Friday, March 14, 2008

Isiolo, Kenya - and the road to hell...


crummy picture of mt. kenya, tallest mountain in, you guest it, kenya at 5199 m. my apologies for the the high tension wire in the frame. I had to climb over someone to take the pic.

came all this way to africa only to find longview, alberta...where's ian tyson when you need him?

isiolo's main street...a few metres behind me was the end of civilization as i knew it (until Ethiopia)...

one of isiolo's back streets. i have no idea why people live here. there's absolutely nothing here...

[ed. note: for those keeping track, isiolo is located here: N00 21.106 E037 34.901]

Ok, I'm here in the feared town of Isiolo. First took a matatu to the town of Nanyuki (two hours). Road was fine. The climate has certainly changed. Palm trees in Nairobi have given way to rolling fields of wheat. Reminds me of the prairies of Alberta. I wanted to take a picture of Mt Kenya but was sitting on the wrong side of the bus. On the map, the mountain is on the wrong side!

It was a quick matatu change in Nanyuki and then a really short ride (along more fields of grain) to Isiolo. It took 1.5 hours on a painfully slow matatu (180 KSH). LP (lonely planet) said the trip would take 3 hrs! Normally I'm pretty alert when entering a new town, but I was caught dozing. When the bus stopped on what seemed to be the main street, I had to ask the lady beside me to confirm that it was indeed Isiolo. I felt like such a confused tourist stumbling off the bus, stunned by the intense midday sunlight and ever present dust.

10 seconds didn't go by when I heard the word mzungu. Next thing I knew I was accosted by 2 kids asking me for money and jobs. Gimme a break people...I'm half asleep. I then dragged my sorry backpack, sitting in a sea of dust, to the veranda of the closest building.

I sat there for awhile trying to gather my senses. I just remember alot of people milling about, some in colourful tribal dress. Close by were a group of nattering young men huddled together like they were playing some sort of gambling game. I swear I stepped into a spaghetti western starring black people. All that was missing were horses and a gunslinging sheriff.

A young man in perhaps his twenties (hard to tell) spotted my clued out face. He asked me, in the worst broken English, what I was doing and whether he could help. I asked him about the trucks to Moyale (the Ethiopian border town). He pointed to the main street. He wasn't sure about the details though. He said he could find someone who could help. We walked to the Morcharo Hotel. By this time, we were being shadowed by a tout claiming he was a "broker". Brokers, as it turned out, are low-life middle men (annoying yet essential buffoons), who put together those looking for rides to Ethiopia with truck drivers headed that way and negotiate things like cabin seats - for an extra fee of course. I had lunch at the Hotel after telling Livio (the original helper) what I was after in terms of a ride.

After I had a lunch of generic meat, I went to reception for further clarification. Caroline, the receptionist, informed me that I had preceded the transport trucks (leaving Nairobi) by 4 hrs. Most if not all trucks get here at about 4 PM and leave at around midnight. 1000 KSH (or 14 USD) for lying on top of the load (often the load was cattle) and 1500 KSH (21 USD) for riding shotgun in the cabin. So many options... Damn that's alot of money but I was hardly in the position to negotiate.

About 45 minutes ago, a guy calling himself an assistant driver (he was lying like a sidewalk as I found out later - he was a lousy tout) approached me in the restaurant to announce his truck was leaving right then and there. Remembering Caroline's advice, I told him to push off.

Looks like I was gonna take the red eye!

[It's getting weirder here as I'm writing this. Martha Stewart's blaring on the restaurant's vid with guest Kenny Rogers crooning a long lost hit single...]

This morning in Nairobi was pretty rough. I can say for certain that I had a great time there. I've written a few times about this, but sometimes it's very difficult sayin' farewell to friends. In this case, saying goodbye to a certain girl was awful tough. We had grown to be good friends in the short time I was there.

Out of Canuckistan, - A travel blog, Mar 14/07
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3 comments:

Steve H. said...

I looked up "Mzungu" on wikipedia, which I completely trust.

The etymology of the word stems from a contraction of words meaning "one who moves around"...

Obviously you have temporarily lost your mzungu status judging by the "days in canuckistan" counter.

bubba said...

steve h., obviously you extracted the pc (or most euphemistic) definition. I lost my mzungu status the moment i left africa. since i'm in canuckistan now, i've been put back in my place as an oppressed visible minority. oh how i miss africa some days...it's good to be white, sometimes.

Steve H. said...

If you need any help with those traffic tickets just let me know. I have some pull with the brothers.