How to ride the death-trap matatu

I have just returned from the most lovely weekend just out of Nanyuki, visiting the most lovely Mette and Bochi. It was beautiful. Here’s part one of what I got up to.

The weekend started on Friday afternoon when I headed to downtown Nairobi to catch a matatu to Nanyuki town. I managed to find the right matatu in amongst about million others and soon the matatu tout was rushing over to sell me my ticket, which I’d been told should cost 500/=. Matatu tout didn’t agree and made good effort in trying to overcharge me – after getting over his initial suprise that I was travelling alone (He kept saying ‘I’ve never seen just one before! I’ve never seen just one!’). Top tips on trying to overcharge a lone, female traveller:

  1. Tell them fuel prices have risen in the past few weeks (not true, they’ve actually been slashed by quite a bit)
  2. Pretend you don’t understand English – or their limited Swahili and therefore they will just have to pay the price you ask (managed to break him – by the end of our conversation, he was speaking English fluently. Either he’s a liar or I’m such an excellent English teacher that you can speak fluent English even after one conversation with me)
  3. Try to confuse them by asking them which route they want to travel to Nanyuki by mentioning numerous small towns along the way, even though there is only one main route (nearly worked – I had no real idea where I was going, other than the final destination should be Nanyuki!)
  4. Tell them the price is usually 700/= and you’re doing them a special discount by offering them a ticket for 600/= and they mustn’t tell anyone – it’s a secret between you and them (Shame it’s the most common bartering tool in the book!)
  5. Tell them it’s Friday afternoon and prices go up then because people travelling out of Nairobi for the weekend (Nice try!)
  6. Pull the sympathy act and ask them to at least add a little to the cost so you can buy a bottle of water. It is very hot after all (didn’t work…by this point I was fed up with trying to be ripped off and he wasn’t getting a shilling more than 500/= from me)

Eventually got my ticket for no more that the 500/= it should be. But Mr Matatu Tout wasn’t that keen to let me go, and asked when I was returning. When I said Sunday, he said he’d be waiting for me and I could invite him round for dinner…yeah right! I told him I couldn’t possibly do that because when I was little my mum always told me not to speak to strange men and I was already disobeying that instruction and what would she say if she knew I was inviting strange men round for dinner. And she would know because she’s my mum and mums know everything. He looked a little worried and I took the moment to end the conversation and get on the matatu.

It was then a very frustrating 1 hour 45 minutes while I just had to sit and wait for the matatu to fill (matatus are 14 seater and don’t leave until full).  Not many people seemed to be travelling to Nanyuki on a Friday afternoon (despite top tip number 5). But we eventually left, and the time wasted waiting for the matatu to fill was soon made up by the speed of the vehicle as we bombed along Thika Road at top speed – pedal to the metal. I’m told the journey normally takes 3-4 hours. This journey took under 3 hours, including a break in Karatina town on the way and getting stuck in jam at the beginning of Thika road. I wore my seatbelt. And prayed!

And I made it to Nanyuki town in one piece, where Bochi and Mette were waiting for me.

We did some small shopping and then headed to the base where Bochi’s place is. Bochi is working for ActionAid facilitating some training courses. ActionAid has some buildings for staff, participants and classrooms on the Daraja Academy campus (a boarding secondary school for high-achieving girls who are from underpriviledged backgrounds and wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to go to secondary school), which is where, coincidently, two of the girls from Turning Point are.

The base is right in the bush in the middle of nowhere – a  40 minute drive out of Nanyuki town and the scenery is stunning.

More on what I got up to over the weekend coming soon, hopefully with some pics. Check back later for information on ‘The Day Pippa got pooped on, Bochi went to space, and Mette cooked gooood chicken!’

*matatus are 14 seater Nissan minibus-like vehicles that are known for their shocking driving and high crash rates

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4 thoughts on “How to ride the death-trap matatu

  1. Haha this post made me laugh a lot! Especially the bit about your mum telling you not to speak to strange men! Nice one for getting your ticket at the proper price! Always enjoy reading your updates 🙂

  2. Brilliant, so glad you kept to your asking price! Well done Mumma Wilkinson you taught your daughter well!!! As ever lovely to here about another little adventure Pip 🙂 X

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