Backpacking to Kakuma Refugee Camp:Nairobi-Kitale (Part 1)

PART 2:Backpacking to Kakuma: Kitale to Lodwar
Reading Time: 6 minutes

What most men will not readily agree is that when traveling by bus or whatever means, they always wish they sat next to a beautiful girl. Especially, if they saw one in the waiting room.

You have an uncle who once traveled with this girl from Mombasa to Kisumu. But by the time they got to Kericho, they went to a lodging and had unprotected sex.

The morning after, he was so bothered, he ran to a hospital for some Post-Exposure-Prophylaxes (PEP). He says he stopped behaving recklessly. No one believes him, not even himself.

But beautiful girls in buses are rarely in a mood for a good conversation, unless they want to borrow your power bank. Do you ever stop to think why everyone is traveling? Because in buses, everyone always seems bothered, restless and lost in their thoughts. And in Africa, people traveling to the countryside are always traveling for sad reasons; funerals, sick parents, land disputes, or to bring avocados. Anyway.


You are one of those Kenyans who have never traveled outside your village and Nairobi where you have lived for 20 years. Maybe you went to Coast on a school trip or Drama Festival. But you are adventurous and let’s say on a random weekday in February, you decide to execute one of the trips you have been arranging for more than five years. But you have had neither the time nor the more (mostly the money), so the trip has only been in your head. Now you have both. 

On the night before you travel, your irresponsible friend Kennedy invites you to the recently opened Craig Lounge in the Southfield Mall on the Airport North Road. Good place. Great view. Good samosas too.  

A few cold brownies, Ken decides that beer is expensive and orders a smoking (pardon the pun) Famous Grouse. But you have never known with which is the best speed to attack good whiskey. So, you go a bit hard and fast. Two hours later, you are so drunk, you can hardly walk home. Your wife carries you home, literally. Once home, you throw up everything you have eaten the last 7 days, and you can feel your lungs and pieces of your spleen and liver come out.

You were supposed to take a mid-morning shuttle Matatu to Kitale, a 7-hour journey so as to arrive in in the evening but around 10.30 a.m. of the traveling day, you feel like sleeping on your head. You are having such a bad headache, you want to die than endure it. Two painkillers, 10 litres of water, a cold shower, is all it takes for you to even sit down. Man. The person waiting to receive you in Kitale has called you no fewer than 69 times, the fools he is, he can’t figure out there is a reason why you are not picking the calls.

He explains the story so calmly, like a man narrating the best sex he ever had, from an unexpected woman. Man.

At around 2 p.m.  you manage to walk to the stage, sweating unevenly, parts of your head still aching, and you feel like you are floating around. More water.

You get to NextGen and you want to eat something. You order a kingsize burger from Burger King. It is well done and you eat the meaty part and cheese and abandon their bread and you proceed to town to get a ticket. At the stage, the ticket lady lies to you they are missing like four people when you are actually the first one.

It is 3.30 p.m and you hope that within an hour, the vehicle will be ready.

Your friend in Kitale, Griffins, assures that the earliest the vehicle will leave Nairobi is 7 p.m. You pray that he is wrong. You hate it when people are right on their predictions. Nothing vexes you more than the gloating “I told you so”. You decide to go to a bar called Salt on Mfangano Street that you last went to in 2012. Back then, the waitresses wore kinky hot pants and fishnets and they had the best Happy Hour on Thursdays accompanied by the best Rumba anywhere within the Tropics. 

The place looks a pale shadow of its glory days. You order water and tune in to Facebook and mindlessly scroll waiting for your Kitale Shuttle to fill up. Apparently, not many people go to Kitale weekdays, farmers really don’t travel. Your intellectual buddy, Paul joins you and you order some well-done beef and rice and at 7.30 p.m. you go to the stage only to be told the car was full minutes ago, but some three idiots changed their mind and chose to travel with another shuttle-line. What is wrong with people?

You wait for another hour before it fills up.

