10 months ago, I published my first article on this site.
I called it, ‘The top 10 tips to survive a long bus ride.’
I know what you’re thinking….who read that?
Well, my 2 readers did. Mum, and this one guy from Zambia.
Typed it on my phone on a bus from Kampala to Nairobi.
On one of those days when dropping out of school was not an option. The semester was beginning so, I had to go.
As I sat gloomily on the bus, contemplating my life decisions, it hit me. You can write your first blog post. It will be amazing. You will be awesome! Lol.
So, I pulled out my phone and started typing…
‘It was a nice Monday morning….' (Don’t all boring stories start that way?)
Anyway, I came up with 10 ‘full proof’ ways to survive a long bus drive. If I’m honest, some of these tips were useful, others were plain stupid.
Let me say this though…
There is no one better suited to share tips on long distance (bus) travel than myself. After all, I have travelled the Kampala- Nairobi route 43 times.
Plus, I have sat on a bus for 36 hours. 36 HOURS!
I was travelling from Mombasa to Kampala. And halfway through Kisumu, we drove straight into a riot. A RIOT, people! (In case you’re wondering, yes, it was close to election time). So, 24 hours turned into 36.
As an expert on this route, the one thing I know for sure is that if you’re travelling to Nairobi for the first time, this journey can be interesting. I mean, there is so much to see.
Let’s assume your journey starts in Kampala. It’s 6:00am. The driver is enthusiastic at this time. There is no traffic. He had a good nights’ sleep. (I assume bus drivers have a strict sleeping schedule, otherwise that would be scary.)
You set off, at 60km/hr. He avoids most of the potholes and slows down when approaching humps. The journey is enjoyable at this point. I mean, you’ve only sat here for 1-2 hours.
Within 3 hours, you’re in Jinja, looking out at the River Nile.
You can’t take pictures here, so you make sure the police officers take note of your empty hands (I usually wave mine around just to be sure. I don’t want to be hurled off the bus in cuffs, and thrown into Nalufenya torture chambers.)
So, you quietly watch the river. And the small bubbles forming as the water prepares for the waterfall up ahead.
Another 2 hours and you’re at the border. This is the most hectic part of the journey if you ask me.
The long queues. The dust. The conmen disguised as 'money changers'.
You begin the gruesome process of filling in entry and exit forms that will be tossed out as soon as your bus leaves.
You finish the border checks. And walk back to the bus.
That’s when you see them… the street kids.
Nisaidiye na silingi kumi, they ask in tiny whispers that could easily break your heart.
They wave their small hands at you, talking in soft spoken tones.
Hakuna leo, you say, and guiltily board the bus.
As soon as you’re on the bus, the loud bangs begin.
The tiny hands make such loud noises as the kids hit the bus, calling for your attention.
At this point, you probably open your window and toss them some of your snacks. The bangs get louder as more kids approach. They know they got you, and your weak spot.
They ask for money. No, demand for money. When you ignore them, their tone quickly changes from soft spoken to screaming racial slurs at foreigners.
For the locals, they use the language you seem to understand to get to you.
Be grateful for the bus conductors, because if they weren’t around, these kids would jump into the bus and snatch whatever they want.
The last time I travelled, I occupied the front seats of the bus. Right next to two Catholic nuns.
When these kids noticed them, they made mock crying sounds, called the nuns mother, made the sign of the cross, called me aunt, then proceeded to insult us all when we didn't fall for their threats. It was quite funny actually.
But in all seriousness, I wonder what happened to make these kids master manipulators. It’s not fair to them at all.
From the border, your next stop is probably Kisumu. The original land of chocolate, if you know what I mean. The land where melanin was invented. Or was it perfected here?
Anyway, so you’re driving past Kisumu International Airport. I can’t help but look around me for all the Luos on the bus. They usually have this smug look on their face. I know they are thinking, ‘yeah, we have an airport in our city. What do you have?’
After a quick lunch in Kisumu, the bus sets off towards Kericho. I am usually asleep at this point so I can't describe much along the way.
With my sunglasses on, drooling all over my neighbor’s shoulder (who didn't invite me to lean on him by the way.) He will slightly move away so I fall forward...almost.
My brain is jolted back to reality and I look at him like he owes me an apology for allowing my head to fall forward.
And I go back to sleep. Only to wake up in Kericho.
There is something very relaxing about Kericho.
Maybe it’s the large tea plantations, or how slow-paced life seems here. Nobody seems to care what time it is. Men and women move through tea plantations at their own pace.
The irony is that this region is responsible for creating some of the world’s greatest long distance runners. So much for the slow pace!
But the city is usually what gets me.
Once there, you will see a big billboard with these words, “VOTE for PROF. PAUL CHEPNOY and another saying, “VOTE FOR ANNE TOO. I am not paraphrasing by the way. Maybe Anne is an extension of Professor Paul.
Oh, wait! It is election time. Maybe that’s why the billboards are there in the first place. But you never know with these Kenyan politicians. This may be a recreational activity or something.
5 hours to Nairobi…
The bus rushes by white houses surrounded by tea plantations as you leave Kericho behind.
And soon, you arrive at this place whose name I cannot seem to remember, ever.
I call it 'The land of carrots' because someone is always trying to sell you some carrots.
This is where us Ugandans pull out our cameras and take pictures. Truth is, many of us have never seen a donkey up until this point. But we won’t admit it, of course.
By the way, the donkey in that Jesus movie, you know, where the son of God has blue eyes and is blonde doesn't count.
3 hours to Nairobi…
You arrive in Nakuru. This place gives me so much hope. It's significance? That it's only a few hours until the torturous journey ends.
It’s usually dark outside at this point, so I can’t describe much as the bus speeds through Naivasha, Narok and the Rift valley viewing point (which is so beautiful during daytime. You need to stop here sometime.)
Then you see several lights up ahead that can only mean one thing. Nairobi city.
When your journey comes to an end, expect to have swollen feet, a full bladder and a mild headache if you’re lucky. But it doesn’t matter, you made it to your destination, safe and sound.
Okay, maybe you could use a couple of tips especially if you’re travelling for the first time. Here are my favorite.
1. If travelling during daytime, forego sleep the night before. You will sleep throughout the journey
2. Make small talk with your neighbor. Unless he seems particularly uninterested.
3. Read a book.
4. Hydrate. Nothing fends off exhaustion like some sleep and a glass of water. Not too much though because these buses don’t have bathrooms on board.
5. Dress up in something comfortable. No high heels and…
6. Get a window seat, to enjoy that good view.
I would like to hear about some of your craziest experiences on a bus, in the comment section below.
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About the author
Hi, I am Angelica, a creative writer with a particularly intense interest in travel blogging.
I started this blog to write about what I love to do...Travel. And occasionally, a few other topics.
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