Saturday, June 30, 2012


On Sunday, June 10, Cale and I rode his moto up to Eldoret.

He promised not to buy another motorcycle this summer (since he bought one last summer and the summer before). I suppose, technically, he didn't buy this motorcycle. He has just entered into a long-term leasing arrangement for a motorcycle that someone else bought brand new mainly because Cale was going to use it. I say, same same.

Before I talk about our trip to Eldoret, let me just lay out the different vehicles on the roads here.
  1. Bicycles. I mistakenly thought all bicycles were called boda-boda; however, as I was typing this entry Cale and Elpharz (pronounced El-fis) corrected me. In Kenya, boda-boda is a taxi (whether it is a bike, moto, or car). The bike boda-bodas are often elaborately decorated and have large, padded seats on the back. I have not ridden one here in Kenya. I did in SE Asia.
  2. Push/pull carts. This is some sort of wooden frame being pulled or pushed by a person or a cow or occasionally a donkey (mule? I dunno). 
  3. Piki-piki. This is a motorcycle. I keep calling the motorcycles around here motos because that is what they were called in SE Asia (at least in English). However, I need to stop that because moto apparently means fire in KiSwahili. Though there is no wikipedia page for piki-piki, it is pretty clear from an internet search, this is the common name.
  4. Matatu. A matatu is most commonly a 14- or seven-seater van. They are usually the style of van that we might call a Euro-van in the US, and, thankfully, they are not the style of Ford vans that the IU Overseas Studies Office forbids the use of.* This is the most common form of public transportation between towns in Kenya. 
  5. Coaches. These are large, long distance buses. Think greyhound bus.
  6. Cars. Of all types.
  7. Trucks. Of all types.
  8. Lorries. Semis and tanker trucks. That always seem to be hauling petrol and say "danger" and "explosive" on the side. You know, for safety.
  9. Cane trucks. Huge metal frames hauled behind either tractors or semi cab typically overflowing with sugar cane on the way to the processing plant.
*When we first learned in Overseas safety training that the office forbids the use of 12-15 passenger vans, I just about lost my mind. How am I supposed to transport a program with 13 students around Kenya if I cannot use 12-15 passenger vans? Luckily, as it turned out, they only referred to Ford vans that have a tendency to tip over. I don't know if I have even seen a Ford vehicle of any sort in Kenya.

The ride up to Eldoret started out with a wrong turn (we went for petrol first and then continued on in the wrong direction for just a bit), but we managed to turn ourselves around and head in the right direction. Since it was a Sunday, the roads were not as bad as they could be. However, there were still cane trucks and lorries passing by at high speeds and us on this little 100cc bike. So in Kenya there are not really speed limits. Instead some types of vehicles have "maximum" speeds they are supposed to go and these numbers are displayed on the back of the vehicle. You can buy the stickers in the store and they come in 30, 50, and 80 km options. So, for example, all matatus should have a sticker that say 80 km and are not supposed to go over that speed. In fact, they are all supposed to have speed governors that stop them from going over that speed. My understanding is that those are frequently disabled. The big lorries are supposed to have 30 km stickers. They typically go 80 km or more (at least that is what it feels like). Private cars and piki-piki have no speed limits.

In addition to the lack of speed limits, there are also no traffic laws really. Other than the general understanding that you should drive on the left. You will often find, on a two lane road, a slow truck that is being overtaken on the right (so in the land of oncoming traffic) by a slightly faster truck, which is being overtaken on the right (so on the "shoulder" as if a shoulder existed) by a car, which is being over taken on the right (so lord knows where) by a piki-piki, as piki-piki and bikes pass going the other way even farther on the right. On several occasions, Cale has had to drive his moto off the sliver of road he was using because the number of vehicles trying to pass each other go across the entire road.

In addition to no speed limits or traffic laws, the roads are in deplorable shape. If the road is "paved" (and I used the quote marks on purpose) it will be just filled with giant potholes. Sorry, GIANT potholes. If the road is not paved, well, yeah. Cale made a video of motoing in Kenya. As soon as I get it from him, I will post it.

So anyway, we piki-piki up to Eldoret. I think it took like four hours. We didn't die at all.

When we got there we stopped at the guesthouse recommended by Hannah the Peace Corps. However, there did not appear to be any safe place to park the moto. So we went to the Nakumatt and sat on the "first floor" (which, is actually the second floor, but the first floor here is called the ground floor) and used the internet to find a new place to stay. We ended up at the Watercrest Gardens. It was really nice (and a little pricey really at 3500 Ksh per night for the two of us not including meals). We took hot showers and relaxed in the front yard with a plate of chips and some Tuskers. While we were outside relaxing, the chef (in a chef outfit) came out to ask us what we would like him to make us for dinner. Knowing that they would try to accomodate anything we asked for and not wanting to be difficult, we instead asked him what he had for dinner. He told us about a nice chicken he was making along with soup and rice, etc. It felt pretty luxurious to have the chef come out to discuss the night's meal with us and it felt even more luxurious when we sat down to the three-course meal.

There was another mzungu at dinner who sat at another table and didn't say a word the entire time. We also met Geoffrey and Linda, who are the owners of the guesthouse. Geoffrey is a minister, and interestingly enough, lived in Branson, Missouri for a while and Atlanta, Georgia as well. We had a nice talk with them.

Tune in next time when I talk about our return visit to Rivatex to pick up Cale's suit and the hilarity that ensued.

— Sara

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