Transportation – Kenyan Style

Traveling around Kenya is an adventure all it’s own!  Personal vehicles are extremely expensive here (we saw a used 2006 Toyota SUV listed for $70,000 USD), so the main mode of transport is by Mutatu (a minivan like taxi).  Unlike public transport we’re accustomed to, there’s not exactly a limit to the number of passengers one can carry.  It’s quite common to cram 16-20 people in one Mutatu.  This human origami usually requires adults to squeeze 4 across and a few others to simply stand in the door and bend in.

While at AMCC, Betsy and I parted ways (a rather rare event here) as I traveled with Pastor John (head of Ah-Gah-Pay Mercy Children’s home) and three other staff members to a monthly board meeting.  We planned on taking a Mutatu, but after an hour of unsuccessfully finding one with enough room, we flagged down a small pickup truck and hopped in the back.  I found the open pickup bed to be preferable for my 6’3″ frame anyway, but my well dressed Kenyan friends were not as pleased with all the dust.

It was amazing to travel in the open air along the red dirt roads winding through the hills and valleys of banana and tea farms.  The three workers riding in the back of the faded yellow truck also seemed to enjoy the company of a Muzungu, giving me a thumbs up and big smile.  All too quickly we reached the trucks destination, so we jumped out and awaited our next ride.

To my dismay, the vehicle that pulled up was another small pickup, only this time a metal cover (not unlike a cage) had been fashioned over the bed along with 2 metal benches running along each side.  The back was packed full with10 adults but they opened the door gesturing us 5 to climb aboard.  I had absolutely no idea where we might fit, but the first two miraculously squeezed on the benches and the rest of us folded our three adult body’s in the isle between the benches as the door was bolted behind us.  Things got interesting as the vehicle turned from the Tarmac onto a bumpy dirt road.  My legs began to cramp as I was in a forced squat attempting to balance. John’s 76 year old father noticing my discomfort invited me to sit on his lap.  I feared my 200 pound frame might crush the kind old man, but I couldn’t maintain my position any longer.  So I bounced around in a near fetal position, partially on the lap of my African grandfather until we reached our next stop.  As the door opened I stumble out only to realize we were not at our destination.  I quickly asked if there was a chance I could ride on top instead of forcing my body back in the sardine can.  They said it wasn’t a problem, so I joyfully climbed atop the vehicle finding a comfortable seat on a sack of flower and hung on.  My new found freedom couldn’t have been sweeter!

We finally arrived at our destination, a small tin shack set on a hillside of banana trees, and proceeded with the several hour board meeting. Our ride back was slightly better as the Mutatu had a small space on the bench this time around, but my hip and a piece of metal found a disagreement.  The final leg of the journey involved a van which John made sure I had a seat in front where I might find the elusive “comfort” in travel.

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