Christmas and new year festivities are here once more and almost everyone in the city is planning to travel to their rural home by all means to catch up with family members after a long year of hustling and bustling in the city.
Visiting Machakos country bus in Nairobi which is the main stage for most long distance vehicles, you experience the real struggle that travelers face to catch a bus to wherever places they are travelling to.
You are welcome by the hooting of vehicles, touts shouting and struggling to woo passengers into the waiting vehicles, those who are on a mission to pickpocket unsuspecting commuters at the stage.
Basically during the festivities this place becomes extremely busy with a hub of activities
Many are times when those travelling to different destinations have expressed their bad experiences at this particular country bus station that they will never forget. Joseph Mwangi recalls vividly during last year’s festivities when he arrived at the terminus to catch a bus to his rural home in Meru and all hell broke loose.
“The touts at the station have this annoying habit of scrambling for commuters, I found myself in the circus when I literally begun exchanging blows with some tout who was dragging me to a Western bound bus.”
The touts here basically are a know it all lot, they pretend to know more than the commuters themselves, they will drag you to any bus whether you are travelling or not.
This ugly incident left him with a torn shirt but he had to travel anyway and he has vowed never to find himself at Machakos terminus whenever he is travelling because here once you are not careful you will find yourself in some village far away from your home that you have never thought existed.
Things get worse when it comes to women passengers with heavy luggage and children. There is this lot at the terminus that offers to transport commuters’ luggage onto waiting buses. Once you are spotted with heavy luggage, they all rush onto your direction and they all want a piece of you yet they are not even sure which direction you are heading to.
Those with carts will struggle for the bags and head to a bus that they think you will board, the touts will snatch your children each headed for a different directions, and the women is also drugged to another direction.
The confusion and the agony that such women find themselves in leaves them traumatized especially with the children and the luggage that is carried mostly by con men that disappear with whatever it is they are carrying for the passengers.
Everything here happens so fast and if one is not careful, they will end up losing everything at this particular point
Getting onto the bus you are greeted by another drama of preachers with Bibles in their hands shouting on top of their voices calling upon the ‘flock’ to repent.
Some of them look so untidy with smelly armpits and sweating as if they have been running around probably from hopping from one bus to the next ‘preaching the gospel.’ They don’t really care which religion you belong to whether, protestant, Muslim or any other faith all they need is the attention which they will get by all means.
What annoys the most about the preachers, once they are done with asking people to repent probably from their preaching, they have this slogan “(Basi nawaomba wasafiri mtoe kitu kidogo chochote ulicho nacho kuniwezesha kuendeleza hii huduma ya bwana).” I now kindly ask you to support this God’s ministry by offering anything you have.
As if that is not enough, once he has collected a few coins from the willing commutes, it is his time to leave and catch the next bus before it leaves the stage, a herbalist hops in.
They are both men and women. They are here for business by selling all manner of ‘medicines’ that they claim is capable of curing all kinds of ailments, they preach as well describing how each one of them works.
They will tell you how that ‘medicine’ is expensive when you buy is at the shops but they are cheaper when you buy it from them.
The herbalist will be crisscrossing in the bus with commuters who are boarding, other hawkers who are selling everything and anything from water to sweets.
The bus will probably be full by now but commuters might end up staying there for another 30 minutes waiting for the conductor, driver and the other touts who have assisted fill the bus causing mayhem before the bus leavers demanding for their share.
Just when you thought you will have a peaceful journey finally, it is now time for the children to begin crying. Probably they don’t want to be carried by their parents, some want to go for short call while others are crying because they are hungry.
The real drama sets in when during the journey the driver makes a stopover probably to go for a short call or buy something and all those hawkers who sell maize and yoghurt arrive. There are these children who want their parents to buy them anything and everything they see to eat. Once they are told there is no enough money then there will be a choir of all kind of screams in the bus.
There are parents who feed their children with too much food; anything their child demands for is bought. Wait until their stomachs starts rumbling in the middle of the journey and they demand to be taken to the toilet.
Others will soil their diapers more than once and when the heat is too much that is when you will see a woman changing them to something else not minding about the smell and the feelings of other passengers.
Most city dwellers also have this weird habit where they literally transport household goods to their villages. They load bedding, furniture onto the bus one would think either they are moving houses.
Travelling by a public means, to the rural areas is really hectic and especially from Machakos Country Bus where in the bus you meet all characters of people.
Some even manner less, with 2-3 children yet they have booked one seat. It will be a long, tiresome and dramatic journey to the unlucky passenger who gets to sit next to this particular lot of 3 people on the same seat.
With the introduction of the 11 seater vehicles commonly known as shuttles which travel all over the country, it has come as a sigh relief to most commuters.
Here, in most cases things are done in an orderly manner with the owners of these vehicles ensuring that rules and regulations are adhered to by all their customers.
“However expensive it might be I would rather board a shuttle to my home rather that pay cheaply at the Machakos stage and experience hell” Says Noel Kagai a passenger.
Whatever means one is using to travel to their rural homes during this time, what matters is safety first; all the passengers need to be vigilant so that they don’t become victims of circumstances that may arise in the quest to travel this festive season.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year of 2016 Folks!
Article by Shillah Mwadosho.