A friend of mine asked me to write my matatu chronicle, and I wondered how I would write this article without sounding bitter and troubled with life. However, I still said, why not. After all I have been reading with pleasure her eventful chronicles.
I have had the most dramatic ones too though never imagined it possible that I could ever again experience any worse than route 48, where your feet get to experience an unwanted breeze from ground. Actually a ride in them could comprise your feet dangling outside the vehicle, since the floor is sometimes broken, or is it torn. Anyway, I am trying to mean there is a hole where your feet are supposed to be placed.So you must believe me when I say I never thought I could experience any worse.
I have moved cities, now living in Mombasa. To be precise, I have been here for only a week. The first day I rode to town, I could have sworn for a minute I thought I was in Nairobi until I was asked for fare. Aki, I promise I have never paid my 200 shillings to go to any destination, not even to Rongai. The most I have paid is probably 80 and I fumed the whole way, thinking about injustices in the world.
I was Shocked though, no one caused Drama. You know I am used to my gangster route 46 where WE, the passengers, decide. WE just wait for one passenger to say “Ai,si fare inakuanga fifty hatuwezi lipa seventy, we fare ni mbao” and the rest of the bus we would echo those words. It is called people power. And somehow we manage to piss off the the kange as much as he had pissed us off. “Kama hamtalipa mshuke’.. only you cannot chase a whole matatu when we are in traffic and already half way in to our destination. So we would pay the team fare, the one that we the common wananchi had unanimously agreed..
Now the 200 bob affair had nothing on this day I am about to tell you. Which I promise I thought we had been hijacked!!!
My mum and I left for Mombasa from Kilifi at about 10.00 am, in the hope that at least by 11.30 am we should have reached. Oi that didn’t happen. It took quite a while before the matatu filled up. Then we left. However, on our way we met more passengers who got in to an already full matatu with the hope to sit on us. Now you know when you have paid 200 shillings, my friend, the last thing you want is someone sitting on you, but we kept quiet and moved just a bit for them to sit, WITHOUT COMPLAINING.
I was not that surprised when at the next stop the matatu picked more people to get in. After all I was born in the PRE- MICHUKI era where bus rides were the most uncomfortable rides ever. As in you could feel peoples privates. Now all you feel is shoulders, thank heavens. But still, really there was no where else anyone extra could sit in this matatu for sure, so they had to stand.
Now here people made noise “watakaa wapi hao, huku basi hakuna nafasi” Directed to the conducor and then indirectly to the passengers, ladies, “Na sasa we mwenyewe ukiingia matatu ambayo imejaa hivi huwa umefikiria vipi..” ha ha ha, I would hate to be the one who has gotten it to such. But with the ladies, got in one know it all male who was much more proud of his actions and said “Kama una shida bwana unune yako, hii ni gari ya abiria bana.
AND THAT IS WHERE THE TROUBLE BEGUN.
As I happily viewed the beautiful scenery of Vipingo ridge and the sisal plantations avoiding all the interior drama, I was interrupted by noises. The conductor plus the new guy who had also helped to get the excess passengers on board, let us call him Joseph, started heckling. “Kuna mapolisi huko mbele lakini”, causing the driver to start panicking almost leaving his staring. They then directed him to get in to a route in the plantation running away from the police.
As of that moment, I was still admiring the sisal farms and how green it is, so beautiful indeed assuming that the route used is actually a short cut since a few other matutus had gone that way. So I enjoyed the unique view as my mother kept complaining about the driving.
One thing for sure is that many drivers here ENJOY overtaking and overlapping. Oh, they can’t do without it I tell you. And especially when there is an oncoming vehicle, that is when they feel the urgency to even further do it. You find yourself staring at the front window in fear wanting to almost hit the drivers head.
Also, some love even more arguing with fellow drivers, insulting pedestrians and even more arguing with passengers. It is funny when you are in a matatu where there is an exchange between a passenger with the conductor. Usually on anything. You can laugh for tears, infarct there is a lady from upcountry who laughed until she chocked, we had to fan her.
