“Do you want to try and get a lift from here or should I take you to the tarmac road?” Jeremy asked at the intersection.
We had just come off Alex’s Incisor, a 65-meter rock that we climbed in preparation for our ascent of Mt Kenya’s peak with African Ascents in the Aberdares National Park. My next destination was to reach Nyeri, on the other side of the range.
I looked down the dusty, desolate road. I had a tent with me, warm clothes and an apple. “Yeah, I’ll get off here, mate,” I grinned. “Part of the adventure.”
We parted ways and I began to hike in the direction that would take me to the highway to Nyeri. I had no idea of the distance but I was still high from the morning’s climb and I had at least four hours of daylight ahead of me.
Worst case, I’d pitch a tent somewhere.
Three minutes later I was almost kidnapped onto a bus. Instead of money, I played a few songs on Ol’ Red which took me as far as the junction where a left turn would take me to Nahuru and a right turn to Nyeri.
We bounced over shoddy roads as the conductor hung onto the side of the bus screaming repeatedly into my ear the names of people on the road and the villages we passed. It’s not the noise of the bus was so deafening that he needed to scream. Let’s just say that I and my left ear were happy when he was swapped with a softer-speaking conductor.
I was squashed into the front row with my backpack and guitar. I had to lean out of the window, which the conductor kept banging on to notify the driver to continue after we stopped. I waved at the villagers who smiled and eagerly waved back from their laidbackness on the grass. Two hours later, half-deaf but with a smile on my face, struggling to believe I had just scored a free ride on a bus in the middle of nowhere, I thanked the driver and conductors when they dropped me at the intersection.
That’s what I love about Africa. Everyone is eager to help and money isn’t always a factor. Especially when I tell them that, “Music is my currency.”
The intersection was crowded with boda-bodas and matatus. I hiked up the road deterring away the wants of the riders and drivers to take me and as I looked back to see what potential ride was coming up I stuck my hand out for the pick-up truck that rolled to a slow stop.
“I need to get to Nyeri,” I informed the driver and his co-passenger after they let me in.
Ophia and Alicia happily conversed with me as I regaled my travel stories. I was telling them of my experiences in the Masai Mara National Park and how I had obtained a shuka (a traditional Masai blanket from the village elder).
“The Masai live like animals,” Ophia spat in disgust.
“No,” I corrected him. “They live with animals. And besides, humans? We are animals. We all live as animals just in different settings. The Masai are very friendly.”
Ophia pondered on this as we passed what appeared to be a blue-roofed village.
“What’s that?” I asked them.
“It’s displaced people,” explained Alicia. “In the 2007 election violence, 600,000 people were displaced by Odinga (then president) supporters and were forced to live where you now see.”
“You mean, those folks are refugees in their own country?” I blinked.
“Yup,” he said.
I was a bit shocked by this revelation. The complexity of Kenya’s – and indeed – Africa’s politics – were something I don’t think I’d ever comprehend. Especially since I don’t even try.
“You guys want some water?” I asked, trying to find a way out of the political conversation.
They politely declined and after they let me borrow their phone to call Aleks, who I was visiting in Nyeri (and had no idea that I was arriving), the guys went out of their way to drop me off at the Barclay’s bank.
“We are just passing through Nyeri,” Alicia said. “But no problem. We can take you to your friend’s.”
Have I mentioned the friendliness of Africans yet?
I waited at the bank for a few minutes as I waved ‘goodbye’ to my ride and hopped into the car Aleks had organised.
I looked forward to defrosting from my Aberdares experience with a hot shower.