The self-styled capital of Kikuyu-land – a title the Kikuyu of Kiambu might dispute – NYERI is the administrative headquarters of Central Province and a lively, chaotic and friendly highland town, whose name derives from the Maa word nyiro, meaning “reddish brown”, after its earth. An attractive trading centre, it nestles in the green hills where the broad vale between Mount Kenya and the Aberdare range drops towards Nairobi. Tumultuous markets, scores of dukas, and even a few street entertainers, lend it an air of irrepressible commercialism.
Another former British military camp, Nyeri emerged as a market town for European coffee growers in the hills and for settlers on the ranching and wheat farms further north. Nyeri was also the last home of Robert Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide scouting movement, whose cryptically named Paxtu cottage, now a small museum, stands in the grounds of the Outspan Hotel and whose grave and memorial are to be found on the north side of town in the cemetery. The Baden-Powell Scouts Information Centre plans a small museum and guesthouse here, and it’s interesting, as ever, to have a look at the old graves in the cemetery.