Mwea! Whenever that name is mentioned, what comes to mind is the aromatic pishori rice farming associated with the area. Located some 117 kilometres north of Nairobi, Mwea town in Kirinyaga county is mainly known for its vast rice paddy fields, the area’s main economic activity. However, it is also rated as one of the fastest growing towns in Kenya.
The town is dotted with rice stores and mills, making it an active economic centre all year round. But trust me, the town is greatly misunderstood by outsiders, because no one talks about the other side of it. Most people believe nothing else, but rice can be found here. But as the saying goes, if you truly want to know about a car, talk to its makers and read its manual.
This is why I embarked on a solo-backpacking mission, a fact-finding expedition into Mwea. I wanted to know and experience it from the source, learn about it from locals, be guided by them and let it expose itself to me in its most raw form possible. I got there at around 10am and I was anxious about a number of things, among them, where I would spend the night. However, I came to realise that accommodation should have been least of my worries. The options are endless.
My highlight, however, was Nice Digital City, a one stop modern shopping mall with hotels, bars, fun park, petrol station, salons, babershops, banking facilities, fitness centres, supermarkets, bakery, pharmacies, conference facilities and a rice mill. It is located along Mwea-Meru highway, few metres from Ngurubani Town.
As I approached one of the Nice hotels, a friendly waiter who took my breakfast order welcomed me warmly.
Since it was a bit chilly, I opted for a pot of tea and Spanish omelet. In less than 10 minutes, my breakfast was served.
After that I headed for the accommodation section in order to book a room because I wanted to freshen up before embarking on my main activities for the day.
The city offers affordable accommodation, and when I say affordable, I mean it. One can choose from their standard rooms that for a night go for Sh3,000, twin rooms for Sh5,000, family rooms, which can accommodate four people per room for Sh6,000 and executive rooms for Sh7,500. I opted for a standard room.
“We have 68 rooms here with a bed capacity of 120 people and the idea of having different sets of rooms is to ensure that all types of visitors are accommodated and their needs met,” Kariuki Njiru, the hotel manager, who joined me on a tour of the facility, told me.
At first, it was hard for me to believe that one could get a decent room on a budget. But to my surprise, my room was oozing with so much class, with an inviting bed, flat screen TV, a mini lounge, air conditioning, wardrobe, safe and balcony giving it a complete luxury feel.
I didn’t want to waste a lot of time there, so I freshened up and put on the right attires, since I wanted to visit the rice fields and milling station, before ending my day in style at the swimming pool.
Once done, Kariuki was there to assist me with the tour. I managed to talk to residents, who explained that apart from rice, one could also get quality and affordable fruits and vegetables from Mwea. After the farm tour, I couldn’t wait any longer for a swim, since this was another major attraction noting that the area is generally hot.
I enjoyed the dip and breeze that would blow across the pool. It was so breathtaking to watch the golden sun tuck away into the horizon and ushering a glittering moonlight that added to the flair.
I later ordered fish and ugali for supper, downed it with a glass of fresh milk and fruit salad, and then retired to bed. It felt heavenly being at Nice Digital City, the only city in the middle of rice paddies.
Though I was travelling alone, I was never lonely, as the friendly staff took time to engage me. I left the place with a heavy heart that I should visit the city again with my family, to enjoy the luxuries that come with the executive rooms.