Road Trip to Holili, Tanzania; Gastronomy, Sights and Scenes.

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I have been to Tanzania a number of times, to attend a wedding, for work and leisure. Every time I left a piece of my heart there when it was time to leave. So when the idea to visit Holili this past weekend was fronted by my adventurer friend Kyalo, I quickly jumped on it. There are a number of Kenyan border towns with Tanzania…Lunga Lunga, Isibania and Taveta being those I have used as exit points into Tanzania before. Taveta borders Holili in Tanzania and I have found the Taveta-Holili Border Post to be the most accommodating and convenient to those wishing to visit Tanzania. Mostly because it is not as busy as the others and the accommodating nature of Immigration Officers to willing excursioners. The people of Taita Taveta County have lived and co-existed with their Tanzanian neighbours at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro and environs for centuries. In modern times, it is common for Taita and Taveta people to visit Holili, the incentive being cheaper food and beer there.

Taveta Holili Border Post.
Taveta Holili Border Post.

We left Mombasa for Holili on Saturday morning with a planned stopover at Voi town to pick up some other friends. I have to shoutout a small hotel at Mackinnon Road where we stopped for a quick meal, ‘The Governor Hotel”. A simple establishment with fresh food. If you are a lover of meat, then you will enjoy boiled, fried, stewed goat meat and offal meat at very affordable prices. Generous portions. Mackinnon Road is also the town that provided the backdrop for the story of a legendary Punjabi named Seyyid Baghali. He achieved legendary status for his ‘superhuman’ strength when the railway was being built in the late 1800s. When he died, as a result of a trolley accident as they built the railway, he was buried near the railway, legend has it because his body was too heavy to carry a long distance away. A mosque now stands near the grave of Seyyid Baghali. The site for the Mosque was chosen as a result of the busy nature of the location. Travellers over the years stopped and paid homage to Seyyid Baghali’s grave for it was said that other than his strength, he had an almost Saintly nature.


As these trips go, once we were at Voi and met up with our friends, the stopover took longer than expected. All of us being football fans and followers of the English Premier League, a few beers were downed as we watched a Chelsea game. Another glorious loss, to Brentford, the story of their 2023/2024 season so far. We resumed our journey, driving through great scenery of wildlife as we headed to Taveta. As you pass through Tsavo West National Park you get to see giraffes, elephants, ostriches, etc. A reminder that Tsavo National Park covers approximately two-thirds of the land area of Taita Taveta County. On the road we came across Taita Taveta County Governor Andrew Mwadime in his official car, himself stopping to point at wildlife. We arrived at the Taveta-Holili border post just past 6pm. Getting into Holili, Tanzania with honest intentions, need not be a hustle. With just a Kenyan National ID you can get a day’s gate pass (have to be back before midnight) into a 10km radius once over the Holili-Taveta border. A temporary passport or a passport is needed for further travel into Tanzania.

Once over the border, one of our Voi friends who was quite familiar with Holili having worked in Taveta before, recommended a joint called Dubai. Famous for its kitimoto (as they call pork there) and roasted bananas. So to Dubai we went, where an online reader of Pwani Tribune whom I had not met before saw me donning a Pwani Tribune t-shirt and stopped me for a chat. A win for branding. Gitobu, if you are reading this, it was great meeting you my friend. Here’s to more random meetups. At Dubai, we caught the final stages of a huge Arsenal win over Sheffield United and a stupendous Real Madrid comeback win over Barcelona. That boy Jude Bellingham. A Serengeti beer-filled night followed. As far as gastronomy goes, in Holili bananas are a more popular accompaniment to meat dishes than sima/ugali. Maybe it’s time we embraced this healthier option. Absolutely loved the meal. While in Tanzania you just have to catch a Simba or Yanga game to fully appreciate the vibrance and love for the local game that Tanzanians have. Obviously as a result of how seriously football is taken by those running it. Kenyan authorities and higher up stakeholders of the game have a lot to do. A proper sporting day was rounded up by a South Africa ‘Springboks’ win over New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup Final.

Kitimoto with roast bananas. Tanzanian delicay.
Kitimoto with roast bananas. Tanzanian delicacy.
Simba SC Fans celebrating their winnig goal against IHF.
Simba SC Fans celebrating their winnig goal against IHF.

As midnight (our ‘curfew’) approached, we went back over the border to Taveta to spend the night. Friends, readers, countrymen…Taveta’s nightlife is dead. That is if it was ever alive at any point in time. We tried to sample two joints, never again. One joint reminded me of the keg joints from my campus days, the other couldn’t be able to describe itself if it was given the chance to. The closest description would be a small joint that’s a cross-breed between a reggae concert and a political rally. The less said the better. We decided to call it a night, and were back to Holili the next morning. We went to a bar called White House. It was my second time there, the home of ‘ndizi mchemsho’ and chicken the size of turkeys. It has a tag line “Chukua bodaboda unikute White House” painted. Rather astonishingly, we encountered quite a number of child bodaboda riders in the locality. Maybe the tag line pays homage to them. The ‘mhudumu’ at White House, Happy, will tell you to pronounce it as ‘Hepi’. We had a few beers here before we went back to Dubai for a repeat of our kitimoto and bananas.

As our order was being prepped at Dubai, I took the time to be a proper beer connoisseur. I sampled all the local beers on offer to compare and contrast. Serengeti (Lager and Lite) which I have always had plus Kilimanjaro and Safari Lager. They are not too different from our own local beers, Kilimanjaro has a White Cap-ish vibe, Serengeti more of Tusker and Safari Lager quite a potent drink at 5.5% alcohol volume (Tusker has 4.2% alcohol volume). Serengeti Lite seems the most popular brand, one costs around Ksh. 103 at most local establishments…glorious. And that is around Ksh. 10 more than the last time I was here and almost Ksh. 20 plus more than when the Kenya Shilling was doing fairly well a few years ago. Fatigue started taking a toll on us and it was time to bid Holili goodbye. We set off for the journey back leaving with us a lasting memory. We sure will be back again soon and hopefully delve further past Holili to Himo and maybe Moshi. Shout out to our friend David Zuberi for being more than a capable driver and wing-man for those that needed it, live long my friend.

Tanzania, you will always have a piece of my heart.

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