Visiting Karatina Town in Nyeri County, Kenya
In my local travels, I recently stopped at Karatina Town on the Nairobi – Nyeri highway. It is 24 kilometres southeast of Nyeri town. Located south of Mount Kenya, it is administratively in Nyeri County, Kenya. It has a municipal council and is the headquarters of Mathira East district.
Karatina is on the Nairobi – Nyeri highway, 20 kilometres southeast of Nyeri town and south of Mount Kenya. It is at an elevation of 1868 metres. Karatina is dusty without tarmac and boggy in wet times. Roads out of Karatina to other major towns – Sagana, Kerugoya or Nyeri and Nanyuki are all weather and makes access easy.
Nearest Major town : Nyeri 20km, Nairobi 137km
Nearest Airport : JKIA,Wilson, Nairobi 137km
Origin of the name “Karatina”
Many online sources claim that the name Karatina is a diminutive term for Muratina…NO! Karatina is the corrupted version of the English word ‘quarantine’. In the colonial times, the present Karatina was a market place where African brought cattle to sell. The cattle were first quarantined, checked by the Veterinary Office, passed for slaughter and taken to the abattoir. The Africans then could not speak English and were unable to pronounce “quarantine”. The corrupted pronunciation sounded like “karatina.” Karatina it became to be, even after the colonials, left. The remnants of the quarantine area are at Ragati, south of Karatina town.
Karatina – Mau Mau – Kenya’s Independence Struggle
During the struggle for independence, Karatina was a hot-bed of the Mau Mau activity like most other areas surrounding Mount Kenya. The aborigines to date have real-life memories.
Mau Mau fighters used the proximity of Mount Kenya and its forests as their insurgency base and made raids to find food in the villages. These colonial villages were humane detention camps created by the colonialists to enclose villagers for easy monitoring and security. Designed on the Maasai cattle kraals, the villagers were herded daily to construct roads, dig in the quarries, or any other work that was deemed to occupy their minds.
The elderly men from this locality were in detention during the Mau Mau reprisals, they have stories untold. To find out about the Mau Mau, chase the epics directly from Karatina people.
- Watch “End of the Empire” documentary
- Read Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya,” by Caroline Elkins
The colonial collaborators came out as the beneficiaries of the first independent Kenya Government as was the case in the rest of the country.
Mathira ma Githomo
Essentially an agricultural community, Karatina is in Mathira, the legendary Mathira ma Githomo (The Mathira of education!). One of the most educated populations in Kenya, Karatina has also some of the most well established community built primary and Secondary schools in Kenya such as these examples.
- Karatina DEB Primary School
- Brookfield Academy
- P.C.E.A. Karatina Academy
- Karatina special School for the mentally handicapped
- Arch Bishop Kirima Academy
- Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls High School
- Tumutumu Girls High School
- Kirimara Boys
- Karatina Harambee
- Pan Africa Secondary School
Universities/colleges in Karatina Town
- Karatina University College
- Moi University, Karatina Campus
Very Busy Matatu terminus with matatus to everywhere in Kenya. Commuters in and around Karatina walk, ride bicycles and boda boda motorbikes, use private taxis, matatus, minibuses and buses. The Nairobi – Nanyuki rail service died ages ago.
At the matatu terminus, and paid Kes 5.00 and 10.00, depending on your nature of call!
Karatina town throbs on the farming community in the region. The Karatina Market is indisputably the largest open market in sub-Saharan Africa. There are ongoing renovations on the market.
The thriving trading activities have attracted major banks and supermarkets in Karatina town. For instance, Uchumi Supermarkets is on the main A2 road, just after the railway crossing.
The open air market has cereals and grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and opens on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday with Saturday been the busiest from travellers and other traders coming to shop.
Railway Gikomba Market
I was given to understand that these retailers sell secondhand goods – clothes, shoes, etc pending relocation when the main market renovations are completed.
Banking Services in Karatina
- Barclays Bank of Kenya Ltd
- Equity Bank Limited
- National Bank of Kenya
- Standard Chartered
- Family Bank
- Kenya Commercial Bank
- K-Rep Bank.
- several micro-finance institutions e.g. Faulu Kenya, Kenya Women Finance Trust, PesaPoint
- Jamii Nurshing Hospital – Private enterprise.
- PCEA TumuTumu Hospital – Church owned, a few kilomtres west of Karatina, at Giagatika Shopping Centre, near Tumu Tumu Girls Secondary.
- Karatina District Hospital – Public
- Catholic Clinic opposite the petrol Station next to the matatu terminus, along A2 road.
Attractions near Karatina
To Visit :
- Tea and Coffee Farms
- Mount Kenya
- The Aberdares
- Nyeri Town and the cemetery of Scout movement
- Tree Tops and the Ark – game viewing less than half an hour to the west of Karatina.
- Mount Kenya Safari Club, Nanyuki, less than fifty miles from Karatina.
- Rui Ruiru Mau Mau caves at the scene of “Mbaara ya rui ruiru”, an epic battle of the 50’s between the colonials and Mau Mau freedom fighters.
- Nyana Hill
- Tumu Tumu Hill
- Gura River
- Ndemu, a marshy bog
- Masters Lodge
- Mimar Lodge
- New Karatina Lamu Lodge
- Umoja Silent Lodge
- Starbuck Hotel
- Three In One
When in Karatina, try the nyama choma, avoid experiments with hurriedly prepared foods!
Go for the abundant ready nyama choma (<0.3kg) + ugali or kienyeji (modern mataha). Boilo is for Waheshimiwa only. If you need one kg, you will suffer four pieces – total weight? About 0.8kg! About two places serve ready-to-eat fried pork. There is also ready-to-eat kienjeji chicken.
Local restaurant’s menus – mandazi na chai; ng’ombe (cabbages + one or two potatoes + several pieces of meat, too much tasteless soup!) with rice, chapati; Githeri
There is very little action around here. Some pool on a pealed pool table at Celebrations. Dance in this underground joint. Another rowdy one in a dark, shabby lodging. Gave up and turned in for TV entertainment with mediocre programming at the bar counter! Most bars have a TV for entertainment!