Once upon a time, in a land not far from here -In fact, just about three hours if you drive from Nairobi- there was a modern day, medieval-era-inspired castle. It was in the unlikeliest of places, in a land not known for castles, chariots and knights.
This is how you end up there.
You work really hard. She does too. You both seem to work all the time. Between the commute and work, your barely have time for each other. When she calls you in the evening, you are dozing off in the parking lot, too tired to go upstairs. You need to recover. To go home and shower. And this is life.
She wants a break. For both of you. Somewhere outside the cursed, beautifully chaotic city. Away from relas who are always asking for MPESA for “emergencies and contributions.” Away from the girl at the office who jokingly calls herself your office wife. Away from the client who brought your woman perfume.
You know you need a break. But wasn’t that night on Electric Avenue a break, babe?
She says it wasn’t. Neither was the random stopover for goat meat at Kamaki’s. You guys need a holiday, she keeps saying. A proper holiday.
She needs to feel like a princess again, and you need to make it happen. But what are these things, holidays, and why have you been left out of them? Does she want you to propose on said strange thing? Is she going to propose if you don’t? What do people even talk about on the second morning of a honeymoon? Then you find a castle in Nyahururu with a trampoline on the lawn fit for a knight in shining armor and his equally fatigued princess. It’s tagline is “Once Upon a Dream.”
At 1910 Deighton Downs, about 65kms from Nyeri on the Nyeri-Nyahururu road, stands an exquisite castle. On the outside, the castle looks like the venue of one of George R. R.’s bloody wedding scenes. Or like something ripped out of medieval England. On the estate of a knight who would leave on horseback at any time to fight for God and country. For his monarch.
To leave his damsel looking at him as the horse strutted out of the compound. To think of him for years, wondering if he would ever come home or he was lying somewhere on his back, dying as he tried to understand what shapes the cloud made. But she would hope still. And then she would walk outside, nodding to her workers and her chariot men. She would walk towards the pool, stripping down until all she has left on is a red bikini.
On the last Tembea Kenya, we spent a day crossing and exploring two fantasy destinations. Tafaria is a modern day castle, and Treetops is an old edifice with a rich history. It, or rather it’s predecessor, is the hotel Princess Elizabeth was staying in the night her father died and she became queen. Just a few years later, the Mau Mau torched it to the ground. It burnt fast and easily because it was made of wood. It’s successor was built on the opposite side of the watering hole, and still stands today.
The problem with Tafaria is that it is a fine castle. That it inspires that dream of a princess and her knight in shining armor. There are horses grazing in the foreground, and the panorama of the rolling Aberdare Hills on one side, and the white cap of Mount Kenya of the other.
Past the iron gates and down the pathway, it stands in deference to royalty. And modern royalty needs a trampoline in the backyard and a slide not specifically marked for kids. It should be though because I tried it out and ended up doing an unintended somersault. But that trampoline knows my name now.
Tafaria the second castle in Kenya built for love. The other, Lord Egerton’s castle in Njoro, is a monument to unrequited love. It was built to prove a point, that big buildings can win a girl’s heart. Only that’s untrue, and the man who thought so realized that truth a little too late and died with a broken heart. But Tafaria isn’t that.
What it is a work of art. There are no archers on the tower posts, but there are horses and chariots in the barn. There are cottages and lush gardens where you can sit and dream. The service and the food could be much better. Perhaps even that is inspired by how random we think service and food were in medieval castles. Someone has been watching too much Vikings and Game of Thrones.
Read Magunga’s Experience at Tafaria during a writing boot camp in 2014. [Link]