My friend has been living in Kenya for almost 5 months, she got pretty used to living like a local, on her last weekend in Kenya, she decided that we hit the road in the direction of the coastal city of Mombasa, by the Indian ocean, 8 hours by bus, or 13 hours by train, locals say the reason behind the 5 hours delay is that sometimes animal herds cross the railways, hence trains stop completely until they traverse safely. Ultimately, taking the bus was our best option.
In order to get to the bus station we hopped on a matatu; as the minibus is known among Kenyans, the driver was like all Kenyans a huge buff of Barack Obama who was back then running for presidency, they all loved him due to the fact that he had Kenyan roots, they had t-shirts, badges, and photos, they even had a song with at least a six repetitions chorus of “Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Eh, Eh…”. We cracked up in laughter when we first heard this song, trying hard to decode its lyrics which were half English, half Swahili. The driver was driving recklessly, so fast and the matatu was too small and extremely tight to the extent that every time we passed through a bumpy road, our heads would bump hard into the top of the matatu.
We were dropped off at a main matatu station, it was at the heart of the city where a variety of goods was sold; tiny salted fish, pineapple and papaya cut into pieces, coconut juice where straws were stuck in the coconut shell, biscuits, cakes, chocolates and refreshments. It was a 20 to 30 minutes walk to reach the bus station, was truly enjoyable to getting to discover the traditional Kenyan everyday life through this particular lively typical neighborhood as it was alive, full of action and most importantly far from being touristic.
The bus was big, well ventilated, but the road was AWFUL, turned out to be very bouncy, believe it or not, we were told that it hasn’t been renovated since the British occupation. It was similar to riding a crazy roller-coaster. Everyone slept except the two of us, apparently they were more acquainted to the bumpiness of the road. Five hours later, it was already dusk, the driver had unexpectedly pulled-over, we thought something went wrong with the bus, all passengers including the driver got off, each heading towards a certain direction , and out of the blue they all disappeared in the bushes. Taken by surprise, with no one around to ask, we found ourselves alone in the middle of nowhere. Ten minutes later, one of the passengers came out of the bushes zipping his pants, we both burst into laughter, by then we realized that they were answering the call of nature.
Upon arrival, there wasn’t a single way to reach our destination but a ferryboat, which was so crowded to the extent that people were literally squeezed. On board there were people, cars, matatus and bikes. In fifteen minutes, the ferry reached the shore, a quick tuktuk -rickshaw- ride was required in order to catch another matatu from a distant station that should take us directly to our so called “resort”.
After haggling with many tuktuk drivers, the one we picked wanted to give us the whole 30KM ride to the campsite instead of taking a matatu, but as it wasn’t the quickest nor the most comfortable ride, we decided to ride it only to the station. We were comfortably seated in the tuk tuk, which was spacious enough to take the two of us and our backpacks, though it was slow, and too close to the ground.
After finally reaching the station, we hopped on a matatu that was carrying 25 people while it should only carry 16; a lady holding her son were seated on a stranger’s lap, four guys were sitting next to the driver, some others squatted, they were literally sitting on air, we got squeezed just like them while enjoying some Kenyan crazy driving and loud Swahili music. We finally made it to our FINAL DESTINATION; the campsite (a.k.a. resort), exhausted yet overwhelmed with the amazing cultural encounter that we’ve been through, it was a true “live like a Kenyan” adventure that will never be forgotten.