Down Downtown


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 Ā 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.

  • Waah! What a journey! And yea gurl…if you lost some pounds then #waytogo!!

    Oh, and my trip was free!! yippie! The dudes wa niice šŸ™‚ didn’t talk to them tho, felt bad about that *hmm*

    Good thing u wa safe…i also dread those downtown routes filled with kyuks!! *shudder*

    • Maybe they’ll stop for you kesho.
      As for me and my calories… I-I-I- will shed some more {OK, my lame attempt at being Eykko Dyddah (sp)}

      • Sounds like you are having the most aznaimg time, can’t wait to see the pictures and hear all about it! Have fun in Nairobi, the animal orphanage sounds exciting x

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  • Nairobi can be such a maze even for some of us born here. I still don’t even know half of those places you named. Had no idea we had a kumasi rd

    • I second this! Huko ni wapi wewe! U sure u wa in town? hehe

      • He he. I can take you two downtown! Mimi ni certified tour guide sasa!

    • I kinda find my directions by remembering street names, not landmarks, lol. At least this Kumasi Rd doesn’t go to Ghana

  • swambi

    Lol. Thats hilarious!! I would have been the girl speed dialling the cabbie telling him I’d double the amount if he got there in seconds!

    • Si you know me and how I hate walking, unfamiliar settings, etc… Willpower I tell ya. Sheer willpower!

      • To think simply how many times of the c’try GDP might be a ltilte misleading. Singapore’s GDP is many times that of Kenya.If you convert Kenya PM’s salary and use our GDP…he is only making 8X our GDP while LHL earns about 41X our GDP. We must also look at the size of GDP & population for a better gauge Our GDP per haed is just about 2~3K more than USA but LHL earns more 5.4 X Obama’s salary.

    • How exciting! Congratulations on geitntg to see the fruits of your labor. I really appreciate follow up projects like this; it is one thing to do a one time building project, but it is so much more valuable to go back and continue to work on the place that you started. Are you a not-for-profit organization? I’d love to check out some of the other projects you’ve worked on.

  • I echo your sentiments. Yesterday night, I gave someone a ‘push’ to commercial, where I haven’t been on foot for almost 3 years. My ‘ubabiness’ must have been quite plain for the regulars there as I fished out my phone to make a call near the 106 stage. As I was walking back up near Stanchart which is across Galitos near a crowded temp hawkers market, some three fellows tried to distract me by asking for a 20 bob while gunning for my bulging pockets. Luckily I am super paranoid so I was able to evade them by pushing them away and moving to a more open area. Just goes to show how dangerous the streets downtown can be even with hundreds of people around you.

    • The worst thing is if you’re mugged, no one tries to help you.

      • The photos of the girls in white that look like they were going for the gddseos look,is a hot mess! I’m not feeling them at all. The others are ok but if they are suppose to be some high fashionistas I’m not seeing it. Even with the fab shoes, their photoshoot looks low budget #fail lol

  • – Pat Stratton (Grandma) All of the pictures were so betuufail!!! What a beautiful bride and handsome groom The wedding party also was very awesome (especially my granddaughter, Marisa).. I so enjoyed looking at all of the pictures. What a betuufail wedding.Lindsey you forgot one picture..but..on such a special day I forgive you. You are more beautiful than ever. Have a wonderful life my dear. Love Grandma Pat