A flier is “received as forwarded” into one of our WhatsApp groups publicizing a road trip & hike to the Aberdare National Park. This flier came at a time when we were eagerly searching for a recreation plot as a crew. This was after exams and this would mean a lot to us as a post traumatic experience release plot. We had various options of which one had already been executed. We had already sat over pizza, and planned the future. Both academic and career. We needed an outdoor plan. Did I say seriously! Maybe not enough… Seriously! Among the options was just a round trip to the Rift Valley and back, another was just a day with nature at Karura, and least favorable to me was a movie date. This was on a tight timeline considering the next semester was already coming in fast. You can imagine the excitement when this flier popped up. We went over the roof with it and started planning. Well, for me there was some initial excitement, but I had a feeling that something was not right with this plan. I dismissed the thought and blamed it on my wallet size and the search for an excuse to exit from this plan. I decided to go along. I continued building excitement around this plan, and I could not wait to get to the weekend to attack. I am a chump for road trips. I tried to wish the rest of the week away so that we may get down to business with this plot. I sent my money for the trip, and waited, as a good boy for cookies. Fast forward to the D-Day.
I woke up extremely early. Usually, I do not sleep for long when anticipating a trip. But this is on the common routes I use. I prefer to rest the entire way, I choose to work through the night or for a larger part of the night, then compensate on the road. This time however, I wanted to have fun and enjoy the trip. I decided to sleep enough. I woke up early though because I wanted to prepare myself, do my devotion and charge up spiritually for the trip. My hiking package had been waiting for me the entire time. I confirmed my cookies were in the bag, my bottle of water (with a generous dose of glucose as usual), my Biscuits, Three Oranges, Two bananas, and 3 of those colored – flavored milks most milk lover likes. I had prepared almost half a kilo of peanuts for the trip. Peanuts are the best snacks to share on a trip – you can give two nuts to everyone and still be the most generous person on that journey. My documents were in order as well, and since we would be going to a high altitude area, I had chosen the warmest of clothes for the day and for the experience. We were to assemble at the KICC Comesa Grounds at 08:00 am and we were instructed to be punctual. I like plots emphasizing punctuality. I could not wait. You should have heard me in that Utimo whistling to tunes as we sped towards the CBD.
I arrived at the KICC Comesa Grounds a few minutes to the stated arrival time. We had been told to prepare to meet the most exciting group of people ever born on the planet. Complete strangers planned for me a trip that would be featuring total strangers. Well, I knew my crewmates and this still felt weird to an extent. It would have been really exciting, had I taken the risk and threw myself to a group of total strangers on this trip. This was neutralized by the presence of my friends. I looked around the parking lot and saw a few people in groups within the parking lot. I anticipated around 30 – 40 on this trip. I expected a tour van of sorts or several of them according to my hallucinations. At least a Rosa. The last time I was picked from the Comesa Grounds, I boarded a nice Rosa. That trip was not as rosy as the Rosa was. Last time was my fault. Anyway, here I am waiting for another bus ride. I made sure my bladder was empty. I did not want any repeat scenes from full bladder bus rides.
My friends arrived a little after 08:00 and we got down to our own business of catching up, checking people out and postulating aftermaths of the road trip. 08:20 and the crowds are getting bigger, and louder. Seemed the chatting got sweeter and better. I happened to look at my phone later to check the level of my battery and that’s when I realized how much time had passed. It was a little past nine. The crowds had gotten way bigger. I checked my phone possibly because of anxiety, and impatience. I did not want to start a road trip with a half-full battery and again the day was aging. Then I saw buses coming in. Drama! Okay, they will probably sue me for calling them buses and calling it drama. Okay, Nganyas made their grand entrance into the parking lot, they came in with their usual noise and ceremony. At this point, I was convinced that this was a rendezvous point for other groups as well and so the Nganyas were not part of our plot. I also noticed that the parking lot was getting jam-packed as well. But this was none of my business. They know where they are going, and I know where I am going.
