09/23/2018 - 09/24/2018
The next morning, we awoke to rooster, birds, and other farm animal sounds. We had one last homemade meal and said goodbye to our hosts. They walked us over to the gas station in Kasuku, where we had to catch a matatu going to Nyahururu (the wrong direction). We were told it would be faster to get one going there and then from there an express to Nairobi than waiting for one to come by in the other direction to Nairobi directly.
I'm not entirely sure how correct that information was.
On the one hand, the matatu that picked us up was a local one, with tons of stops. Every few seconds, the drive honked at one of the many people on the side of the road to see if they would nod yes or no. If they nodded yes, the door guy opened the door and packed people in, then banged when we were ready to go. That didn't necessarily mean the person was seated, just that they were in the van enough to not fall out the open door. Then, as people needed to be let out, he banged elsewhere on the van, and the driver pulled over to let the people out. In the course of a very short (few minutes) drive, we picked up or dropped over over a dozen people. In some cases, we had a seat for the individuals. In some cases, the door guy would pack more people in that we really had seats for, or would sort of hang out the door in order to make room for some additional individuals. He also took the money. We paid 70 cents each, which seems more than reasonable for a 10-minute or so drive.
When we arrived in Nyahururu, we bought our return tickets to Nairobi ($5 each) and waited until the van filled up. The guy told us it would likely be an hour, so we checked out the town a bit before settling into the van to wait.
This town has a small grocery store with shelves full of packaged goods. We stocked up on snacks and drinks for the ride.
I'm a bit embarrassed to say it, but I packed a pair of toe socks with two of the same socks, and so I was short a pair. From previous experience, I made the assumption that once we sat in the van, vendors would pop by selling all sorts of goods. I planned on buying my socks from one of these people. And sure enough, some guy popped his head into the van and showed off his box of goods. He had enough socks that I even got to choose the color. And paying 70 cents for a pair of socks is certainly cheaper than having them done by the laundry at one of the hotels we stayed at. Probably, I could have negotiated for a better price, but I figure that I was happy to pay up to a dollar, and the guy certainly needs whatever I could have negotiated off more than I do. I'm happy to support local entrepreneurs.
Other vendors stopped by the van, like a guy with a cart full of eggs and sausages, or another guy with sodas and candy. I'm actually quite impressed with the convenience. Amazon could learn a thing or two. You just show up at the bus stop, and all of the shopping comes to you.
Eventually, the van filled up and we were on our way. The drive was much faster than the drive to Nyahururu because we on'y stopped to let people off, not on, and it was at least an hour before the first person got off. Plus, only a few people wanted to get off before Nairobi.
The return trip scenery was much the same as the scenery on the way up- lots of farmland, people on the side of the road, and cattle. Tons of churches marked every living space as well.
I did notice a few signs that I hadn't noticed on the way up.
First, I saw that we were crossing the equator.
Second, I saw a sign that one of the big scenic viewing areas I had noticed on the way up was part of the Great Rift Valley.
Also, I paid more attention to some of the roadside vendors. Most sold produce, but there was one person who seemed to be selling live poultry. Again, what amazing convenience it is to not even have to enter a store, and be able to pick up live chickens on your way home.
At one point, the driver stopped on the side of the road and went to check on something in the back of the vehicle. In that brief minute, a fishmonger popped her head into the window and offered to conveniently sell us fish. My nose is glad that nobody took her up on the offer, but I'm still impressed with her opportunism.
As we neared Nairobi, the land turned more and more suburban and industrial.
I was amused that in one area of road construction (presumably financed by China), reminders to drive safely (from a Chinese company) were painted on the construction road barriers.
I also noted the large quantity of shuk-like markets consisting of rundown wooden stands that surrounded the city. Once you're actually downtown, the buildings are modern and you forget that these shanty-style structures are so close.
The shuttle let us off relatively close to the Central Business District.
We grabbed lunch at some dive we passed on the way to the CBD. The food was very local (I had beans, cabbage, and fresh chapati), but like most of the food, wasn't particularly flavorful.
When we got to the CBD, we just wandered around for a bit. We saw some of the important government buildings.
We happened upon a market where locals sold crafts. But there weren't a ton of customers in the market- neither tourists nor locals seemed to be interested in it.
Eventually, we made our way to KFC to pick up (cheap) dinner before heading back to the hotel. Here, we were finally able to get some food with some spice. I got a paneer burger, which is not something I've seen before, and it had plenty of flavor.
With our bag of dinner in hand, we went back towards the bus area to get the bus to the airport (#34). It operates like a matatu- only leaving when full. But I don't mean 1 person in every seat full, I mean 1+ person per seat, plus most of the standing room taken.
This is a 3-person job. First, there's the driver. Second, there's the lady who takes money and gives tickets, and has to remember who she didn't have correct change for so that she can catch them up later when people pay her in coins. Third, there's the shouter guy. While we were stopped at the collection point, an old guy kept yelling at passers by to tell them where the bus was going. Once we took off, a younger guy did that.
Similarly to the matatu we rode earlier, he hung out the side of the bus, banging on it to let the driver know what to do. Every time somebody got off the bus, he would make the driver wait until we collected a few more people before allowing movement of a few yards, where he would try again to pack people into the bus.
At one stop, a lady approached the bus like she was going to get on, but saw how packed it was, and decided that she was going to wait for the next one.
At one point, relatively close to the airport, after dozens of people had gotten on and off the bus, we let a bunch of people off and had a spare seat. We were at some sort of very non-busy corner, and almost at the end of the line. It seemed to me that the chances of us picking up anybody else were very small, especially considering I could hear another bus right behind us with a driver that was shouting for customers to the same place. I was so sure we'd just move on. But we didn't. I think the driver of the other bus may have even come and slapped our bus to tell our driver to move, but I'm not totally sure with all of the bus slapping that was going on who was actually doing it. In any case, we did wait several minutes before somebody finally took the seat and we moved on.
Like the other day, we all had to get off the bus to enter the airport area. But really, security is a joke. Half the people set off the metal detectors, and the security guys just waved us all through without checking anything.
Today, since we know where we're going, we were able to get the matatu to drop us near the hotel, and we didn't have to go to the airport first, saving a few bucks.
We had a similar room as before, but no upgrade to free food this time.
We spent a relatively calm and uneventful last night in Nairobi, before heading to the airport.
For breakfast, we again went to Pauls Caffe, but this time I did get the Korean food- bibimbap. While not as spicy as in Korea, and only made with cooked veggies and not fresh, it was surprisingly good.
We had an excess of time before the flight, which I spent mostly processing.
This trip has been pretty amazing at points, pretty hard at points, and pretty educational at points. It has certainly had its ups and downs.
I have to say that the safari definitely made the trip. For me, meeting people I have been working with was also a highlight, even if it wasn't the most action-packed few days of the trip. And as I look back on my Kilimanjaro experience, still coughing from my cold, I have to say that I'm glad I did it. I'm a bit upset that I didn't make it further, but still proud that, even while sick, I was able to get to the last camp and walk out on my own two feet. I don't think I could be convinced to try it again (at least not while I remember this trip), but I don't think I;d discourage anybody who wants to try it from going.