Lemon Valley Farm Estate : A holiday Getaway or a self glorified dormitory?

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Happy New Year friends and I am thankful for your audience. We – Chowdownke contributors – hope the 2018 festive season was kind to you and your loved ones.

If you are one of the avid followers on Instagram @chowdownke you might have noticed that it was mentioned we would be introducing a Travel component to this blog and Instagram timeline as the two complement each other.

The first travel post will be Lemon Vally Farm Estate (Duration of stay 22-24 December 2018)- given the travel background- the first sign of doubt was the website but the ‘do gooder’ in me gave the benefit of the doubt to the establishment and booked for 6 adults and 5 children.

The reason to have reserved Lemon Valley was that it was a very last minute reservation in December, within the budget, it had vacancy and the group did not need to wake up at ungodly hours of the morning to catch the SGR – Standard Gauge Railway– which the group would have boarded if there was availability of accomodation in Mombasa.

Have you heard of Cheap is expensive ?

I think as Kenyans we do not hear this enough. We might have the budget or discipline to save to purchase a service or product that is more noteworthy but we are usually inclined to instant gratification.

Please note Lemon Valley has no signage on the Naivasha-Nakuru highway to direct you to the establishment and google maps depending on your device will have you lost – we had 3 phones telling us different routes.

Best Advice use the Soysambu Conservancy as your landmark. Be mindful of your position as you near the destination.

After you make the left turn as you spot the Soysambu Signage,head towards the conservancy gate but make a left turn again and pass under the bridge so that you are able to join Mbaruk Road where you will make a right turn on to a corrugation/washboard road that is Mbaruk.

After 500 meters or so you will happen to see a slab on the left with the writings Lemon Valley Farm Estate, take a left and be prepared for a bumpy ride.

The road for first timers is off putting and security becomes a concern especially if you do not have an elevated vehicle pretty much a 4×4.

The road is about 2-3 kilometers long and you will not go over 20 kph unless you want to leave parts of your car on the road. When you come to the T junction you will make a right turn and climb a hill.

(Note there are two ways to get to Lemon Valley off the highway -Heeiiweeeeii- but they are all murram and depends on the car you have and how busy the highway is for you to get off it.)

I would not advise passing Mbaruk or the Murram Road at night as it is daunting during the day with it’s isolation and when it rains you have to be careful of the water running off the sides of the road.

The group found it odd we were not advised by Lemon Valley Management on the condition of the road but since our journey started at 6 am from Nairobi we had high Hope’s we were not lost and the road would lead to a hidden gem.

Finally we arrived after clearing the hill and rough murram road.

We parked the car on the side of the road and went to reception where they offer mocktails but we could not tell if it was the norm or a quick fix for the delay at reception.

Normally when you arrive at a destination; well most destinations the reception is aware of your arrival and get you settled in quickly – sadly it was not the case here. Reception was aloof and had no idea of our booking which was frustrating. During that whole month there was no coordination between the marketer and reception.

Additionally with the discord we realized that the establishment does not charge children under a certain age but the children we had were below the age limit but charged prior and this further fuelled our antsy situation.

We had children in the car that needed to settle and have the food we carried – note I reserved a month ago on a self-catering basis so it was frustrating on both fronts. The delay was about an hour long before even more disappointment came.

So we viewed the possible accomodation and after we settled on what we had thought was an option the lady assisting us – called Favor- came to tell us that the main house had been reserved and it was not where we would be sleeping – this was after carrying our large suitcases and food stockpile up their very many and steep staircases.

Long story short we argued over two hours with the marketer at the time Njooro via phone and the staff on the ground as to how 6 adults and 5 children would fit in 4 cabins that by the looks of the beds accommodate 8 people comfortably.

The response from Njooro and staff was that we knew what we were booking but I referred them to the emails that no where was it mentioned that each cabin accommodates two people. Some cabins instead of a double bed had a double bunker only – again bedsitter scenario.

Lemon Valley attempted solution was that we would get mattresses to accommodate the children. These cabins were like bedsitters and one would think you pay for comfort and it really felt like a dormitory setup where teenagers are lured by the grand design of an epic getaway just to find a diluted version of what they expected versus the reality.

