Part II of the transportation guide!
I treasure adventure days with Carson. The guy is this awesome, free spirit who is simultaneously all-knowing and born last night. Carson and I decided to head into town one day. We set out from Daraja and struggled to leave one of the dogs, Rasta, at the gate. Determined to come with us, she followed us despite the security guard at the gate calling out to her to stay on campus. We got to the rock, she was still with us. We tried to flag down a sand truck that kept going, she followed us. We walked about half a mile to the main junction, and there we stood, Carson, Rasta and myself, under the blazingly cruel sun, waiting for a matatu or sandtruck to roll by. Finally, one came.
How to flag one down: Above the cab, tons of people stood atop, staring at us as Carson waved down the truck, which slowed to a stop. It was then that I remembered that I was terrified of heights. (This is a common occurrence for me in this country—doing something, and then remembering that this is something I would not do at home). I looked at the stairs leading to the roof of the massive truck, swallowed the lump of fear in my throat, and scurried up to the top. Almost half way up, probably because I was overly anxious to get to the top already, I banged my knee with full force into one of the stairs. I winced, shook it off, and hopped over the top, landing in a little sand, and staring at a couple dozen high school kids in uniforms. Carson, with ease, hopped over the top and joined me. To our dismay, Rasta chased the sandtruck another quarter mile down the road before giving up on joining us. Turns out the kids were from Ilpolei, just up the road about an hour, and they were headed home to Nanyuki for break. We chatted with the kids until we reached the police checkpoint, where we all had to duck and remain silent. What Carson hadn’t told me was that it was illegal to travel on the top of sand trucks. Oops. So there we were, huddled together against the back of the truck, heads down, holding our breaths until we could pass (well, I was holding my breath. Knowing Carson, he wasn’t nervous or fearful for a second).
Ni shillingi ngape (how much): the first time Carson and I had hopped a sand truck, he rode on top[i], and I rode in the cab. The trip from Naibor to Daraja cost 50 ksh, which was too much, but they were nice to pick us up, and I enjoyed the conversation with the three guys in the cab. The typical price into town is 50-100 ksh. Any more than this, and they’re fucking with you. Excuse my English. But seriously, everyone is a hustler, and it wouldn’t shock me for someone to quote some outrageous price with a serious face. Albeit cheaper than a matatu, this is not technically a legal way to travel, and because the roads are so poor, the bumpy ride is crucial.
So you’ve hopped the sandtruck, now what? First, you’ve gotta pay. If you ride in the cab, you can pay the driver. If you ride up top, there’s usually a guy up there who collects money. BEWARE- there very well could just be the driver collecting money, and a guy up top who sees Mzungus (foreigners) and quotes you a price as if he is collecting money. We had a slightly sketchy looking guy give us a price when we rode with the kids, so Carson asked the boys how much they had paid, and who they had paid, before we handed over any money. All knowing, I tell you. After you’ve paid, enjoy the ride. It’s an amazing feeling, sitting atop this magnificent beast of a vehicle, bouncing along the road, with an incredible, (literally) rooftop view of the breathtaking beauty of this country.
Capacity: I’m not sure there is a capacity. Whoever fits!
Ni shillingi ngape (how much): from Daraja to Nanyuki, the cost is 1000 ksh with the drivers that we have established relationships with. This is way more than the 100ksh it might take to hop a sand truck, but with enough people squished in, the convenience of having a car come get us far outweighs the shared price. Other people might charge more, but I wouldn’t know because I have three guys only who I will ride with. Around town, the price ranges from 100-250ksh. Again, with almost everything in Kenya (and maybe Africa), prices are negotiable. When driving with someone new, negotiate the price first before departing, and whittle it down as much as you know to be reasonable.
How to flag down a private cab: We have guys that we call. Mugaka (translation from Kiswahili to English: dude) is my favorite. What a great man this guy is. He has suggested I become his second wife a couple times (tbd if he’s run this by wife #1 yet…), but really, I consider him a friend. When we pile into his car and he talks about his family, Kenyan life, the struggles of the average man trying to take care of his family, and his favorite subject, Barack Obama J My other favorite guy is Munesh. He plays the jams in the car! I asked him if he had any Beyonce, and the next time I called him for a ride, he was bumpin’ Queen Bey. Much appreciated. In groups when we’re out at night, we’ll flag down any random driver if he seems cool, as long as we’re all together. We’re not afraid of being kidnapped, more so just weary of outrageous prices.
Capacity: I have been in a 5-seater vehicle with 8 people: the driver, two in the front seat, 5 in the back. We got real close that night.
I have garnered a deserved reputation for lying to boda boda drivers. Every time I get on, I say, “This is my first time on a boda boda, so drive slow.” This is because I used to be terrified of motorcycles, but after several death-defying adventures by this mode of transportation, I now feel more comfortable on them.
Ni shillingi ngape: totally depends. Again, prices are negotiable. Around Nanyuki town, I’ve paid 150ksh, which was a little high, but I asked him to drive slow (since it was my first time and all), and he did. I appreciate that, so I’m willing to pay a little more and use the same guy over and over[ii].
How to flag down a boda boda: I have a couple guys that I have numbers for that I trust. But if you feel comfortable enough, you could just flag down any guy. The numbers that I have were given to me by cab drivers that I already had relationships with, and these are guys that the school uses all the time. So while I feel safe, you may not. Use your judgment.
Capacity: I have seen a boda boda with 4 people on it. I see many with two people and sheep, or a goat, or stacks of wood. Just depends on how safe you feel clinging to the back of the bike.
Most people just walk. Most people do not have cars, and if the distance is reasonable, they hit the streets and go.