Kapsowar, a hidden gem in the North Rift

Thursday April 26 2018

A view of the scenic Kapsowar Town.

A view of the scenic Kapsowar Town. PHOTO | TOM MWIRARIA 

By TOM MWIRARIA
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Beyond the ‘home of heroes’ that is Eldoret Town, far off past Iten Town, lies the beautiful town of Kapsowar in Elgeyo-Marakwet County. The rolling hills and scenic landscape are a sight to behold, and worth every penny and the journey that got me here.

To get to Kapsowar, I pay matatu fare of Sh300 from Eldoret. The old weather-beaten matatu screams all the way past Iten Town. The name Iten is a corruption of hill ten, a rock outcrop marked by Joseph Thomson, a Scottish explorer and geologist who played an important part in the scramble and partition of Africa.

A view of Kapsowar Town early in the morning.

A view of Kapsowar Town early in the morning. PHOTO | TOM MWIRARIA

Hill ten (Iten) was the tenth hill Thomson conquered and he inscribed ‘hill ten’ on a rock where the town now sits. Thomson died of pneumonia after surviving malaria, dysentery and a gore from a buffalo. This is according to Bernard Verdcourt (1983) in his book: Collectors in East Africa.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

After groaning for three hours the matatu screeches to a halt in the little breezy town of Kapsowar. One look and you will see the tapestry of colours below a mystery of lavender.

Kipkunur Hills in the background as viewed from Kapsowar Town.

Kipkunur Hills in the background as viewed from Kapsowar Town. PHOTO | TOM MWIRARIA

It is 8.30am. The sun is rising and bathing the landscape in Kapsowar. Tiny multicoloured homes, like fairy castles, glisten on verdant slopes. The blue hue of the Kipkunur Hills make a wavy outline on the periwinkle sky.

At Kapsowar, blissful silence hangs in the air and the heart feels free. Hope has a place in that town. There is no ear assaulting music, just people talking animatedly, a well-fed dog lying by the road, a cat lazily crossing the street or a herd of plus-size donkeys walking majestically on the deserted clean tarmac; and a little boy walks behind them. There are sights of children basking in the morning sun as the terrifying beauty of Kerio Valley stuns visitors.

Donkeys carry goods in Kapsowar Town.

Donkeys carry goods in Kapsowar Town. PHOTO | TOM MWIRARIA

Philemon Kipkorir, a local, says that beyond the misty blue of Kerio is Sugita Valley, Baragoi and the Ol donyo Lenkiyo ranges.

In Kapsowar, you do not have to break the bank to eat or find a place to lay your head for a night. A plate of ugali and goat meat goes for Sh150.

Kerio Valley.

Kerio Valley. PHOTO | TOM MWIRARIA

A young man seated across the table is sweating as he digs into his meal, a grinning goat skull lying on his plate. Another man is smacking his lips as he drinks his traditional porridge. I order a mug of porridge at Sh20. For the vegans and vegetarians, there are options and one restaurant offers what it calls ‘ugali herbal’ – ugali served with green vegetables.

A stream in Kapsowar.

A stream in Kapsowar, Marakwet. PHOTO | TOM MWIRARIA

Visitors to Kapsowar can stay at Kapyoswo Plaza or Guest House. They could also travel to Iten or Eldoret towns for a wide array of accommodation options, a one-hour drive from Kapsowar. A visitor could spend between Sh1,000-3,000 for accommodation per night in Kapsowar or Iten.