Zach has given us the fundamentals of transportation options in Kenya, and their relative pecking order on the roads. But first
some basics of traffic laws in Kenya. If there are laws, they aren’t followed. That makes driving in Kenya somewhat
nerve racking. The term used is defensively aggressive.
Amagoro is on one of the main truck routes
from the port in Mombasa to Kampala Uganda, so there are lots of trucks. The trucks are at the top of the pecking order and go where
and when they want to, at least until they get to the border (more on that a little later). Next come the large buses. The two main
routes are Kampala to Nairobi and on to Mombasa, and from the border town of Malaba to Mombasa. These buses are the Greyhounds of
Kenya. They go fast and only yield to the trucks. Zach has Toyota Land Cruiser with a large reinforced steel bumper. The bumper
gives the Land Cruiser a spot above the main form of vehicle transportation, the Matatu. A Matatu is a Toyota manufactured
van that is designed to seat 7, but has been modified to seat 14-16. Zach says that Matatu drivers are crazy, but are the most
skilled drivers on the road. The Matatus travel from town to town picking up travelers along the way. The matatus rarely go off
the main road because the side roads are too rough for the vans to travel. Cameron is the only one of us to travel in a matatu.
He has been taking it when he goes to the local hospital. There are relatively few private vehicles here, and if you don’t have
a bumper like Zach’s, then you fall in line behind the matatus. The vehicles here take an absolute beating from the roads.
Even the main highway has spots that most cars can’t navigate due to huge ruts and grooves in the pavement, so a 4 wheel drive
high clearance SUV is what you see most of the time. The piki piki is next form of transportation. A piki piki is a small
chinese built motor cycle with a 125cc engine. They have a large seat, and I have seen a many as 4 people on one. The piki piki
drivers typically wait at the matatu stops waiting for passengers that need to travel off the main highway. They are by far the
most numerous motorized vehicle on the road. The final mechanical means of transportation is the bicycle. These are the workforce
vehicle in this part of Kenya. They carry people, water, wood, gasoline, beds, food, basically everything. Since most people
live off the main highway, the bicycles are quite prevalent on the side roads. The other main form of transportation is walking.
There are always lots of people walking along the roads. If I were to guess, the number of people walking outnumber the total
number of passengers riding the buses, matatus, piki pikis, bicycles,
and private cars.
When we traveled to Uganda, the main highway was in much better condition. The side roads were basically the same rutted dirt
roads. A person we met on the raft trip, who has relatives living in Uganda said the Ugandan roads get worse the closer you
get to The Congo border.
Going through the border was not too hard for us, but the paperwork required for Zach’s Land Cruiser takes a while to sort through.
The hardest part of going through the border was getting across the bridge into Uganda. The bridge is a two lane road with trucks
buses, matatus, piki pikis, cars, bicycles, and people all jockeying for position. Since we have been here, we have
seen the line of trucks backed up from the border to past Amagoro, about 4-5 miles waiting to get into Uganda. So when this happens
driving can get entertaining because all the other forms of transportation still want to move. So you have a two lane highway with
little or no shoulder, with a line of semi-tractor trailers parked for 4-5 miles in one lane. The other single lane now has the
buses, matatus, cars, piki pikis, bicycles, people walking, sometimes cows, a few donkey carts and the ever present chickens
going in both directions. An interesting point to note is that I have not seen any accidents yet.
Will, Alexis, Bree, and myself had an interesting issue when coming back into Kenya. The exit stamp that the Ugandan customs
stamped on our passports had 15-Jul-2011. It should have said 31-Jul-2011. We didn’t notice this and the Kenyan customs
said they cannot accept that stamp, since the Uganda entry stamp had the 29th as the date and you can’t go backwards.
They were unyielding, so we had to go back to Uganda to get a correct stamp, but now there was a bad traffic jam on the bridge
so we all took piki piki rides back to the customs office in Uganda to get the correct stamp. Zach and Cameron didn’t have
this issue because they were in a different line. With the new stamp, the Kenyan customs agent was satisfied and stamped our
passports so we could get back into Kenya.
I have taken a lot of video of driving around Kenya, and when I get back I post some clips to show what I have been talking