WRC Safari Rally evokes bittersweet memories of Naivasha

Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta navigated by Aaron Johnson racing on a Toyota Yaris

Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta navigated by Aaron Johnson racing on a Toyota Yaris cruise through Kedong stage in Naivasha during World Rally Championships Safari Rally on June 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • It has also been reported that recent weeks have seen the small town bursting at the seams with local and foreign tourists, all thanks to WRC Safari Rally.
  • To further spice up things, a thoughtful soul somewhere saw the sense in hosting a bumper edition of the annual Koroga Festival over duration of the rally.
  • The WRC Safari Rally has truly awoken this small sleepy town.

A year ago, when the Safari Rally finally made a grand comeback to the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar of events, it found a befitting domicile, not in Nairobi, but in Naivasha, some 94km away for the hustle and bustle of the capital.

That is what many motorsport fans will for years to come remember this dusty sleepy town along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway. For me, though, Naivasha is one of two towns in Kenya that will always evoke bittersweet memories, the other one being Eldoret. That, however, is a story for another day.

It’s in Vasha, as the fun-loving Nairobians call the town, that many years ago, I landed my first not-so-well-paying job straight out of college; a job that I kept for five years before quitting under the most acrimonious of circumstances without tendering a resignation letter.

It is also in Naivasha that I truly became aware of my deep appreciation for nature and wildlife. The lakeside town’s scenic Moi South Lake Road is replete with animal sanctuaries, nature trails, lodges and camp sites.

It’s also during my stay in Naivasha that I had my first article published on a mainstream newspaper, never mind the fact that at the time I had no formal training in journalism. My first article – an opinion which with time became a weekly column that ran for nine straight months – was published on October 14, 2007. That article holds a pride of place in my bulging scrapbook of newspaper cuttings.

My stay in Naivasha also coincided with the golden years of the now defunct two-time Kenyan Premier League champions Oserian Fastac. Oh, did I even mention that I was an employee of Oserian Development Company, the club’s parent company?

Those were the days Oserian held sway on Kenyan football with some of the biggest names on their roster; the likes of Noah Ayuko, Ken Odhiambo, Tom Juma, Mike Mururi, John Baraza, Sammy Simiyu and, yes, the Ambani brothers – Fred and Boniface – who at the time were all permanent fixtures in Harambee Stars squad.

While each of these players, and others that I haven’t mentioned here, flourished, Oserian, the team, only bloomed for two memorable seasons before withering. Sadly, the team was disbanded in 2003, a year after they won their second league title on the trot.  

And like Oserian Fastac’s tale, my final days of residency in Naivasha were quite eventful, yet by no means memorable as I witnessed firsthand the full-scale of the infamous 2007-08 post-election violence.

A close friend of mine, his newly-married wife and I escaped a blood-thirsty mob by hurriedly abandoning our rental apartments and sprinting for refuge at the nearby Naivasha Police Station where we arrived with practically nothing but the clothes on our backs as hellfire and brimstone rained on Naivasha.

Those are the memories of Naivasha that have stuck with me over the years.  

But with the return of the WRC Safari Rally, Naivasha is the go-to-place for fan-loving Nairobians at this time of the year.

I’m told there are people who actually ticked off the dates of the event at the beginning of the year and made advance hotel bookings in anticipation of the country’s – nay Africa’s – biggest motorsport event.

It has also been reported that recent weeks have seen the small town bursting at the seams with local and foreign tourists, all thanks to WRC Safari Rally.

To further spice up things, a thoughtful soul somewhere saw the sense in hosting a bumper edition of the annual Koroga Festival over duration of the rally.

The WRC Safari Rally has truly awoken this small sleepy town.

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