The road between Nakuru and Eldoret has got to be one of the worst roads in
Kenya. The short rains have made the pot holes into pot canyons. The road is
littered with trucks in various states of "broken downess" (yes I know its
not a word). Everything from flat tires, broken axles, smoking engines, to
the extreme: overturned trucks and trailers, usually miraculously short of
obliterating some small road side village.
Driving a matatu into one of these pot canyons would of course be certain
death for the matatu. So this means that the matatu driver must avoid these
at all costs. (Though the rear suspension must be different from the front,
because I swear we hit all the pot holes that the front missed.) Navigating
through these mine fields of pot canyons involves wildly swerving from the
left to the right side of the road, sometimes driving at a near 45 degree
angle on the side of the road. Since the effective kilometers traveled
doubles with all the swerving, the driver must drive twice as fast in order
to make up the extra kilometers. Of course not all the pot holes are
canyons, some are just ravines, and the good ones you'd just call holes. So
over the ravines you have to drive less than 5 kph, which means the matatu
driver constantly goes from 60 kph to 5 kph in a span of 100 meters, and
then back to 60 kph. The pot holes, well those are the good ones, so you
don't need to slow down at all. The trucks that aren't broken down move at
about 10kph, so the matatus have to pass them while navigating the pot
canyons. Then to make things even more spicy you have these big buses (think
grey hound size) whose drivers are practicing for the next trans Kenya rally
race. These big buses pass and swerve just like the little matatus. Just to
remind you, these roads are two lane roads, so all this is happening in both
I think we've talked about the inside of a matatu a bit, but if you sit in
the back seat, you have to slouch forward because the sloping nature of the
roof causes it to be very close to the top of your head. Any pot ravine or
narrowly missed canyon causes a sudden and violent reversal of gravity in
the back of a matatu, so to keep from smashing your brains out, you need to
slide forward till your knees are up against the seat in front of you.
(Please note that in case the phrase "slide forward" invoked images of
luxurious space, this really involves spanning a distance of an inch,
maybe.) Now that your knees are in contact with the seat in front of you
really start to get a feel for the road, and not in a good way.
It was raining so the windows were all closed, which meant that the natural
odor of the passengers, plus the odor of past passengers (not all passengers
are human either) was being pleasantly humidified into the air.
Lastly, imagine this journey taking four hours.
Karibu Kenya (Welcome to Kenya)