I got curious and asked my crewmates when this trip would be starting, and if they had talked to the organizers of the trip. They said, they are in touch and we were actually leaving in a few. 10:00 am. We are still here. The parking lot has transformed into what looks like an auto show. I am now very – very, impatient. It turns out that what I thought was another trip that had decided to meet up here was actually our own. I am looking at a fleet of buses all blaring, complete with what looked like conductors and touts. I swallowed a heavy lump. This was not how I envisioned this road trip. See why I hate randoms? “How am I supposed to enjoy a road trip to Aberdare in a 52 seater matatu?” Will they even have stopovers? I am clearly pissed by 10:30. I try to trace the organizers of this trip and ask if Aberdare shifted to Thika and we hadn’t been informed. Maybe Aberdare was actually a recreation center somewhere near Kilimambogo. You can never trust matatu people. “Nilisema Mbao-mbao tao. Hizo ni mbao ngapi umeskia? Leta doh, ama ushuke boss!” I was already doing the math of the duration of this road trip. Inclusive of the stopovers, we needed at least 4 hours to enjoy this trip. The minimum that is. Considering the train of buses on this trip, make this 5 hours. Make that 4pm from the current time. “Hii ni road trip gani, maze!?”
I never traced the organizer because it was impossible to identify the organizer(s) if at all they even existed. This had already turned out into a matatu festival. Highlighting both bus bodies and warm bodies. A few individuals had already taken their doses of intoxicants and were several clouds above the others. This was frustrating. There were people who were actually enjoying this. I mean, someone left their home from I don’t know where to come and climb matatu luggage-carriers and take selfies with pimped out buses at KICC.
This was actually happening. The road trip was a trip to the KICC – I concluded. I was now angry. Picture a fleet of the loudest “most pimped-out” nganya from the major routes around to the CBD. All playing an assortment of music and hooting all over the place. The thought of me getting into one of them was torture enough. I had already formed the worst of mentalities that I could have managed to form. I wanted to ask someone in charge what kind of a road trip this was. Most were actually halfway through their snacks. In the City! At Point A!
We left KICC a few minutes to one pm. Someone I did not know, had already made an idiot out of me for this and I was so pissed at them. By the time we got to the road, I was not even talking to my crewmates. Especially not the one who had introduced us to this plot. How could he!!! At least he could have done a background check. I was already feeling uncomfortable because I felt as if I had joined a matatu crew day out. I mean, I don’t have any other way of describing the level and choice of expression of the excitement that day. Right from the word go, it was just show off. I decide to have fun and tried making a few new friends. This did not go well because either someone wanted me to share their tumbler of spiked juice, soda, some funny looking fluids in bottles, or whatever was in the tumbler, or they wanted me to share my water. This water had glucose. I could not understand why anyone would be on a trip without their own water. The moment we touched the Thika Super Highway, the first cigarette was lit.
I couldn’t believe it! This was not happening to me. I had just gotten myself into a moving nightclub. The girls were getting louder and louder, laughter, screams, calling out Masha, I did not know who Masha was at the time. They were literally competing with the music blaring from the matatu. Turned out Masha was the guy who was attempting gymnastics with the bars on the door. I didn’t really know if they were cheering him on, or they were trying to stop him. I wanted to beat some sense into Masha. Once again, I tried tracing the organizers because I needed to get a bus that was “clean” enough for me to enjoy the trip. It turned out there was no bus for born again people and I had to stomach the environment. “We came to have fun!” they said. I settled on my seat and calmed down. After a short while we stopped.
First stopover; Clay Works! – I mean right after the valley after Kenyatta University. Tell me how much of an insult that was! Most of you would be in jail now for assault had you been in that situation, or maybe still fighting until now. Unless you were in the loop and knew what the plan was. It is almost two pm but we have been “granted” a selfie stop over, and the first stop over was Clay Works, I mean Kenyatta University. It’s still “Nairobi” (For someone from upcountry, KU is a campus in Nairobi) This confirmed to me that I had landed myself into another con game. How was it even possible that this would be an experience worth spending money on? I get so pissed I go back to where my friends were taking pictures and tell them I am going back home. I wont take this nonsense. People are already drunk and disorderly and I am expected to enjoy this trip? “Sasa hapa mnapigwa picha gani? Nini ya kuona? Bricks!?” I vow to myself that I will never! Get into a random plot by unverified individuals. I mean, we cannot even leave our bags in the vehicles because there is a feeling of insecurity in that crowd that you cannot even dare sleep lest you find your shoes gone. Well for the rest, they were worried someone might take a gulp of their Kenya Cane while they were outside taking a leak.
