centre of town residents emerge early to begin another day. Schoolchildren in purple shorts and long cotton skirts trample dusty roads, flattening discarded wrappers and bottles under muddy boots. They join the throngs of suit-clad businessmen and multi-coloured market sellers eager to start the working day.

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Radios begin to blare from the marketplace and the hum of African melodies sounds from brightly painted shops selling hardware, shoes and mobile phones. The bustle never stops in Kericho. Small, local businesses pop out of every corner; barbershops spill out onto the square and ladies selling fresh fruit and myriad beans line the streets with colourful displays. At lunchtime crowds squeeze into the likes of Bobbies hotel, a low ceilinged café with a cheery waiter carrying masses of rice, ugali and various fried goods. Figures slumber under purple-flowering trees in the park before escaping the afternoon downpour that transforms dry roads into murky rivers.

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Between 3-5pm the Matatu stand reaches bursting point as floods of children and workers return from nearby towns. People hang from the outside of crowded vehicles and boda bodas whizz past carrying worn-out bodies. At 7pm the sun sets upon the gardens of our accommodation, a stone building built by the Western company Unilever in the 1950s. The Balloon fellows chatter in the lounge until late at night until sleepiness falls and we return to our beds to be awoken by that inevitable sound of bird-call early the next morning.

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