Although it sounds silly, driving through Kenya to Tanzania was (supposed to be) faster and more comfortable than overlanding from Uganda through Western Tanzania. I arranged to have the bus pick me up in Jinja, a few hours East of Kampala. I waited in the sun beside a dusty roundabout for an hour before it stopped at three in the afternoon. And it just stopped, it didn’t pull into the gas station and the attendants just motioned for me to get on. I had to run across the oncoming traffic with my bags and throw my big pack up into the area above the passengers heads while driving down a dirt road.
I tried to be optimistic—we were scheduled to be in Nairobi by midnight and Arusha, Tanzania by 8am. That’s no so bad, 17 hours. Well, after crossing into Kenya the bus broke down. I could hear the alternator struggling but it wouldn’t turn over. Steam was rising from the engine near the driver. I went back to sleep.
We sat beside the road for about five hours before they attempted to move again. We made it another half an hour before we stalled again. Eventually we made it to Nairobi, but an hour after the time we were supposed to be in Arusha. I was can go without a bathroom for a long time but I was getting hungry. Inside the office we were directed to a small cafeteria. It wasn’t expensive but I didn’t have any Kenyan shillings on me. I kept enough to pay for a taxi when I come back to Kenya in August but it was buried somewhere in my bag.
Downstairs the women working the window simply laughed at me when I suggested that they feed me. I ate the last three cookies I had rationed and waited on the bus. We left all the passengers and traveled across the city where a handful of workers started to move all he luggage to another bus. When we arrived in Nairobi I asked if we were switching buses (on account of the smoke and five hour breakdown) and was told no. I got off the bus and asked what was going on—we were switching buses. There were only three of us on board and we moved our own things but every other thing on the bus—jackets, water, purses—were switched by the workers. Wouldn’t it have been easier to ask people to take their things with them?
My seatmate got on the bus with a cold coke and a bag of greasy french fries. I kept reading Heart of Darkness. Eventually we made it to Tanzania and I found a cheap place to stay and had my first meal in 24 hours—a delicious Indian curry and butter naan. Twenty five hours seems like a long time but I guess when you’re mentally prepared for eighteen, a little longer doesn’t make much of a difference.