When asked what I miss the most about the US, I know I should say my family or my friends. “Food” might even be an acceptable response. But the truth is: I miss the roads. I went to university 10.5 hours away from my parents and then lived 11.5 hours away. I’m a road trip queen. So take it from someone who has conquered the open road and follow these ten steps while driving in Kenya.
- Adjust your expectations: the goal is to survive, not enjoy. Sorry for the misleading title.
- Never trust an indicator light. They might be turning; they might be telling you it’s clear to overtake them; they might not realize their car has the ability to indicate via blinking light…it’s hard to tell.
- Be on the constant look out for:
- motorcycles driving at you from every direction
- herds of cows
- police wanting bribes
- Matatus (public transportation minivans) driving 10k/hour down the middle of the road looking for customers
- toddlers walking alone
- starving dogs
- motorcycles with wide or long loads (like a full size couch or metal poles dragging 10ft behind them)
- baboons looking for corncobs
- produce vendors
- hand pushed carts with jerrycans of water or stacks of tires
- motorcycles stacked 5 deep with school children
- men shouting marriage proposals
- rocks the car cannot clear
- unmarked speed bumps
- potholes that can swallow your car
- About the unmarked speed bumps: pretend they will be in every town and you’ll catapult over fewer of them.
- About the potholes: cross them by any means necessary (go 2k/hour, drive through oncoming traffic, drive in the dirt).
- Most cars don’t have break-lights.
- Honking means, “I’m here; see me!”, Flashing lights mean, “I’m here; see me!” Except when I honk or flash my lights. That means, “COME AT ME! I’LL TAKE YOU OUT.”
- If you get pulled over by the cops: 1) play innocent, 2) show whatever documentation you have, 3) don’t get out of the car (I literally climbed from my driver’s seat to the trunk recently to retrieve my passport without leaving the vehicle), 4) don’t roll down the window, 5) don’t say you’re going to Nairobi. *If you are a man, these rules are different.
- Don’t get attached to your paint job. The whole country is made of concrete and alleyways. I got my driver’s-side-mirror shorn right off in a construction zone last month.
- Pray you have the good fortune to get behind a huge tour bus. They drive super fast and are so terrifying that no one messes with them. If you are behind them you can just drive. Pray you never have the bad fortune to get in front of a huge tour bus. That’s game-over.
Maybe you should just hire a driver and invest in blindfolds.
October 23, 2018 at 12:35 pm
I hope you are compiling all these missives for a book someday. Wonderful writing! Truly can picture your experience.
Looking forward to seeing you on your next trip home.