Another annoying part was the nonchalance of the CEO or Owner or head Huncho in the matter. I get that if you hired people to perform a certain role they should have mandate to carry on without micromanagement but this situation was at wits end.

One member of the group was calling Punda Milia Camp which looked great and was slightly more expensive but with the back and forth we were ready to leave. I enquired about a refund and Njooro was confident to say it would be sorted but the ‘gentleman’ went quiet and no refund was issued.

We could not enjoy the beautiful view or soak in the heat due to the lack of coordination at Lemon Valley.

We had to wait for the other members that were on their way to arrive before making a decision. One group was lost and google maps took them as far as Narok. Time was passing by and the sun was setting.

We resigned to the fact that it would be another challenge to get a refund and move to Punda Milia Camp so we decided to stay for the night as we had someone elderly with us so we moved in the cabins and squeezed in. Earlier I prodded for a discounted night and all I got was a ‘ok,will let you know’.

After all parties arrived we debated on the pros and cons: it got emotional because we felt cheated due to the fact some of us work hard in the year to get some much needed rest and relaxation with our family members while you have an establishment like lemon Valley that makes you feel like you need them more than they need you – the paying customer.

We settled for the two night stay and we felt the children needed the getaway more than the adults and so we suppressed our dismay and made the most of a situation that could have been avoided by a transparent marketer. There was a gentleman that was at reception with the lady Favor that was very annoying and we doubt if he has any sort of hospitality training. We did not catch or want to know his name of the gentleman at reception but he was a nuisance.

After we got past the drama we prepared the kitchen they had and stocked the fridge up with the perishables. The kitchen is open and if you really want to cook it up you have all the tools at your disposal.

We served up the meals we carried and fixed up some drink.

DANZKA Vodka is sublime – a Danish drink made from demineralized nordic water – made for those that like to indulge (only for persons above 18).

Of course this was not the full scope of the food we ate but a glimpse I know your holiday setup was better but bear with me.

It got late we put the children to sleep and the adults started having conversations about life and light moments. It was good staff brought us some ‘jikos’ to keep us warm – watch for the carbon monoxide. It gets cold at night and I suggest you carry a decent amount of warm clothing. Do not let the extreme heat during the day lie to you.

After long chatter we made way to our beds one by one and soon morning came. The morning view is amazing and the breeze was not too chilly. The showers are solar heated but there is a delay with the water getting hot and it doesn’t get too hot so it a hit and run scenario unless you are searching for a cold.

The breakfast was ok and again we were not informed that we were entitled to a limited breakfast but Favor informed us and we appreciated her assistance- she really was the only professional with great temperament understanding our plight the previous night.

The food was nothing to sing about and it was rather functional at this juncture.

After the children had their fill they wanted to do some of the activities.

At Lemon Valley you have some activites like horse riding – ponies- at a cost of Kes 500 and swimming -free- excluding the steep staircases and terrain you will negotiate getting from one part of the estate to the other.

I needed a shave, yes , but focus on the pool and view.

I need to remind you it gets really hot at Lemon Valley and it makes sense why the accomodation is made from container elements to let the heat dissipate easily. I was wearing a sweater because I caught a cold overnight and I’m easily susceptible to colds.

Side note: the pressure that the staff faced to keep us there was unwarranted and we hope Favor will still be there and will not have fallen victim to sabotage by her fellow colleagues.

Lemon Valley can be so much more if it could be more customer centric.

A decent family or bae getaway with the bear minimums. The group loved the fact that there were no televisions or anything that could distract you from immersing yourself in conversation and the environment.

You are connected – digitally- through the year and Lemon Valley is a great place to disconnect while still having signal bars on your phone but we will NEVER EVER contribute any cent or shilling to that establishment or owner.

Considering the multitudes of options one has in Nakuru and its surroundings why chance being disappointed making the long journey to a location that is a hassle to access after getting off the highway with an isolated and nonexistent road.

Thank you for reading, if you got this far, a lot of effort went into this post to supply you with information and to serve as a reference point if you want to give Lemon Valley the good ol college try.

Remember to keep your stomach happy and your standards high.

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