Last Saturday, like many other Nairobians, we packed our bags and headed upcountry. We’d been invited to spend a weekend at Chesumot Farm in Kericho, and with the unease in Nairobi leading up to the election, it seemed like the perfect time to get out of the city.
We opted for the longer, but more scenic route to Kericho via Bomet along the south of the Mau Forest. It’s an extra 50-odd kilometres, but offers a diversity of landscapes, particularly around Narok where the wheat fields are littered with drooping acacias.
If you’re heading in this direction, Chesumot Farm is just over 10 kilometres beyond Kericho town, and to the left at the Kaisugu Taidys restaurant. From here, follow the dirt track through the neat rows of tea bushes until you reach the main gate of the estate.
I was invited to Chesumot by Michael Owora, founder of Team Tri Fit (TTF). TTF is an endurance sports group established in 2014, aiming to increase the popularity of the sport of triathlon in Kenya. Triathlons typically involve three components – swimming, cycling and running – over a range of distances. TTF train budding triathletes, and organise a number of triathlons each year across the country. Mike and his team were at Chesumot for a recce for the upcoming Kericho Triathlon, on 3 September.
As my old personal trainer, Mike invited me to help try out some of the running routes, and also to sample a new campsite on the farm. It was immediately clear why Mike had chosen Chesumot as the venue for the Kericho Triathlon. At the heart of the 1,000 acre farm is a small dam, surrounded by vast green swathes of tea bushes. Competitors in the main event swim 750m in the dam, cycle for a gruelling 20km, and then run 5km through the tea fields. But these long distances are more than made up for by the incredible views across the estate, and the scent of freshly cut tea leaves.
The race can also be completed as a relay, and there will be a number of other events, including a 19.5km cross-country trail run. TTF hope to raise KES 500,000 through the event, to improve the gym at the Spinal Injury Hospital in Nairobi. For more info, and to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call/SMS 0722637155.
For those who shudder at the thought of swimming, cycling and running at high altitude, Chesumot Farm still has plenty to offer. Overlooking the dam, within a thicket of Dracaena and Indian Ash trees, is a very well-situated campsite. You have to bring your own tent, but there are hot showers and a sit-down toilet. Never has the word ‘throne’ been more suitable for a toilet, by the way, as someone has fashioned a very comfortable wooden armchair around the toilet bowl.
At the bottom of the campsite, by the dam, are two open rondavels, with electricity supplied by solar panels. These lead to a long wooden jetty, which extends out to the middle of the dam. Those who don’t want to swim can take their pick of two canoes, or a rowing boat moored to the jetty.
After a quick swim to cool down from our afternoon run, we sat down on the jetty with Chesumot Farm’s Managing Director, Kim Martin. Kim explained that the farm has been in his family since 1974, when it was bought by his father, Bill Martin. Today, the farm produces a wide variety of teas, including green and purple tea – popular in Japan. A large portion of the estate is covered in purple tea bushes, which we found were particularly fragrant.
Amongst the tea fields are two arboretums, and pockets of eucalyptus plantations, which line the tops of the tea-covered hills surrounding the campsite. Kim has some ambitious plans to develop the area around the dam, including the construction of thatched cottages, and a fire pit in a natural bowl by the campsite.
There’s plenty to do on the farm, besides swimming in the dam. We would have happily spent hours ambling through the tea fields, enjoying the views across the estate, or out towards the Nandi Hills, and watching the tea pickers slide their harvesting machines over the top of the tea bushes.
Visitors can also explore the estate on horseback, as we did, or spend their time birdwatching by the dam. Throughout the weekend, groups of black-and-white-casqued hornbills squawked and cackled in the trees above us, and we were woken up on Sunday morning by the distinctive call of a crowned crane.
A few hundred metres up the road from the campsite is a guesthouse, set within the tea fields beside a well-manicured lawn. There are four comfortable rooms, a lounge and a kitchen area, and the whole house can be rented for KES 12,000. Camping costs just KES 1,000 per person. To book, get in touch with Kim on 0722741879, or email email@example.com.