I woke up in Kisumu, Wednesday, September 2nd feeling pretty darned good. I was still a bit tired from my journey from Nairobi to Kisumu, but the sun was shining and this place was clearly very different from Nairobi. For one thing, it was warmer and humid, but not unpleasantly so. I was staying at a fine hotel after all, the Sovereign Hotel. I showered, dressed, and walked down to the restaurant for breakfast. There was an excellent buffet with fresh mango, papaya, pineapple, eggs, potatoes, and sausage. There was passion fruit juice and hot coffee. After breakfast, included in the price by the way, the first thing to do would be to find another place to stay, however. I was on a limited budget and $115 a night would not do.

I went online and found a place, literally across the street, for $49 a night, including breakfast. It was an old school colonial hotel, 100 years old, called the Nyanza Club. I checked out of the Sovereign and walked my stuff across the street to the Nyanza Club. I will include some photos to give you an idea.


The 100 year old Nyanza Club


The Rooms at the Nyanza Club.


The View from My Room, Lake Victoria.


Many of the businesses are owned by East Indian immigrants, and in many cases, the immigrants came during the colonial period before 1963 when Kenya gained its independence.

I decided to run a few errands, so walked the half mile or so to town. While not in the city center yet, it was clear that Kisumu had a more mellow vibe than Nairobi.


Walking in Kisumu.

I stopped at the first shopping mall I found, a small one with a grocery store and other shops. My goal was to get malaria prophylaxis. I had gone online and determined that Mefloquine Hydrochloride 250mg, once a week, was what I wanted. I had used it before on trips to Honduras and it was easy on my system. The vivid dreams were awesome too. Actually, I had a prescription, not the drug but the piece of paper, but forgot to bring it from Tucson. So, I just found a piece of paper and wrote it myself. There are advantages to having a more lax system. Optometry is the same here, it is not regulated. As long as I work in a way that is consistent with my training and license back in the United States, there would be no problems. Still, in regards to the anti-malarial drugs, I was wondering if my approach would fly.

I handed my written prescription to the pharmacist. He looked at it, walked to the shelf with medicines stacked on it, and handed me package of another drug entirely. He said, “This is very similar. It will do.” I declined, and said that the prescription worked well for me and I would go to another place. As I exited the small mall, I asked the security guards where I could find another chemist, as they are sometimes called, and they pointed me towards the city center. As I walked, two boys joined me. They wanted 10 shillings each. I asked them, in a friendly way, why I should give them 10 shillings. Even though I knew I could find it on my own, I suggested that they help me find the pharmacy and I would give them the money. They were excited about their new job.


Walking in Kisumu as my new friends showed me to the pharmacy.

The boy on the left said, “Why do you need a pharmacy? Are you sick?” “No,” I replied, “I am looking for something that will keep me from getting sick.” Traffic in downtown Kisumu, as in much of Kenya, can be quite busy. As we crossed the streets, the boy on the right with the Ronaldo shirt would reach up to hold my hand, making sure I crossed safely. I held his hand as we crossed, then let go at the sidewalk the other side.


Streets of Kisumu

The boys found the pharmacy and entered with me. It was run by an East Indian family. I handed my prescription to the pharmacist and she looked for the medicine. “What does the medicine treat?” one boy asked. “It is to prevent malaria,” I replied, “Have you heard of malaria?” Both boys nodded their heads in affirmation. “Do you know what prevent means?” I asked. They looked at each other. One boy said, “To keep away.” “Excellent,” I replied, “I want to keep away the malaria.” Both boys were excited to be so involved in this important endeavor.

She found the right medicine, stacked it in front of me, and did some calculations. “2400 Kenyan Shillings,” she said. I replied, “That seems kind of expensive.” She turned to an older lady, who did more calculations, and without a word wrote “2250 KSH” on a piece of paper in on the table in front of us. I thought about it. $22.50 for a five month supply of anti-malarial drug was a pretty good deal. I handed the pharmacist the money. I thanked the boys for their excellent work and wished them a good day, paying them 10 Kenyan Shillings each.


My Meflam medicine and the self-written prescription that got it for me.

It was lunchtime and I asked a young guy on the street, perhaps a college student, I thought, where I could find a good restaurant. He recommend “Acacia Premium,” I thought he said, and pointed down the street. I walked and found another shopping mall, explored a little, and sure enough, there was a restaurant called Acacia Premia. As I approached the door, I could tell that it was a five star restaurant and I wasn’t in the mood for that. I walked around a little more and stumbled upon the Nairobi Java Cafe. It too was a bit pricey, and directed towards middle and upper class people, but it looked fine. Perhaps the lunch dishes were in the 700 to 900 Ksh range, $7-9. I read the package insert and it recommended I take the Mefliam with food, so I took it with my meal.

My dreams were quite vivid that Wednesday night. I worked with a Vietnam veteran to collect spare helicopter parts to rebuild helicopters, large and small, for post-war use. It was quite a night with so much detail. From now on, and for awhile, I could count on a cinematic experience every Monday night. Also, that is how I know the medicine was high quality and not fake, which has been an issue in Africa, especially with drugs imported from China.

I went back to the Nyanza Club and relaxed for the afternoon. I was in communication with Emmanuel Okenwa-Vincent, OD, the Head of the Department of Optometry and Vision Science in Kakamega, just 50 kilometers to the north. He invited me to travel the next to day to Kakamega. I was making progress.

Check out was 10am Thursday. I had asked the receptionist help me find a driver to go to Kakamega and she recommended someone I assumed was her friend. While I was having dinner, Gedion showed up and we agreed on 4500 KSh and to meet at 9:45 in the morning. Gedion must have been excited because he showed up at 8 in the morning. Fortunately, I was up. I said, “Hey, Gedion, it will take me 20 minutes or so, but let’s go explore Kisumu for an hour and half.” He agreed. I had read about the Impala Sanctuary and it was a 5 minute drive. Unfortunately, they wanted 2250 KSh to enter and that was a bit pricey for the hour or so I had. Gedion recommended something else. We hired a boat driver, his friend, to take us around for 1500 KSh for an hour near Hippo Point.


Eric, our guide, and the boat operator.


Fishing near Dunga Bay


African Spoonbills and the African Sacred Ibis


Fishermen starting their day. Our guide Eric said they can be out eight hours or more.


We found Hippos!


My guide, Eric, and the boat operator laughed heartily at this little guy, calling him “The Ugly One.” I thought this youngster was super cute.

After our short adventure on Lake Victoria, Gedion drove me back to the Nyanza Club to check out. While I was checking out, Gedion left the car, a silver Toyota sedan. When I returned I got confused, because there was a similar silver car next to his. I saw the trunk was unlatched. I opened the trunk to find 6 live chickens, who were equally as startled as I was. I shut the trunk quickly so they would not escape, without latching it, then realized I had the wrong vehicle. Now we were off to Kakamega.

2 thoughts on “36 Hours in Kisumu

    1. I did! The little one was cute. The big ones looked big, and in their element. The guides said that in a boat of the size we were in, perhaps 25 feet, there was nothing to worry about. In a small boat, one guide said, “You might curse the day you were born.” The males protect the herd, and they are big! The mothers will protect their young. I was told, the reason they were relatively relaxed was that they were used to boats coming by to look at them.


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