As you approach Nakuru along the main highway from Nairobi, the shamba- and conifer-cloaked mound directly ahead is the southern flank of the vast Menengai crater, while to the left are the scrub-covered eastern heights of the Nakuru National Park. A noisy, dusty and hustly town, Nakuru is also close to the prehistoric settlement site at Hyrax Hill, and is the jumping-off point for trips into the northern Rift Valley.
Nakuru came into existence on the thrust of the Uganda railway and owed its early growth, at least in part, to Lord Delamere, the colony's most famous figure. In 1903 he acquired four hundred square kilometres of land on the lower slopes of the Mau escarpment, followed by two hundred more at Soysambu, on the other side of the lake. Eager to share the empty vistas with compatriots – though preferably with other Cheshire or Lancashire men – he promoted in England the mile-square plots being offered free by the Foreign Office. Eventually, some two hundred new settler families arrived and Nakuru – a name which as usual could mean various things, including "Place of the Waterbuck" (Swahili) and "Swirling Dust" or "Little Soda Lake" (Maasai) – became their country capital. It lies on the unprepossessing steppe between the lake and the flanks of Menengai crater. This desolate shelf has a nickname: "the place where the cows won't eat grass" (the pasture was found to be iron-deficient). Farmers near the town turned to pyrethrum, the plant used to make insecticide, as a cash crop.