It’s a Friday evening and we are in a barasa type sitting outside the cultural museum in Marsabit. I am there for the Marsabit Lake Turkana Cultural Festival and we are there to learn about what’s going on in Marsabit. A young curator from the National Museums of Kenya, Adbikadir is introducing us to the different cultures/ Tribes that make Marsabit their home. In dramatic fashion Chevrolets in different colours come in. Everybody turns to see which Mweshimiwa has come (there are not that many cars in Marsabit so you would need to be there to understand it). It’s Maina Kageni and his entourage.
For those who may not know about it last year the Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism through the Kenya Tourism Board partnered with Maina Kageni to promote travel around Kenya. The campaign dubbed “The Maina Kageni Roadtrip Tour” will run for one year and is supposed to encourage people to visit various destinations in this country of ours.
After everything is done at the function there is a sundowner. I manage to catch Maina and ask him if we can have a short interview the next day. He tells me sure and gives me a number to call him so that I can be able to reach him. The thing with celebrities is you are never quite sure you will get that interview so you cross your fingers. The next morning Maina Kageni is meeting with the Governor for Marsabit and the acting CEO of Kenya Tourism Board for a short press conference. One of his friends has already told me he remembers that I had asked for an interview and will remind him. Luckily I am able to get him just as he is done with the media briefing and we are able to sit down for a short interview.
How long have you been doing tembea Kenya?
How many trips?
I think this is the 23rd leg but if you look at everywhere we have been… KTB would have the numbers; we have sold in excess of 4200 beds booked in different towns, cities and different legs.
What make you do this kind of thing?
Because there was a big gap. Every time there is a travel advisory the first thing that will suffer are hotels shutting down and people suffering loss of jobs. Over time I have noticed people spend a lot in their locals over the weekend. If you can get them out of town and embrace this idea of road trips then they would more than help the entire industry. We took the idea forward to The Ministry of Tourism and they supported the initiative. We are well beyond our expectations and that of the Ministry of Tourism in as far as we want to be.
How many trips are yet to come?
In total there will be 52 trips (including those already done).
You don’t get travel fatigue?
When you look at views like this how do you get tired (gestures to the beautiful Lake Turkana that is behind us).
You have been doing this since when and do you tembea Kenya every single weekend?
We have been doing this since October and have been touring every single weekend. We took a break in December for 2 weeks to allow people to be with their families and one week over Easter. But otherwise it has been every single weekend.
Out of the all the trips so far what has been your highlight? Just one place you will never forget?
Can I be honest? Kisumu Riat Hills.
What’s so special about that?
The views are immense. You can see the entire extent of the Rift Valley. It is … I don’t know … I can’t even put it into words.
So that has been your biggest highlight?
Yes. But there are a lot of close seconds. Like here (Lake Turkana/Marsabit) and Kerio Valley are close second. The Riat Hills, so far A1.
So you are going to go there again?
So if you were asked why should people tembea Kenya? Somebody said that people spend a lot of money hanging out in clubs and even when they go to Mombasa, they go to Mombasa to hang out in the bar. Why is it important to travel?
Look at how rich this country is. Look at the views behind you. These are memories that live with you forever. The life changing experiences that and that’s exactly what you get …You don’t have to come with me but get your friends and family into a car and go to a place you have never been to. See what the locals have to offer.
The gravity defying hill in Ukambani where you pour water and it flows up a hill. Those are the things that remain with you forever. Life is more than just hanging out in a club; life is about enriching your soul and yourself.
So have you been enriched?
Great stuff. Any last words
Tembea! Tujenge Kenya!
You can follow Maina Kageni’s journey by checking out his Facebook page or you can find out more about Tembea Kenya by interacting with Kenya Tourism Board on Twitter at @magicalKenya. Check out the hashtags #TembeaKenya and #TwendeUshago for interesting places to visit.