Anyway, we kept going and going further in to the plantations then we meet a young boy who says there are police on the side where we are going. So the driver starts to panic once again and is advised by Joseph and the conductor, that we should go right. So we go right and keep going until we reach a dead end. As in, there is no through way because we had reached someone’s aboard.
This Jose guy with his friend the conductor kept giving directions that lead to gates that are closed and now we were lost in the middle of nowhere. As in obviously lost. So my mum being herself kept complaining LOUDLY in English about the whole situation. At that point my heart was convinced we have been hijacked. So I kept whispering to her that she should stop drawing attention to herself by complaining in English, she should whisper and if so in Kiswahili.
At the same time the driver has started to act harassed as well saying “Kama mlikua hamjui njia mumenileta huku kwa nini, sasa ndio tumepotea hivi.” In my head I am thinking “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!!!!!, This guy has no diea WHERE WE ARE GOING and we are in the middle of a sisal forest, oi” In my head I thought it was one big act pretending. “How can we be lost?” “How can the man on the wheel not know where we are going?”
Now to raise my fear even worse was a log that we found on the path and a group of young men running after our matatu with sticks on their hands heckling oye oye. Oi, Esther Neema, my heart stopped beating. “Dear lord, did you bring me to the land of my people to meet face to face with MRC” I thought. He, I could not even breath. I was just there thinking “Gawsh I should have repented all my sins in the morning in case of anything”
Of course there was no turning back as both sides were huge sisal plantations that made us have no sight of anywhere else. So literally we were under their mercy, whoever these guys were. Humbly the conductor paid his dues and the log was lifted off the road.
It turns out they weren’t MRC or even Al shabaab. These are called Mateja. Now, they collect cash from matatus that pass through these “short cuts”. If you are unlucky you will find them in every corner you turn, so you loose ALL your money to guys who just harass drivers. As in that is what they wake up to do this in the morning. They actually bid good bye to their family early in the morning to rob matatus of their income.
Anyway, this was better than MRC, I thought, however we were still lost, and honestly the fact that we were lost was not helping much. My mothers paranoia was rising every minute and my heart could not take any longer more shocks.
The rest of the passengers kept complaining and shouting to the same, “haya sasa tutafilka saa ngapi jamani yarabi” .
You see if this was a shortcut then we should have reached earlier. But with time I have realized the said “short cuts” take the word short cut to a whole new meaning. I don’t know why they use them anyway.
Luckily in the process of turning and turning and turning and turning, one of the passengers recognized a place. So he begun to dictate where we should go. “Argh wewe weanda na wapi wewe, nenda huku. huko kwengine hakuna njia huko”
Feeling a lot better, though it was already 12.00 meaning we had spent two hours in the same area turning and turning in the same Kilifi. SURELY. Honestly if we had any appointment at all, we would have lost it. Perhaps we could have walked or? Well in Nairobi we are always told “kama ungekua na haraka ungeamka jana”
“Haya nenda na huku” he kept dictating. And finally we start to see homes and children playing, others laughing and crying, reminding us of life . Then at last we can all start giggling just for a bit. Then he says, “angalau hata mimi mumeshanifikisha kwetu” as he laughs.
As in, this guy has just directed us to his home, and then what? How do we get to town? But the rest of the matatu was full of praises, saying how he has helped us much since we would have just been lost over there. “Angalau umetusaidia hapo”
Immediately he leaves, everyone else starts complaining saying how this guy just tricked us to get home. Ha ha ha, it was just a funny scenario, though a part of me was still so PISSED looking at those ladies who had gotten in to a full matatu causing us this unplanned adventure now sited comfortably and joining in the conversations. It was better to look outside the window.
And then FINALLY straight to the road, our journey to Mombasa now begun. I see a mass of blue, it is the Indian ocean, so beautiful. I swear it melts every anger and finally a smile broke. I swear, sometime I just think that nature conspires just to make me happy. I am in Mombasa. At exactly 1.00 pm.
