Shit. I braced myself for the impact as the oncoming car slammed its brakes, locking them and coming at us like a rocket, tires spewing blue smoke. Roger, the truck driver I had caught a ride with from Nakuru to Eldoret, calmly hit his brakes. Along with Wilson who was lying on the bunk and Kamau who was squeezed in the middle, we all asked to be spared by whatever divinity drives us – Roger the Dodger.
I just hoped it wouldn’t hurt as I clenched every muscle in my body. Even the ones behind my ears. Oddly enough, with Ol’ Red straddled between my legs, all I could think of was, Don’t let the guitar get smashed.
In the last minute, the driver of the car, upon seeing that he wouldn’t be coming to a full stop without using the truck as a barrier, figured that the smart, life-saving, thing to do would be to swerve towards his right and come to a final halt in the ditch.
Breathing out, I looked back to see that he was alright as we trucked along. Roger tsk-tsk-tsking as I slowly released everything that was clenched. Perhaps preacher David, who picked me up from Nairobi, had sent out a prayer for me. I had hiked from Parklands (where the legend that is Chris hosted me for the evening) to Westlands what felt like 4 K’s in Kenya’s morning sun.
I attempted to hitch along the Uhuru highway (A104) but to no success until I finally caught a ride with Teche.
“I’m a chef,” he said as he drove me five minutes down the road, going out of his way to take me to a better hitching spot. “I specialise in Japanese cuisine.”
“I know how to roll sushi,” I said, reflecting on my days as a manager of a pan-Asian restaurant back in Lorne. Thanking him, I hopped off and, waving on every matatu and bus, began to hitch.
After an hour of nothing I hiked it down the road to the next bus stop where there was shade. I set up shop and for the next hour worked my left arm like a windmill until the only vehicle to stop was one driven by a cop who asked if I was alright.
“Yeah, just trying to hitch a ride towards Uganda,” I said.
“I’m sorry, I’m just around,” he smiled.
“You sure? You don’t wanna go up country?” I asked.
He laughed and wished me well as he drove off. I waited a little longer before deciding that I should hike again. I picked up my gear and turned around to discover a black, tinted-window Toyota Hilux awaiting me.
Where the hell did it come from?
I approached the window and was welcomed by David.
“I’m just heading to Limuru Town, about 20 K’s down the road,” he said.
“I’ll take it,” I grinned, loading my gear into his backseat.
“When I was in Switzerland,” he reflected, “a stranger helped me out and I made a promise to myself that I will always help a stranger in need.”
“Well,” I grinned, “if I ever bump into that stranger I’ll shake his hand.”
The conversation went into the standard, “Not married? Do you plan too? No kids? Do you plan too? Not going back to Australia? Do you plan too?”
I gave him the lo-down of my philosophy – Expect nothing, always get something and plan nothing, you’ll never be disappointed which blew his mind.
“Wow,” he said. “I have never thought of it like that.”
He dropped me by the highway where ten minutes later I was picked up by Philip.
“I’m a policeman,” he said as we headed towards Nakuru, 157 K’s north of Nairobi. “I have been based in Mombasa but now I’m in Nairobi.”
We drove on shooting the breeze. Two hours later he dropped me by a service station where a truck pulled over with Roger the Dodger, Wilson and Kamau who picked me up at 14:00 on the dot.
“We are going to Eldoret,” Kamau said.
“Sweet,” I handed him my gear.
“It is very far,” he continued, trying to discourage me.
Eldoret was 156 K’s north of Nakuru. It should be a two-hour drive by any standard.
“I got time,” I said, handing up my guitar.
“It will take four hours,” he said.
Four hours?!? Welcome to the slowest truck in Africa carrying bags of cement.
At 18:30 we arrived in Eldoret where I was directed to the Hotel Comfy which rejected my barter and sent me to the Hotel Horizon which accepted.
The next morning, after breakfast, I walked back to the highway and through Eldoret, almost getting lynched by the matatu and taxi drivers that were fighting over who will take me.
“Where are you going?” they shouted, trying to grab at me as though I were Michael Jackson.
“I’m going that way,” I grinned and kept walking, ignoring them. They appeared to be in shock that a human would actually utilise their legs for walking.
I finally managed to make some distance between the town and the passenger-craving drivers when Steve pulled over.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Uganda,” I said. Before I could say anything more he commanded me to,
“Get in. I can drop you about 30 K’s before the border.”
Steve is a civil engineer who runs his own company and has been politically appointed to collaborate in putting together a new department for the county of Kakamega (Kenya is divided into 47 counties. Each with their own governor. Kinda like states. Just counties).
“These roads are being built by the Italians,” he informed me as we bumped along an uneven road. “They’re not very good at building roads.”
It wasn’t just the Italians playing the construction game of Kenya. The Israelis and the Chinese were also partaking with better outcomes.
He dropped me off in Myanga where I had barely taken five steps to get over the speed hump when a blue Nissan Pathfinder pulled over. Dusty and full of electronic equipment, Oscar and Moses were doing map surveying for Navtech GPS.
“Moses, you splitting the seas?” I asked him.
“Yeah, I’m gonna take you to the Promised Land,” he chuckled as he turned up Xzibit on the radio. “I love old school gangsta rap.”
After explaining my ways and that I was based in Kilifi for the past four months, Oscar told me how he had proposed to his then fiancée in Kilifi Creek, the very creek I was living by with Musafir.
“I hired a Swahili dhow and we had some wine at sunset and I proposed.”
“Nice one, mate,” I grinned. “Did she say ‘yes’?”
“We got married last year.”
They were kind enough to drop me off at the border post where the boda-boda (motorbike taxis) riders began to hassle me. One guy, with a huge smile, decided to take me for free to save me the walk.
I was stamped out of Kenya (to which I shall return in November) and went to get stamped into Uganda.
Continued in Hitch Hiking in Uganda – Part I