Social icons

The Kenya Diaries - Nairobi 'Adventures'

Monday 9 January 2012
Wildebeest Camp in Nairobi
Last year, I spent a month in Kenya, starting in Nairobi before heading down to Lamu and Watamu. These are my Kenya Diaries. Arriving in Nairobi

My original plan had been to head out to Lake Naivasha, and spend a few days there before making my way to Lamu. However, when I got to Nairobi I discovered that there was a big Matatu strike, meaning transport out of the capital was pretty much impossible.

Matatus are the major source of public transportation in Nairobi and Kenya as a whole. Typically a small Peugeot van seating about 16 people, these funkily painted minibuses scoot throughout the place, dropping you off wherever you want on the route.

When I say they scoot around, what I really mean is that they fly at terrifying speeds, overtaking, undertaking, cutting lanes and leaping over junctions. Mostly with at least one person hanging on out of the open side door. This is pure maverick driving, and the frequent crash rates reflect this. When I was in Kenya, I rode about 10 matatus, maybe a few more. I saw 4 crashes.

They're also a hotbed for pickpocketing. Whilst I was in Nairobi, a girl got her phone taken from her back pocket (although she fully admitted fault at keeping it there, open for all to grab). A girl I met later on got her phone taken from her hand, by a keen robber through the window as the matatu slowed down. She was in the middle of texting her mum, to let her know all was well. In the space of a couple of seconds, her thumb was texting an invisible phone. It was never determined whether the thief finished the text.

That said, they look damn cool. And have great names. I saw a good few Beyonce's.

Anywho, the matatu drivers were on strike. Ah well, Hakuna Matatu*.

To be honest, I was a wee bit relieved to find that I couldn't get to Naivasha. I know, I know, pansy ass strikes again. But I was still very new to the place, and trying to find the right one, with my backpack, was a little daunting. Don't get me wrong, I'd have gone, and I would have been fine, but a teeny tiny part of my was glad. I'm sorry.

I did look into other options, but it seemed my only choice was to get a (very expensive) taxi. So I decided instead to stick around Nairobi. And partake in my own deadly and brave mission.

I was going to leave the camp.

Armed with 30spf, industrial strength mosquito repellant, sturdy shoes and money safely tucked into a Bond style pocket, I made my way onto Ngong Road. Steely expression in place, and secret tiny map in hand, I set out on my adventure.

I was going to the ATM.

Oh yes, people. My bravery knows no bounds. I was going to walk up the road for 20 minutes to a supermarket. I'm like a modern day Columbus.

What struck me here is the sheer amount of people walking. Yes, there were cars on the road, but there were hundreds of pedestrians. Now, I live in Ireland. A small village in Ireland, where everybody (but me, sigh) drives. And when I say they drive, I mean they drive everywhere. From one shop to another. So it may be naive of me, but it gave me great pleasure to see so many people walking.

But I couldn't let myself get caught up in that pleasure. I couldn't cry out

"Look at us! Look at us walking around, having the time of our lives, with not a care!"

No, I had work to do. I had to go to the supermarket. No time for eye contact, let alone streetside proclamations. I had to keep my gaze on the ground, ready for Black Mambas, machetes, malaria and all the other nasties that were waiting for me.

And I'm proud to say that I made it.

I don't know what it is, but one of the first things I like to do in a new country is go to the supermarket. See
what's different, see how much a cucumber costs, see the people shopping. In my day to day life, I tend to avoid the supermarket as much as I can - shop local and in markets etc, but there's something about one abroad that appeals.

Anyway, my adventure filled me with pride. In retrospect, I should be filled with shame for not doing something a trifle more exciting on my first full day.

Later on, I got chatting to an American girl and a Spanish guy at dinner. They were both in Nairobi for a college project, and spending their days in Kibera, the biggest slum in Kenya. I'd have loved to have gone with them one of the days, but it never seemed to work out.

I also managed to bust in on a conversation of an American girl who I recognised from my flight. She was about to head west to study at a college in Kenya for a semester, and was with two friends. They were heading out to Karen the following day, to see the Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Center. These were two places I was keen to go to, but without the matatus it was proving quite expensive to get there. So this was a bonus! We were to leave the following morning, bright and early. I went to bed happy.

*This is funny for several reasons, and yes, I'll be happy to explain why. Hakuna Matata is not just a Lion King phrase, for it means in Swahili 'No Problems', just as Disney promised us. Therefore, Hakuna Matatu is No Matatus. So, literally correct, and laid back too. There's more coming.


  1. You must have had an adventure. and you got the real feel of the Kenyan people. I like that.....

  2. Thanks Michael! I've still got a lot more Kenyan stories to tell, so I hope you'll pop back to read them.


Powered by Blogger.