Reiservaring Kenia (Dagboek) - Transport in Kenia

Throughout my stay in Kenya, getting from A to B has been a source of continuous adventure. When strolling around the streets of any Kenyan town, apart from the car horns and market quarreling, you can expect to be continuously greeted with the question “taxi?”. In this country any car can be a taxi, and any scrap of metal can be a car. Irrespective of whether it has a ‘TAXI’ sign perched on the roof, a running meter, seat belts or interior cushioning. Due to the strong competition between the many drivers, they have learned some sneaky ploys in order to generate an extra shilling here and there. Besides nearly pulling bypassing pedestrians into their cars, a common phenomenon is cabbies confidently nodding their heads when a customer exclaims his/her desired destination, assuring him-or-her that they know the mentioned address as if it were their own. They then proceed with a random joyride towards the other edge of town, afterwards asking, with an ever confused and gloomy expression, for some extra money to cover the extra travel expenses. This strategy of asking for more money than initially bargained for is, in general, a rather frequent reoccurrence, often leading to a heated my-word-against-yours debate. The Kenyan coastal area is also teeming with other forms of personal transportation, cheaper and more entertaining than the conventional taxi-car. Inspired by street-scenes of South-East Asia, an easy way to get around is by one of the countless tuk-tuks. Fast and somewhat comfortable, I used these three wheelers for most short trips around the area. For a bit of an adventure and a very fair price you can hop on the back of a piki-piki, the speeding motorcycles. But without the provision of a helmet and their full speed zigzags, they are not for the faint-hearted, especially when travelling along the brittle rock and sand-roads. Cheaper still are the boda-bodas, basically a rickety bicycle with a happy cyclist offering a dink on the back. During my stay, when traveling between the orphanage and Malindi town, I would often hitchhike the 15 minute drive. Once with a lorry carrying large sandbags, from which I clumsily dropped my lens cap (which generated a full-on search expedition in the dark with all passengers involved), once with a small bus, which refused herds of eager African hitchhikers before presenting us with their vacant spots, and once with a large open truck, transporting an immense pile of sand. While the six other male roof-riders were comfortably stretched out on the pillow of sand, I was tensely clamping on around me, hoping to prevent the next bump from propelling me into the surrounding sugarcane fields. The most memorable means of travel, however, has got to be a ride in one of the numerous matatus. These small passenger busses, plastered with huge stickers praising baby Jesus and Puma sneakers alike, are the ultimate example of maximum profitability. The basic rule of the matatu is “we are never full”, which is adhered to ever relentlessly. A single unit has 5 rows of seats, which, in Holland, if things get really wild, would host a maximum of 15 squeezed passengers. In Kenya basic geometrics play out differently, with an easy 30 people being able to hitch a ride. The fares are cheap and the experience is fun. Just be prepared to share the personal area surrounding your face with a local armpit!

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