Published 29 Jan 2020

Kenya Origin Trip Day Four: Mchana, Handege, and Wamuguma

You know you’re in Africa when a man comes round to your table during dinner with a tick list of animals that they’ll come and wake you up for should they appear at the watering hole outside your bedroom window during the night. I’ve put my name down for elephant and cheetah.  And as much as I would love to see buffalo, hyena and warthog I’m not quite ready to get out of bed in the middle of the night for them.

We are staying the night in the Mt Kenya National Park, where, at over 2100 metres above sea level, it can get so cold we have been given hot water bottles to keep us warm. It’s a great jumping off point for an early start visiting farms in Nyeri tomorrow morning and our mountain lodge hotel has proven to be the perfect place to kick back with a couple of G and Ts after a fun but full on day visiting farms and factories in Kiambu.

We started the day at Mchana – a large estate with 458 hectares under coffee. The factory manager Timothy showed us round the washing station and we had an interesting walk around the farm to see SL28 and SL34 varieties (I’m getting my head round being able to tell the difference between the two now). Then higher up on the farm we saw a lot of Riuru trees already bearing fruit thanks to the crazy weather patterns of this last year.

Some of the coffee is planted near to a lake where there are hippos. And we could see their paw prints in the mud right where we were standing next to the coffee. Safe from them during the day while they stay wallowing in the water, the hippos come up at night to graze amongst the coffee. I guess it saves on weeding but I found it all a bit unnerving, especially when Timothy told us that people get killed by them all the time in the area, the last person just back in October. No wonder there are so many ‘Beware of the Hippos’ signs dotted around the farm.

The Ritho Farmer’s Co-operative Society has 1700 members and operates two very nice washing stations at Handege and Wamuguma. The co-op’s chairman David and CEO Lucy Maina very kindly showed us around both factories. I was so impressed with how immaculate and well organised they were and set in such beautiful locations. There was a small amount of parchment drying on the raised beds although the harvest has been pretty much over for a while. They also have a large greenhouse to help with drying during the peak harvest.

We bumped along red dirt roads in our Toyota Landcruiser (always the best vehicle for coffee adventures both here and in Latin America) and then struck north with Mount Kenya to our right and the Aberdares to our left. The last half hour of our three hour journey was within the boundaries of Mt Kenya National Park and involved keeping an eye out for elephants on the road.  Only in Africa.

Fiona Grant

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