In the end, there is no beautiful woman. Only one lady who sits next to you and she looks like she is hitched. And in need of sleep. Never understood people who sleep in buses. The rest are youthful men and one chatty KDF middle-aged guy who colours our trip with amusing anecdotes.

Soon as we are in that Haile Selassie stretch where young men snatch phones from matatu passengers with hawk-like efficiency, we get into a heated conversation.

You share an anecdote, about an incident you saw last year. Some chokora wanted to steal from a guy in a Double-Cab. The Double-cab guy laid a trap and as the chokora approached the car, ready to steal his phone or side mirror, the man was ready with his penknife. The chokora was stung like three times by the knife before he could escape. Served him right on a Tuesday afternoon.

Our KDF guy, in the thickest, if comical Kalenjin tone tells the matatu of a day some guys tried to hijack a bus they were traveling in and they overwhelmed them and retained one of them, whose fingers he cut with his pen-knife. He explains the story so calmly, like a man narrating the best sex he ever had, from an unexpected woman. Man.

Anyway, soon you are down to Nakuru, but not before stopping by an abandoned Petrol Station near Limuru where you fuel and the journey officially starts. The music is thankfully Bongo. The KDF guy says he needs maximum volume. Sigh. The music is tolerable.

Near Naivasha, a Mash Poa bus does the most dangerous overtaking that forces you out of the road. Mark you, you are in your lane.

Near Nakuru, you stop where the Shuttle stops for meals and bathroom breaks. You head to the bathroom and take such a long piss, releasing a fart so loud, it can be heard in Botswana. Your mouth is burnt by the whiskey so food is still bland, you risk and take a cup of tea during the break. It is midnight, Tottenham has killing Manchester United, but lately, you feel nothing about football.

The gods of the city could not accept such amount of disrespect since he finished college, seven years down the line, he has never gotten a job, anywhere within 300 KM to the city

You catch up with the KDF guy. You discuss the swearing-in. The KDF guy gives that insider, if privileged information that Kenyans so much like to give.

“We knew these guys planned a massacre. So we withdrew and spoilt NASA’s plans…”

“Since you a Raila lover, you comment about the swearing-in, noncommittal, since the driver who is eating with is Kikuyu, so you must respect his sensibilities.

“It is fine they switched off the television, imagine if something nasty happened the Kikuyus blocked the road in Naivasha and revenged like in 2007?” he asks, rhetorically.

He actually makes sense, citing the wisdom that runs the big government, but it is all bullshit. You want to get to Kitale.

As you enter the dreaded Salgaa stretch, you are hoping, nothing bad will happen. You doze off, once or twice.  And when climbing some hill, some trailer blasts it is horn so loud like it has lost its breaks and by the time you cross each other, your intestines have twisted into a painful knot. Death is easy on Kenyan roads.

Nothing much happens on your way to Eldoret, except that you notice in Eldoret, there are more petrol stations than there are people. Past Eldoret, a few guys start to alight and one guy, who also tells you is with KDF alights and tells you he will cross a ridge to the other end and he is afraid of nothing. You like the simplicity of the village and courage growing up in one offers you.

At 4 p.m, you arrive in Kitale, you take a boda boda to your friend’s place, not too far from town. It is chilly, and it breaks your bones, but soon you are home. You apologise to the friend you have kept waiting. And tell him, it is the alcohol.

Your friend Griffins was with you in college. Back in the day, he used to uproot billboards, urinate on Uhuru Highway after a night out of drinking and groin-rubbing with female strangers in clubs. The gods of the city could not accept such amount of disrespect since he finished college, seven years down the line, he has never gotten a job, anywhere within 300 KM to the city. Serves him right. Nairobi is better off without him. Again, who will receive guys in Eldoret if not Griffins? You know, everyone plays a role in the bigger picture. 

You text your wife and anyone who knew you were on the road that you got to Kitale safely.

You grab two winks since you have to wake up, do some job before you can set out to Lodwar later in the day.

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