Having been in Kenya for a couple of months now, I thought it prudent to share a few observations, hints and tips about what it’s like driving a mechanically propelled vehicle over here. You’ll notice that I didn’t say ‘Car’ and the reason why will shortly become clear. Having experienced vehicular mayhem in quite a few countries, Mrs Nomad and I scoffed at the information we’d received about ‘Suicide Junction‘ and ‘Lunatic lane‘. But in the words of Han Solo in Star Wars – The Force Awakens: “It’s real.. all of it!”
We were rather lucky that on our initial journey from the airport, fatigue and jet lag made us drunk as the journey is somewhat of a haze. Either that or we’ve repressed it! It was Hound Solo who gave us an inkling of what to expect as although he’s blogged about his arrival in Kenya, he failed to mention how he actually travelled across Nairobi city. We had a handling agent collect him from airport customs and transport him to meet us at the Northern edge of the city. What we didn’t know was that this was on the back of a flat-bed truck. Needless to say that he was not happy and now has some sort of Vietnam flashback every time he goes near his crate.
Prior to venturing out here we were told that we definitely-absolutely-positively had to have a 4×4 vehicle. It works great on the tarmac motorway! But it wasn’t until we started exploring a little that we realised that the tarmac road doesn’t take you everywhere.
Although the road conditions have apparently improved over the years, lack of funding and above all the rainy seasons ensure that vehicle suspension is tested.
The road surface varies from tarmac to gravel and eventually mud tracks. The smooth tarmac seems like a dream when you get on to it however, when you hit the random unmarked speed bumps at 30MPH, it reminds you that nightmares are real.
This entry wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our fellow road users. Oh how they cheer our days! A big giveaway should have been when we saw the Christmas lights tied to a motorcycle! There are a number of familiar faces on our daily commutes, the first which, are the ‘Boda-Boda’ motorcycles. These are a form of low cost taxi service however, it’s not uncommon to see them used as delivery vehicles. So far we’ve seen Boda-Bodas carrying gas canisters, chickens, goats, logs, bedframes and sofas!
The other prevalent road user are the Matatu. These are minibus sized van and also provide taxi service, although at longer distances than their two-wheeled brethren. Wendy and I have been trying to find where the Matatu driving school is located, as we really, REALLY want to meet Mad Max!!
We shouldn’t neglect the other road users we see, as these are as common as the previous two. These road users aren’t as fast as the others as they have no engine!
What might it be that these daring travellers see crossing the motorway at night? What do you mean Camels?! Well, not just camels, there are also cattle, sheep and goats which are all as suicidal as the other.
We will continue to hone our defensive driving skills however these road warriors, along with the other inhabitants of the County, have already taught us a few driving rules:
- A minibus WILL fit into that gap ahead of you.
- If you pull out when someone flashes their headlights at you.. you will most likely die!
- A car accident is better entertainment than a Shakespearean classic.
- Add a bit of mystery to the day by not using your indicators (or headlights at night).
- If you get air at a speedbump, you’re wife will not be happy!
- Yes.. That Boda-Boda does have a cow on the back of it. And 4 people!
- If you take your foot off the accelerator, even for a moment, that is a signal to be overtaken.
- If you’re polite and let a car out of a junction, the vehicle behind it, the local church congregation, an entire football team and a herd of buffalo will also follow them.
- That pothole is WAY deeper than you think!
- Ensure your dog is secured in the car. You will be braking hard at some point and he really doesn’t like nutting the windscreen!