We get back to the buses. By this time, I am sure that there is no hiking we are going to be undertaking. It is just a fake tour. Actually, Aberdare national park was just the nickname for a place somewhere nearby. I had been swindled. The journey progressed, only to stop again at the exit towards Kandara a little after passing the Delmonte Shop. See the kind of mess I had got myself into? This was a short call stop over. How does it even happen some thirty minutes after the previous stop over? Again, this was because we had people higher than a kite like they never got high before. I should not even go to the details of what they were using. I want to cuff someone at this point and drop them off at Kenol police station.
I manage to loose myself on my phone which I decided I would use for reading and listening instead of wasting the battery on taking pictures of this day. I want to blot it out of my memory. After several other useless stopovers, we got to what we were told was Aberdare National Park at around six pm. Who did they think we were? We weren’t going to get inside. This was not even the “real” gate. Picture having to approach Kasarani Aquatic Stadium from Ruaraka, via Baba Dogo, via Lucky Summer and then use that gate facing Kariandundu & Dandora. This was the Mweiga gate. The gate only had two wardens at the time who knew too well there was nowhere these clowns were going. I mean, if they wanted us to enjoy the forest, in the least, we could just have branched off from Thika Highway to end up at Gatura or somewhere there, and then they would have allowed us to get “lost” in the forest, scaring the brains out of those with no prior deep-forest drive experience. They would have been sobered up by the freshness of the air, the darkness, the peace and the chirping of the birds. The reality of animals and being in the jungle and the random hills of elephant excreta would have been so much fun, the next trip would need a train to accommodate the interested parties. Then we exit somewhere at some other corner of the forest, say Mweiga, or even Ndaragwa. These tourists would have appreciated being told that they had just traversed 4 counties while still in the same forest. However, here, khat, alcohol, blaring music and the adrenalin spike from just being rowdy was fun enough to them. They drained my spirit so bad, I wanted to take a matatu to Kerugoya!
We alighted and again, another session of photos, climbing tree stumps and posing with earthmovers that had been parked around the clearing near the gate. This was it. The road trip was done! The hiking had ended. “Pesa yenu imeishia hapo!” Someone pass me a teargas canister! We needed to blow together, choke, cry & cough out the insanity out of ourselves – together! Even the apes & birds around were probably wondering, what sort of race comes with all this rowdiness only to stop at the gate? “We should be out there and they should be in here.”
It was getting dark and we had to return to the city. So we got back to the buses and off we rode into the darkness. We got to Nyeri and again created a spectacle! What was a road trip became a showcasing of buses, beauty and might. We drove up and down streets. We drove along Kenyatta road, circled the roundabouts, branched off, circled the Kimathi Way roundabout like twice for every bus, drove all the way down that street to Temple Road and back up again to Kenyatta Road and then we exited back to the highway. With all their lights, hooting ‘parariras’, & bouncing – the way they do when they have launched a Githurai Route 45 bus. (I have never seen that bouncing on other routes.) – Probably a signature stunt for Thika Super Highway.
We pissed peaceful Nyeri town and we didn’t go far enough before we were stopped by traffic policemen. I am so sure we were set up by a resident of good will. I did not even have the energy to remind my friends that I had told them so! The crews of the matatus got hassled. Their list of traffic irregularities was too long. Now the organizers wanted us to chip in and help them sort the bribe because they would not make any profit if they sorted the bribe themselves. I was not going to contribute to a bribe. Then all day, this is the time I am getting introduced. “Wasee naitwa Kamaa, na sasa kuko hivi…” No way! They could leave me in the middle of the road! I was near home. After all, it was their fault that we were in this mess. We were going to Aberdare forest, not to show off buses.
Courtesy of this, the crews of each of the buses decided, they would drop their passengers at different drop off points within their routes depending on their bus’ respective route. The bus I was in decided it was going to the car wash at Astral and so we were dumped at Garden City on Thika Road.
“Gari imefika, kwao majamaa!”
I learnt my lesson. Some trips are not worth the thought – Look at the flyer carefully it will tell you everything you need to know. Then, ask questions, ask as many questions as possible about the trip. Spending by presence a certain amount of money because you paid for an uncomfortable trip is not worth it. I had so many chances to leave that convoy. Including alighting at Sagana (Most unrealistic point at 95% of the journey I would have left, leaving me with least regret) on the way back and taking a matatu to Kerugoya. I just paid some clowns to waste my day, & actually spent the entire day among them.