Public Transportation for the Win!

The long and bumpy trip to Wamba yesterday has given me a great appreciation for those that have to travel back and forth from the major towns and has made me realize that I have nothing to complain when I take the bus to work; sure, it may double my time to get there compared to driving, but at least I have the luxury of of traveling on newly paved roads and well maintained buses. This trip is already starting to put a lot of things into perspective.

Lucas and I arrived to the bus stop In Nairobi, luggage in tow, and hopped onto a seven passanger matatu headed to Isiolo. While our final destination was Wamba, the town from which Lucas is from and where most of our work is primarily concentrated in, we had to pass through Isiolo where we would change buses. Lucas and I were the second and third to get on and we hopped in the back with Lucas kindly offering me the window seat.  We waited about fifteen minutes or so before the entire bus was filled and then we were on our way! I made sure to take note of the time, 11:50 am. Lucas warned me that if we didn’t get to Isiolo by 4:00/4:30 we would miss the only bus headed to Wamba that night. We could only hope that the roads would be clear and not too messed up by the rain last night. As we left the city and entered into the rural area, you could almost immediately see the stark contrast: whereas Nairobi was filled with buildings, cars, and swarms of people on the street and sidewalk, the rural area along the main road was teeming with a multitude of flowers and plants ( I immediately thought of Alex and my mom who would probably have loved to stop by the side of the road and just study the different types). There were a few people along the road selling citrus and standing around but it was nothing like the crowded streets of Nairobi.

While we were still waiting for the bus to fill up, I had taken out Hunger Game because I foolishly thought I would be able to read on this bus ride. Oh, how silly and wrong was I. Though the road seemed to be paved, it was actually quite bumpy. With little room and no seat belt, it was hard enough to stay in my seat let alone hold a book steady and read it. But I didn’t mind; instead, I just gazed at the beautiful nature surrounding me. The trees and vegetation seemed to stretch on for miles, something that I rarely see in Southern California.

About three hours later, the bus pulled into Nanyuki, one of the bigger towns outside of Nairobi. Lucas’s family actually lives in Nanyuki now in order for his wife, Katherine, and their children to attend better schools. Although we stopped for only a few minutes, it was long enough for me to meet Katherine and one of Lucas’s cousins who had come to meet us. We had hoped to spend more time in Nanyuki but it was already getting late and the possibility of missing our bus to Wamba was becoming greater. With that, we got back onto the bus and headed towards Isiolo.

Finally, we got into Isiolo a little before 4:30. Worried that we would indeed miss the bus and have to be forced to spend the night in Isiolo, Lucas quickly arranged for one of his friends to meet us at the Isiolo bus stop and drive us about a mile away to where the Wamba bus was stationed. When we got into the car, the first thing Lucas asked his friend was if there was peace or fighting in the town (I learned earlier that day from Abdul that there is a lot of fighting among the different tribes in Isiolo) and thankfully there was peace for now. To say we got to the Wamba bus in the nick of time would not even begin to describe it! You could tell how relieved Lucas was to not have to tell Kristen we had to stay a night in Isiolo and to finally get home after a long week. This bus was a full-on bus and looked like an old charter bus. There was probably fifty people on the bus and there boxes and luggages all along the seats, aisle, and a huge stack tied skillfully near the driver. By the time we got onto the bus it was pretty full but Lucas was able to get two seats in the front where he could keep an eye on me.

The first part of this bus ride was actually incredibly smooth. Lucas pointed out to me that the road was even better than the road leading up to Nanyuki or Isiolo partly because it was newer but also because the contracted company was different; this road was done by the Chinese who Lucas commented seemed to be doing a better job and therefore were getting more contracts by the government. I actually managed to get some reading and napping done which was a very pleasant surprise. The scenery was changing as well as I began to see more acacia trees and mountains. More and more people were wearing traditional garbs with the beautiful necklaces  and bracelets that I have seen in countless photos.

We passed by Archer’s Post, an area where we have extended our projects to, and about 45 minutes or so afterwards, we made a left turn towards Wamba and was welcomed by a dirt road once again. At first the bumpiness was nothing new having driven around the side roads in Nairobi that were filled with potholes and puddles. However, about an hour on this road, as the day quickly turned into night, the jolting was like nothing before. Bumpy wouldn’t even begin to describe the road… small hills perhaps? You could hear every single piece of metal on the bus shake as we got tossed around within our seat. The only thing I could liken this to is GhostRider at Knotts Berry Farm, that big wooden roller coaster where you are sitting in the box and you can feel all metal shaking and jolting. At times I was afraid the bus wouldn’t be able to make it but to my amazement it rolled into Wamba as if the journey was a piece of cake. I doubt the most experienced Blue Bus Driver in Santa Monica could have delivered the bus and everyone on it in one piece. As we got off the bus we were immediately greeted by people that knew Lucas. I soon found out that Lucas knows pretty much everyone in town, which his cousin told me has a population of about 2,000 (Lucas later corrected me saying that it is more like 7,000!!!). Just by the way they approached and interacted with him, I could tell that everyone really respects Lucas and thinks highly of him. It is truly an honor to see Lucas in his hometown doing what he does best, community development.

You are probably tired of reading this long post so I will write about where I am staying and my first day in Wamba later today. Till then!

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2 thoughts on “Public Transportation for the Win!

  1. Lucas says:

    i didn’t realized i have an exceptional journalist in wamba-samburu. story well captured. thanks Stephanie for sharing this out.
    Lucas

  2. I read this to Adrien this morning. I started crying. Amazing things to see for the first time.

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