I have had the most adventurous morning! Well, for a former village girl, this is adventure!
Waking up at
5:00 5:30 am, I thought I would have a great headstart to the week. 6:30 am and I was out the door and to the bus stop. After giving a few matatus the ‘I can’t panda you’ stare, I chose what I thought would be a safe bet to ‘Commerical’.
Trundling along, I was busy tweeting to a few early birds (@Joliea who was sandwiched between two men, and @PhillipOgola about the illegality of not taking your TB medication) when I looked up and I was not on my regular route. Instead of going down Murang’a road (which I now learn was closed off for construction) the matatu went down
that junction after Pangani roundabout and before Guru Nanak Hospital junction Park Road. I was in in strange territory. I couldn’t remember the last time I was here.
Turning to the matatu tout: ” Unaenda Commercial”
Tout: Grunt (meaning yes/no).
I didn’t push for a proper response, but my instincts told me this was going to be weird. I was proven right. One turn left, another turn right and we were at Kariokor, and suddenly, the matatu stalled. Waited… five … ten minutes… then the driver gave up trying on restarting it. A twenty bob refund later, I was dumped at the bottom of Racecourse road.
Now, I’m not a babi (burbie), but being left stranded at the bottom of Nairobi’s CBD is not a pleasant thought for a Monday morning. I looked down the dusty road and resisting the urge to speed dial Stephen, my cabbie, I looked up and saw the sky scrapers gleaming, looking close enough for a ten minute walk… Thank God for wearing sensible shoes today!
Quickly following the other passengers, I crossed the road and through the roundabout (and almost stepped on some shit, NKT). Dodging traffic, I found myself onto what I thought was River road and started the trek uptown. Five minutes later, and I was climbing a steep hill. Looking up I saw the sign for Kumasi road and the thought that crossed my mind was “I’m fucked”. I had no idea where I was. I tried to look inconspicuous, not clutching my handbag too tight like it held government secrets, and trying not to look out of place. I tried not to think that Kumasi road leads to Ghana. Muttering my safety mantra under my breath “I am safe. Angels watching over me”, I tried to walk at a steady pace, not run like a bat chased out of hell. (I learned the safety mantra after watching ‘The Secret’, which wasn’t such a secret).
After the first two minutes, I relaxed when I realized not everyone was out to kidnap, pickpocket, snatch my handbag or kill me. They were just regular guys hanging around waiting for kibarua (casual jobs) and/or walking to work. I was still lost though!! Up the hill and I turned left, figuring I must get uptown at some point. I discovered the road where #9 and #4 matatus disappear to once they go down that corner after Odeon. I finally found Malindi Dishes, the famed restaurant. And the shops where I can get the same clothes and shoes I buy for an arm and a kidney.
Suddenly, there before me was the Hilton. Glorious, gleaming, welcoming. I wasn’t so lost after all! I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see a familiar landmark. And somewhere the scent of a donut found it’s way to my nose. A few road crossings later, I had my Bakers’ Inn donuts, and another 10 minute walk to the office. 45 minutes later, I write this…
I had saved Kshs. 400/- worth of cab fare. I had probably lost 1000 calories (and gained them back with this donut). I had walked in places where angels I fear to tread and I felt like I had discovered a whole new world.
Downtown of downtown isn’t such a scary place after all, but I won’t be voluntarily walking there again.