Our Matatu Ride - or - How We First Encountered the Kenyan Police

After over a month of not leaving the hospital compound here, or even getting into a car, the feeling of cabin fever had been settling in. So, yesterday, when Rachel and I had our first day off together for a while, we decided that a bit of exploring was in order.

The easiest target was the village of Bomet, about a 5-minute drive away, and the standard transportation to get there is the "matatu", which is a public taxi of sorts, and most of the local ones are similar to this station wagon pictured here, with two bench seats and an open area for luggage in the back.

Our drive there was great. We walked up to the hospital gate, and found a guy that could take us. (He was actually a matatu driver, unlike when the Faders and Cropseys went a couple weeks ago, and later found out that the guy they hired was just a family member who had come to see a patient in the ICU.) Since no one else seemed to be headed our way, and we didn't have correct change anyway, we just paid double to have the vehicle to ourselves ($3).

Wow, it felt great to get away from the hospital and see a bit more of the area! We enjoyed exploring the town of Bomet, which actually has a lot of shops, and we picked up three bags of groceries. Then we asked around, and found another matatu going back to Tenwek. We got in, and there were already two passengers. Great, we thought, we should be ready to go and can pay the normal rate. But we waited, and another lady joined the 4 of us in the back seat, making 5. OK, ready to go? Nope, time for another guy to get in the front, making three. Then another guy, making 4. Then 2 people in the boot with our groceries, making a total of 11. Now, we're ready to go. Oh well, it's a short ride, and what a great experience...

We were about halfway back when the police flagged us over. We didn't understand the whole interchange, but apparently our driver had broken two matatu laws: First, no people allowed in the boot, so those two got out, and they started walking up the road. Second, he wasn't allowed to tint his windows (which they all were), which seems like a reasonable law, since I'm sure the purpose of tinting is to avoid observance of their transgressions. So the police started stripping off all the tinting. I did my part and tore off the tinting on my window, crumpled it up, and tucked in next to the door. Thankfully, then, the police let us go, and we headed down the road.

We had not gone more than 100 meters, when we turned a corner, the driver stopped, and the two people from the boot caught up to the car, and climbed back in, and we drove the rest of the way back to Tenwek. Priceless.

We were right. Nothing cures cabin fever like a little mini-adventure full of awesome cultural experiences.


Anonymous said...

I told Jonathan about your Matatu car ride adventure yesterday and he enjoyed hearing about it too. Love you guys!

Anonymous said...

Eric and Rachel,

I love hearing your stories! We Ameriicans are so guilty of thinking the whole world is just like us...we only see things through our perspective. Thanks for sharing this cultural differences and opening our minds as well as our hearts.
With love, Aunt Linda

afreakforjc said...

what's a boot? isn't that like a shoe?

archyfan said...

ah.....culture. :) Very different than the US. But then again thats half the fun of travel is encountering the differences! Glad it was a relatively benign experience though. Iver heard horror stories.