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Published: January 26th 2009
It was nice to leave the congestion of Nairobi behind. I stayed in a comunity called Kayole on the outskirts. Although my hosts were very accomidating I felt cramped. I either had to fight for floor space with my bike or bed space with my host.
Kenya is experienceing a drought, so all the taps in the city weeze dust. Folks must pay to have undrinkable water deliverd in jerry cans labled "sulfuric acid." Lots of things are second hand here and and every one does the best with what there is.
Washrooms of the hole punched in the concrete floor variaty and a shower is a plasic basin of water.
Clubbing, is clubbing and I did it for a night. Or at least I watched people club; trying to hook up or at least have fun. The dancing seems to have no structure to me. Do it with you buddy watching yourself in the mirror, or allown surronded by scattered chairs. But it does explicitly parrell the right way to end the night, if everything goes well.
The unskilled clumsily thrust alone while the able profainly/gracously grind. To men will dance with one anouther, cause men here dance.
Matatos are the public transport, a kind of van/truck that pounds hip hop and sport deceration evenly divided, on a single unit, bettween thuggin and catholic devotion. A decal of Christ, captioned with "Straight to the bank" or "Nasty Bitches" and next to it a picture of Joe gangsta proclaiming "blessed salvation" or "One Jesus".
In Nairobi there is lots of traffic; bikes, motos, pedestrian, donkeys cars trucks.... and very little road, order or traffic control, but as best I can tell it seems to work. Happily the vehicals honk when they need more space, unlike Latin America where they honk for that and for, or in lue, of everything else. There is a real pecking order where bikes are above only walkers. Still it is nice to have the young and old alike jump out of my way. Cyclists stick to the left hand side of the road (traffic drives on the left) but since I can keep up with city traffic I push into the inner lanes. I am the only one who does this.
Getting directions from a stranger has been a pleasure, if the mark doesn't know they will find someone who does. They are quick
to help and if a white guy asking for directions in some slum in Nairobi strikes them as odd, they don't show it.
So far people have been extremely helpfull. To an extreme. If I stop for a moment someone will ask me what I want. It can be a bit over the top at times, I have had quite a few guide tours of little towns, or private properties, "this is the bank, I take you to the store, this road goes to Umabate road" or "these are our chickens, can you see the lake? and this is mouse." Sometimes I can hardly shake 'em.
In Downtown Nairobi, most take it for granted that I am going on a safari. I guess its the thing to do in Kenya.
Cycling west out of Nairobi I climbed out of the valley and quickly plunged into the Rift valley. It is hot 40 degrees hot. The roads have been great and for much of the way the Chinese have been upgrading the highway. To keep the trucks from chewing apart the fresh tarmac they are have diverted them to awfull dirt tracks. So I often have the flawless road to myself.
On the first night I checked into a lodging, using the old tactic: coast into town, find a friendly looking shop, buy a coke or whatever, wash up, ask about a place to stay and on the way as the price. This seems produce a fair deal. Although when I asked a cop about a cheap place in Kampala he directed me to a joint that cost $90 dollars a night.
I have only had the oppurtunity to camp once. It was great, I pitch the tent at a police post 30km outside of Kampala and got down to what I like most, having a friendly chat with someone. This time it was with Katungwensi, an Assistant Superintendent with the Ugandan Police force. This was the 3rd police station I have stayed at, and all have told me about the difficulty of doing the job with such little resources. One, without any leading up to on my part, talked about the bribes he receives to do his job, while anouther told me of how it is enshrined in the Kenyan Constatution that the police have a right to receive payment for protecting personal property, a steel mill or a truck broke down on the highway. I like the police here, in my brief experience they are smart, educated and interested. How they do there job, I don't know. I believe rural police posts will be standard fair for me. So many have warned me about the dangers that exist in the country side. Everone thinks camping, like travelling at night is a bad idea. Poco Loco taught me much of this.
Just past Eldoret on the way to Uganda I cycled up to a string of idleing trucks. Thinking there was a road block or worse I asked the first trucker what was up. He spoke perfect english and explained that many were unanble to make it up the short but steep hill. In the mess a tracked backhoe was empoyed in dragging the less robust up to the top and pushing the hopeless of to the side. The trucker, Poco Loco, told be that the way ahead was dangerous, in light of the string of hijacking and murders that had been taking place. This was also the area that, under a year ago had been the land of the president's tribe whom suffered the violents of every other tribe. Attacking the familly of the powerfull to influence domestic policy seems to be a common tactic. I have seen a number of refugee camps a few hundred metres from the establish towns and roads. UN vehicals and tents are common. Well Poco Loco offered me a ride to the boarder. I took it. Africa certainly isn't hemogenous nor is Kenya. People are very concouse of tribe affiliations here, many seem to dislike the Kikuyu who are popularly regarded as born thieves and thugs. The Asian, like Poco Loco or more specifically Indians are still consitered outsiders are on occation scapegoated and forced out of the country. Famously Imin gave them 90 to clear out, when he acheived brutish power. Inspite of this the Asians seem to be the linch-pin of commercial activity. My first hand expericence being that every gas station and super market is owned and operated by Indians.
Poco Loco is a great guy and he taught me a lot, he loves his country but is disipointed in the part of which it comprises. The corruption of the politicians, the ingnorance due to lack of eduction with the people, the danger and occational brutality. But like others he seems to believe that if one can carve a little piece of stablity and prospertiy one live a very good life in Africa.
In both Kenya and Uganda people to varing degrees can speak and understand (Canadian) English. While in Kenya I had a number of good conversations that seem to go unavoidably to the finacial inequality that exist between us. Kenyans have no inabitions about jumping in and chatting me up or at the very least shouting Muzungu. People in Uganda seem less bombastic. Which is nice too cause I feel some privacy and peace, and on the other hand a bit lonely when no one whats to engage me.
I am in Kampala now, I arrived on Saturday and will waite till tuesday for a the Embassies to open. From here, beuarocracy permitting, I will continue to Rwanda and later Tanzania.
Travel has been a challange, all the tricks I know to advance, eat, and sleep don't really work here. So I am forced to learn and adapt.
My tourist senses are coming back on line. I have been burn a few times already and lead to situtions I would rather had not. At first it really bothered me but know I am learning that I have to smile, acting graciously open while always have my gaurd up and factor the angles.
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