Ways to Get Around!
Traveling around Kenya is an enjoyable experience, and not just because of the friendly people and the vistas, the variously chaotic modes of transportation are just as enthralling as the people and places they take you to. Though not always cheap or quick Kenyan’s public transportation system is always an adventure.
Very few Kenyans have personal vehicles and so most people rely on one of these four transportation methods to get around:
1. A Matatu is usually a small Nissan van that looks like it’s lived through a war or two. They’re often decorated and decaled with the driver’s music and religious preferences though recent legislation has limited the customization that could be done on matatus.
Matatus usually follow a set route between a few location but will only stop when waved down and as a rule – there’s always room for more. When first built most matatus were probably fitted with no more than seven seatbelts. Double that is the standard number of passengers for a busy route.
I find the most interesting thing about matatus to be the hustle of their drivers. Since they’re paid per person they have a great incentive to get you on their matatu, now. This means they’re likely to shout, honk, and hiss at anyone on the street who might need a ride. Their job is complicated in that passengers want to leave as soon as possible but the drivers don’t want to leave until they’ve filled the van. Its hard to fill your matatu when the biggest incentive for a passenger to board is it being already full. Luring the first few people into an empty matatu requires a special kind of person – I don’t envy their work!
2. Piki pikis are motorcycles that also tend to stick to main routes but will take you anywhere you want to go – for a price. They are more expensive than matatus and depending on the driver’s linguistic abilities and the obscurity of your destination you might end up somewhere new!
And just because it only has two wheels doesn’t mean it can only carry two people: I have seen 4 people on one piki piki!
3. Boda bodas are my favorite way to get around. They are heavy-duty bicycles from China or India with cushion seats over the back wheel. Boda Bodas are often decorated extensively with colorful paint, flags, bells, and dozens of reflectors. They provide a nice quiet ride to anywhere you can provide directions to and they’re cheap. You might feel guilty bargaining too hard on a hot day though. They’re a lot of fun though!
I like it so much I want to start a boda boda business when I get back to the States. I’ll give people rides around the Tetons for, say, 50 bob from Beaver Creek to Moose?
4. Route 11 is the least exciting and most common mode of transportation. That is, walking. The 11 refers to two legs walking the route to your destination. Kenyans seem to have a love-hate relationship with walking that means they’ll sit and wait for hours for a ride somewhere if a ride is possible. But when a ride isn’t obvious they’ll think nothing of walking 5km to work and back each day. We probably average about 5km walking everyday here in Bungoma.
-Dan & Whit