A tale of the matatu vs the dala dala
After 6 months of loving Tanzania; the land of sea, sun, safari and amazing scenes, I've arrived in Kenya; the land of sea, sun, safari and amazing scenes! 'same same but different' to coign a local phrase. The Tanzanians love to tell you that Kenya is dangerous and the people are rude. Within the hour of arriving I was somewhat in agreement having had my phone pickpocted on the bus. 'robbing Kenyans' was definitely my first impression. Luckily my phone was the cheapest that Nokia makes and had a big crack down the screen so hopefully so cant be worth much on the black market. I will sadly lament my beloved game 'bounce' that came free with the phone. It took 6 months to complete during many a power cut in Moshi.
I am slightly behind already with this blog so I will go on to talk about how much do actually love the Kenyans but first must talk about a very interesting topic; transport! In both Kenya and Tanzania travel predominantly involves minibuses with about 14 seats for passengers. In Tanzania they are called dala dalas and in Kenya; matatus. Apparently my insurance doesn't cover me to travel in either so not quite sure how one is expected to move around in towns and cities. I have to admit, neither is the safest form of travel but then neither is London underground theses days! The matatu vs dala dala contest could be judged using many a category; comfort, safety, general odour, ambience, sheer experience could be many an option but the list is fairly endless. The dala dala involves getting as many people into the vehicle as is humanly possible. My highest count was 28 not counting babies or chickens). On a dala you can play many a game, such as how many armpits can be in your face at one time, or how long will it take for the door to fall off during the journey. I once sat with 2 finger tips pressing into the roof to hold on whilst sat on a semi seat plank of wood, back to the driver and closest to the door which wouldn't shut due to sheer numbers of passengers. If you are judging the contest on experience, adrenaline or 'this would never be allowed back home' value then the dala dala wins hands down.
.....until you step onto a matatu. From a comfort perspective they are better; only seated passengers allowed. Its looking good. Not only this but you get your own mini disco/motivational seminar inside! Do expect pumping remixes of ace of base, Madonna and many a not so modern classic whilst you feast your eyes upon emblazoned messages on the wall such as 'achievers are not born, they are made', or 'if the music is 2loud, then you are 2 old'! amazing. You arrive at your stop fuelled with enthusiasm. In dala dalas you get more of a religious message such as 'glory to God', or 'God is God' I once saw. Pretty sure we all knew that to be honest!
I'm currently in Mombasa, one of Africa's biggest ports. So far I love it. I must have donated at least 10 litres of sweat to the city's water table. It is definitely one of the hottest places I have ever been. However there are bonuses. African men do mostly manual work so watching six packs, glistening with sweat is most pleasing on the eye! On the negative side, back packing seldom affords you aircon so trying to sleep with a semi rotating fan can be a pretty uncomfortable experience.
I have also decided that I love tuk tuks. I'm probably not insured to be on these either know travel insurance companies but they are amazing as they dodge through traffic, turning 3 lanes into 5 with a quick twist of the hand. I mentioned this new love to one of the drivers who offered to see me his for the Kenyan shilling equivalent of 4,000GBP. Apparently you make it back within a year and then they are profit making machine! As an efficient and more environmentally friendly version of the motor car I would highly recommend them to Boris for London.
On the tourist note, I've also been visiting forts, enjoying the beach and eating roasted cassava , spiced with chilli. I've fed giraffes and generally enjoyed the good life.…..
ps. Apparently you need to upload pictures before saving blogs so have chosen one of the random options on offer here!