Now, since my journey was not to end in Mombasa, it was actually en route Nairobi at about 10.00 in the night, I had a few hours to feel as much breeze and warmth of this beautiful town, before going back to what has been home for the last 27 years, Nairobi.
I didn’t know what I was feeling about this move. All I knew for a while a break from Nairobi would be excellent therapy to my soul for sure. Many events have happened and I couldn’t wait to leave it all behind and start over elsewhere. After all, home is where your heart is. Yet the fast pace of the city and the mall and the amazing people of My Nairobi still drew me to it like a magnet. But two weeks in kilifi made me realize I wanted to be in coast not just for a holiday but could love to live here. I was in love
At exactly 10.00, I board a bus to Nairobi and my journey begins, a journey to my goodbye to my beautiful Nairobi. I get in to the bus and as if the driver knew my heart desire, HE PUT TARAAB. Ow, happy place, music kept playing and lulled me in to sleeping I didn’t even notice the driver was driving at 50 Km per. How!!!!. HOW SURELY ARE WE SUPPOSED TO GET ANYWHERE AT 50 KM PER HOUR???????
My eyes open and it is 6.00 am, then I open the curtains, YOU MEAN WE ARE NOT YET IN NAIROBI???? At that point, I am sooooo pressed all I was yearning for was a private space. But since I cannot even see any sight of building yet, I know we do have a long way to go, so I just close my eyes to help me forget that I gotsa pee. STILL THE DRIVER IS DRIVING AT 50 KM PER HOUR? Oh Lord! WHY is this happening to me and the other passengers of course?
It is 8.00 am and now we are closer to south C. of course we are now caught up in the Nairobi Traffic. Then the driver refused to take “short cuts” and so of course we were stuck there. I secretly wished he could overlap, overtake or anything so that I just reach destination house. At least there was a promise I would be taken to the prestige bus stop which is closer home. I could even walk, run and if I felt a bit adventurous maybe crawl. But why crawl when you can take a cab for 200 bob surely.
I am still mad at the driver for driving us at the ridiculous speed, but happy that he brought us home safe and sound. We are in Nairobi and the bus stops and everyone leaves with drama as usual. But we have not gone through Prestige why, I ask the bus conductor. Who reports that he was not told there was one going to prestige. My heart sinks. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WERE NOT TOLD YOU I AM GOING TO PRESTIGE. ISN’T THAT WHERE YOU PROMISE TO TAKE YOUR PASSENGERS. NOW SURELY WHERE IS THIS SURELY” my mind speaks to itself. Then I let out a weak “Ni sawa” Hmmmm, I was so bored. He blabbered something and I just saw his lips moving but
heard nothing. I was too tired for Drama.
So I look around and I am just seeing buildings I have not seen my entire life. Honestly in this my 27 years I have not been everywhere in this city!? “uuurgh where is this place now” So I start walking towards wherever with my bearing being Hilton Hotel. In Nairobi, Hilton has always been my land mark from the first time I went to town by myself until today when I am a grown woman, I knew I had found my way once I could see hilton. Now at this moment, I COULD NOT SEE HILTON. Do you understand. I COULD NOT SEE HILTON!!!!.
I took my tiny suitcase, disgusted of course. It is madness to drop people off at different stops than they expected. But ey once I saw Ronald Ngala street, I knew I was home. I headed straight for Kencom. At exactly 10.00 I was in Kilimani. Welcomed home with the beautiful jacaranda flowers all in purple. And some other cute orange flowers. Some gracing the streets. Some covering the roads and some forming umbrellas above me. Beautiful.
It was beautiful. In one week there was already a change in season. It was flowering in Nairobi.They were serenading the streets. Home sweet home. And I was suddenly in the rush and city madness once again from the calmness of Mombasa. I always feel the urgency to do something, just anything whilst in Nairobi. Oh this town.
But alas, I had been to two different towns in such dramatic events, with very dramatic peeps, but these dramatic people, who sometimes made me so angry, had delivered me from one home to another All in 24 hours. Reminding me to be grateful for Matutus and Buses and wonder why we should always have this fight relationship when we both need each other.