One of the adjustments of learning to live in Kenya, is learning how to get by without shops. Pathetic? Yes. But trying to survive on what can be packed into one 20 kilo suitcase and look cute for both work and play can be a bit of a challenge.
This is where mitumba comes into play. Imagine a world where almost anything you’ve ever donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army appears in makeshift stalls on the sides of streets dotted all across the African continent. It’s magical, it’s confronting, it’s terrifying, it’s busy, it’s dusty, it’s smelly, it’s adventurous!
Nakuru’s mitumba markets begin ‘up’ on the main streets, nestled amongst banks and supermarkets. This would be the pricey end. Expect to pay an average of 750/= (9USD) for a dress and 250/= (3USD) for the cute belt to go with it. Up this end expect neatly folded piles, or even coat hangers.
Venture further down, down, down towards the bottom end of the market and here you find the true bargains, but at a price! Be prepared for a truly exhausting experience! Located smack bang in the middle of a roaring matatu stage (local mini bus) with about 2 feet of crowded pathway between stalls for walking space, you’ll find piles upon piles of clothes. And I literally mean piles! There’s a woman and her baby selling t-shirts at 20/= a piece (25 US cents), a man selling jeans at 100/= (1.20USD). All lumped into bins awaiting you to rummage your way through in search of your one in a million find. And sometimes you really can find a one in a million find, something you would never have found at home, and most definitely not for a grand total of 3USD!
But you have to come prepared and roaring and ready to go. And be sure to come equipped with the following list of items to ensure a successful mitumba session:
1). Water bottle, as cold as you can find, that sun is a killer and you’ll be beyond dehydrated by the end!
2). Plastic bags (generally referred to as paper bags here in Kenya for some unknown reason…)
3). Small cash (if you’re buying at 20 bob a piece don’t expect your salesman to be carrying cash for a 1000/= note!)
4). Sunscreen (of you’re anything like me a red nose it not a look that is easily rocked…)
5). Time free at the end to slump in front of a much needed iced coffee and admire what you found.