Sunrise to Sunset
Some of you may have heard of the fire that took hold of Nairobi airport on Wednesday the 7th of August 2013. For us fellows travelling on the 9th, this was an absolute nightmare, some of us were re-routed to Dar es salam and 9 of us on my flight flew to Entebbe in Uganda. There we were to take a coach to Nairobi, we were told this took 10 hours. This is when I learned my fist lesson in Africa.
At 2am we landed and had retrieved our luggage in Uganda, from there Brussels airline had organized for us to get a hotel and spend the night, then get a coach to Nairobi at 5am. After having no sleep on board the aircraft it was fair to say I wasn’t looking forward to having only 2 hours sleep at the hotel. The hotel we stayed at, in Uganda was amazing! This was not how I had imagined my first experience in Africa to be like. When the coach arrived at 6am we were happy to learn that the coach would drop us off in Nakuru. Yes it was going to be less then a 10-hour journey; or so we thought. 16 hours later we arrived in Nakuru.
Lesson 1. The concept of time-keeping can mean something different in parts of Kenya.
At the beginning of the journey I thought it would be the worst coach trip of my life. I have never experienced such a bumpy ride before. Most of the roads we travelled on were not tarmacked and the speed bumps are ridiculous. They are three tiny bumps put close together, and you can feel every single tiny bump in the road at some points I even came out of my seat!
Lesson 2. Some roads in Kenya are not good.
With not much else to do on coach I was constantly looking out of the window of the coach, one of things I noticed at first was there was no rubbish bins. You would not think that such a small thing, as the government not providing bins would have such a big impact. It does. In some areas we passed through they just seemed to be piles of rubbish in streets. Along the road, outside shops and where people live. I have seen children playing in rubbish and some children searching for food too.
Lesson 3. Rubbish disposal in Kenya is different from the UK and lack of funding into the rubbish system has meant that some areas have large amounts of litter.
As you can imagine after being on a coach for 10 or so hours we all decided to stop and get some food at a supermarket, I’m not sure where it was we stopped but it seemed to be a city. From the moment we got off the coach to the moment we got back on I realised that we had managed to draw quite a bit of attention!
Lesson 4. People are intrigued by foreigners.
At some points of journey I witnessed crazy driving; people overtaking carelessly, pedestrians walking on the road and even goats and sheep causing hazards too.
Lesson 5. Road safety is an issue in Kenya.
Watching the people from the window of the coach was almost surreal. You got a quick glimpse into peoples lives for just a second and then your gone. Whilst watching people I never saw anyone rushing around or any evidence of a hectic day or life style. People were just walking around at there own pace or just chilling in the streets. I realized that no Kenyan wishes the day away like many people I know back home.
Lesson 1. Some Kenyans appreciate the day.
After a period of time on the coach I got used to bumpy roads, I even managed to fall asleep many times. Once I accepted this was Kenya and there wasn’t going to be motorways like there are in England I started to enjoy myself, embrace Africa and even enjoy the bumps, it made the trip less boring at some points.
Lesson 2. Roads in Kenya can be fun (if not a little scary)
One of the things I noticed but could not explain was smoke. I kept seeing it throughout the trip but there were never any people around. The first time I saw it I was concerned that it was an accidental fire that needed to be put out. Later it was explained to be that it was rubbish burning. The people saw the rubbish on the streets and knowing there was no bin man or any government council to clean the streets, they did what they could, burn it.
Lesson 3. Kenyans are incredibly resourceful.
In some stages of the journey, when we were going through more rural areas, when people noticed that there were a bunch of foreigners on the coach passing through there town they stopped to look. Some even stopped to wave at us, they didn’t know us, it was just because we were foreign. Children, teenagers adults, even the elder generation would wave. When was last time you were waved at by someone you don’t know?
Lesson 4. People are friendly.
As the sun started to set something strange happened. There was a calm on the bus. None of us had looked at the time in past 5 hours. We had stopped thinking how long was left of the journey. We all had accepted that we would at some point arrive at Season’s Hotel in Nakuru.
Lesson 5. Eventually you will get where you want to be.
I’m not sure if the last one is a lesson to be learned or advice really, but the main thing I will take from Africa and Kenya is that there is two sides to every coin. If you look for the bad in Africa its easy to see, whether it be in its past with the tribal conflicts of 2007, the safety on roads, the police bribery or the living poor living and health conditions. Seeing Africa in this way means you won’t enjoy it or appreciate it, but most importantly you will never understand. You have to look for the good in Africa. Don’t just see the beauty of the landscape and think this is Africa. Africa is not just a beautiful place to visit because of its natural wonders, Africa is beautiful because of it people and there attitude towards life.
A 16-hour coach ride.
All you need to know about Africa.
The best experience of my life.
Written by Celia Moulavasili, 2013 Fellow