Matatu Madness:

The best way to enjoy Kenya

Riding a Matatu is a whole different vibe

Morning rush hour anywhere in the world is tough, whether you are in New York or Mombasa, rush hour is maddening. In Mombasa and Nairobi however, I have found that there are a few quirks that might just be unique to rush hour in Kenya. There are at least 5 options to get commuters to where their bread is buttered. All these modes of transport have their target demographics, nearly everyone has an option. The challenge, however, is hot how to get to work, it is more about how to beat the traffic jam.

If you are on a budget a 50KES ($0.50) matatu is your best bet to get to work. It will get you where you want to go. Before you can even get on, you will need to wrestle with other commuters for available seats in the morning. Once you have made it o board you might be surprised to realise that the price of the trip has now gone up to 70KES. A slight sound of protest will trigger the conductor into a frenzy to stop the bus mid traffic to get any dissenting voices off the bus. This power play is sure to dampen your mood especially since most people are on a tight budget.

For those who are not wrestling fans, a 100-500KES tuk-tuk is a much more convenient ride to work, if you are lucky to find one going your way. What can make it even cheaper is the option to share the tuk-tuk with 2 other passengers heading in your direction? Even perishable fruits and veg traders rely on the tuk-tuk to get their products to market on time.

For the fast and the furious, the Boda Boda is a sure-fire way of making sure your boss does not fire you. A boda-boda is a motorcycle taxi that usually takes 1 passenger over and above the driver, but most passengers do not mind sharing the ride with one other rider. Especially if that is a friend or work colleague. Echos of other boda-boda drivers making a joke about the excess load the driver has, even as the jokers themselves are oblivious to the fact that none of the 3 riders has a helmet. The Boda Boda ride is usually between 100 and 400 depending on your negotiation skills.

The more affluent bunch just do fine in their luxurious sedans and SUV. The perks of working hard, I guess. They seem to go by, ambivalent to the royal rumble of transport economics around them. Sparing a glance every now and then to the rest of the citizens “lazily” wrestling to eke out a living. Anyway, it is not their fault they enjoy a luxury their fellow man can not even dream of.

Besides those reliant on horsepower, there are the few brave bwanas who rely on 100% human power. I am talking ugali fueled human power. These guys pull & Push 1-tonne carts with such admirable enthusiasm, you might miss the Luxury SUV passing them by. You can see from the determination on their faces they will stop at nothing to get their products to market. Not even a lack of mechanical transport could keep these guys from their goal. How can I even quantify such grit and purpose?

The commuters that lack horsepower rely on their feet to walk or cycle their way to a better economic situation. On their backs you will see different sorts of cargo; laptop bags and even sacks filled with produce destined for the market.

It is surely not easy navigating your way around Mombasa or Nairobi in search of a grimace of a better life. The same way the sun rises and sets. The hustlers need to rise and set the pace for the day whether you are on a matatu, Boda Boda, tuk-tuk or a luxury SUV.