Sunday 10.00 am.
Place: 2NK booking office Nairobi.
Destination: Ndia Kirinyaga.
The vehicle is almost full; no seat is left by the window. There is one at the back but the Japanese have made the new models of Toyota Hiace and Toyota Shark with fixed backseat windows. For those of us who experience motion sickness, a window that cannot open is off limits. Just in case your stomach starts churning and twisting and erupting like an angry volcano with the magma coming out of every single pore on your skin in form of sweat, your salivary glands start producing a litre of saliva per minute and all your internal organs with their contents engage in a race to come out through your mouth, you don’t want to be seated on a middle seat or one whose window cannot slide open.
I dilly dally before paying for a ticket waiting for the current vehicle to get full so that I would board the next vehicle which I would have the chance to choose the best seat. Two of the three remaining seats are now occupied. Only one is remaining; the one that is usually reserved for the conductor. I hurriedly pay for a ticket and occupy this seat . 2NK 14 seater vehicles do not have conductors.
There are things that do not change at all and if they do, the change is short-lived. One of them is fare to Karatina. I have always paid between kes 200-300 for as long as I can remember except for some few occasions when everybody decides to visit their shags and vehicles become few. I think the fare is captured in one of the Articles of the Memorandum written when the Sacco was formed more than 2 decades ago and therefore is not subject to fluctuation. Otherwise how would you explain a fare of kes 200 which has been the standard for so long?
Muthii the 2NK attendant together with his friend(name escapes me) are missing. The attendants on duty are a bit dull. I always like the way Muthii and the other fella inquire before each and every vehicle departs for Karatina “ kuna mtu wa Nyeri ama Nakuru? Gari Karatina mwisho”. I don’t know how many times these guys have uttered the words between them. Maybe a million times each. Next time I will ask them whether there has ever been a case of a passenger ending up in Nyeri or Karatina instead of Nakuru or vice versa.
The journey to Karatina takes at most 2 hours. This was going to be boring. I had no book with me, no newspaper, no internet. My decision to switch from Safaricom to Airtel internet has proofed unwise. I have been experiencing intermittent lost connections despite being loaded with sufficient data. When the phone connects, my beard grows an inch as I wait for a page to open. I had to find a means of killing the time.
Our driver maneuvered his way out of the tightly packed Accra Road to the equally chaotic River Road. A few obscenities were thrown his way the first set coming from a trolley pushing gentleman. The words used are not printable here but we all burst into laughter including the driver whom the obscenities were directed at. The second set of expletives came from a driver who was joining River Road from Latema Road. He had expected to be given right of way but our driver closed the space bringing upon himself a string of expletives. Tiga wana ngoma ino! Kai wi ngo’mbe ndiitu atia? (loosely translated as Stop behaving like a child you Satan! What kind of a foolish cow are you?)
We joined Murang’a road and the vehicle gained speed. I started observing the personal vehicles overtaking us. I realized that majority of them had Lady drivers mostly with red lips and sunglasses and a bad stare. Men drove Wanguras.
The things I observed during this journey cannot fit into a single sitting read therefore I am going to highlight just a few.
I counted numerous dead dogs along the way. A dog every 30 kilometers. Dog people are you there? I believe there must be some sort of an organization that looks into the welfare of Canines in the mould of Tunza Punda Akutunze or an association of Animal Rights Crusaders. You people need to do something about the high number of canines dying on our roads. Carry out a national wide campaign to sensitize the dogs on road safety. Tell them it is dangerous to drink and cross the road. Teach them. Tell them to use Zebra crossing. Educate them on the importance of using the pedestrian bridges. While are at it, spare the dogs from the look-right-look-left-look-right-again crap it doesn’t work anymore especially on the dual carriage roads and with the Boda Bodas that can come from any direction leave alone left and right. Consider offering the Canines some sort of counseling if by any chance it is found that they commit suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming vehicle. Ask them to talk to fellow dogs and share their problems. Tell them that the future is bright especially now that our country is said to be heading to the dogs.
The unattended charcoal bags of Kambiti.
Since I started travelling on this road on a regular basis- a period spanning over 14 years-I have never seen anyone pick a bag of charcoal. Anyone ever bought charcoal from Kambiti? Of course no one. I am told that it is supposed to be a self service. You pick the number of bags you need and leave the r equired amount of money. You just put it somewhere . You can put a stone over the notes to ensure that wind doesn’t blow away the money. You are allowed to pick change from the money left by others. Woe onto you if you decide to be clever. The charcoal will catch fire either in the boot of your vehicle or inside your house. A fire that cannot be extinguished no matter how many fire departments and engines come to your rescue.
And if I may ask, from which trees do they burn the charcoal? Kambiti is the Kalahari of Murang’a. The land is full of gulleys and sand and Kit Mikayis. You must have seen an enormous Kit Mikayi donning an elective post aspirant’s name. That is Kambiti. By the way, how on earth that name was written on that rock baffles me. Aliens at play?
River Tana (Thagana) had burst its banks and it seemed to have carried all the soil with it going by the colour of the water. I have never seen the river so full.
Somewhere between Makutano and Sagana, my eye was caught by a cow that was not grazing but looking into the horizon abstractedly despite standing on a patch of land with green grass in plenty. She didn’t even notice the string of vehicle passing along. She was deep in thought. May be wondering when the oxen and donkeys of Kiranyaga will be emancipated from slavery. She was probably engrossed in the subject of why most Kirinyaga farmers use animals to plough the land an activity that was used in Mesopotamia so many centuries ago.
We reached Kibingoti pronounced kay-fee-got-ee. Here ladies rush to any vehicle that makes a stop. They come with every conceivable farm produce bar coconuts. Ripe bananas, green bananas, arrow roots, sweet potatoes, green maize, papaya, mangoes, avocado, kales, tomatoes, oranges, French beans, everything. They plead with travelers to buy their produce. Hands come in through any open window and space. They will tell you to give them 20 bob for a whole bunch of giant ripe bananas not the bananalets you buy at 10 bob each in Nairobi. They will plead with you to buy. They will tell you that they will package the produce in a paper bag. They fall short of telling you to go with the produce and pay them on your return journey.
At Kangocho, we are climbing the hill and overtaking a trailer that is in a sick snail’s pace. At that speed, I bet it will take the trailer a week to complete the climb. Another trailer going downhill is even slower than the one climbing. Luckily, the road constructors widened the entire length of the hill. The heavy vehicles use the periphery and leave the central part of the road for lighter vehicles climbing at a considerably high speed otherwise, Kangocho would be making headlines with the longest traffic snarl-ups.
A tall old man is walking downhill by the road side. With that height at his age, he must have been a very huge human being in his youthful years. Manute Bol of Sudan comes to mind . I notice something odd. He is using a huge rough tree branch with knots as a walking stick. At first I thought he was carrying a banana prop. I strongly urge you to buy a decent walking stick or make one for this man if he happens to be your grandfather.
Finally, We are in Karatina. The sun is shining and the place is too hot. Hotter than Nairobi. Nowadays the higher you go the hotter it becomes. Weather has been defying science of late. I can’t find a Boda Boda rider of my liking. Probably they have gone to church being a Sunday.