Kenya, unfriendly country to traveller on the road
By NJIIRI MAKERI
I was reading Victor H Green’s publication, an annual safety travel guide known as ‘The Green Book (for the Negro motorist)’. Established in New York in 1936 it was soon available nationwide. American Black citizens used it to avoid violence and enjoy themselves as they traveled the country.
My country, Kenya, has become wonderful in a matter of a few years. Roads, roads and roads, everywhere. You can get farther and farther. Barriers are broken. I am all over the country these days, catching up with lost time. Driving everywhere because I do not need a special car. Even with a small VW Golf, you are good to go.
Now from a remote village in Embu, you can enter your car, bang the door and start. Without a break in tarmac stretch and if you pace yourself on decent day-to-day speed, you will get to Kigali, Rwanda. Easy. You can also go through Archer’s Post, Marsabit, cross at Moyale and be in Addis Ababa without breaking a sweat.
‘Hitting’ the road is so nice, educative and sheer appreciation of the wonderful country we have. Kenya is so diverse it will take you a lifetime to take it all in; with daily surprising awe-inspiring discovery.
One of the most fundamental information needed is; to up my awareness of whereabouts in the not-so-good places — where a chap can be nasty. I ask around. Word of mouth, the places to avoid.
Not a big concern, though. I have not created any ‘no-go-areas’. I am lucky, ‘cos I am streetwise; hardened ‘in the country’ and ‘well-warned in Nairobi’.
The big challenge is, when on the road, the entire country is unmarked. Where do you turn left, right; how far from here is the place I am going to? Which village, town is that I have just passed; and the dam, school, hospital etc…?
Another thing; James Macharia and his KURA, KeRRA and what have you –KENHA not so bad – why they don’t put paint on their black roads, long completed boggles the mind.
They are wide roads, but because they are not marked; no one — car going this way, car coming from that way and a pedestrian meandering on the road- has an idea of their jurisdiction. What good is a huge wide road and they are all getting into each other’s way? ‘cos no boundaries.
Please paint these roads. Even the one to Ichaweri, President Uhuru’s “Ocha”. Is it too much to ask? You just want to deny business to Crown, Basco, Galaxy, Royal … paints, hah? Mmh. What have they done to deserve denial of income while it is all obvious that the opportunity lies out there? Hundreds of kilometres of black roads crying out loud for a coat of paint! And hundreds jobs for the artistic youth?
Worst, anyway is the roadside signs. Complete lack of them. Milestones. Like in the old days when you set off from Mombasa it was; to Mariakani 49km, to Taru 82km, to Voi 159km, to Machakos 443km and Nairobi 485km. And on the left side up the road, a milestone, every two kilometres, count down of the distance.
In other tourist friendly nations of the world, say USA, Britain, Germany, Scandinavia and Australia … even Malaysia, information to the visitor driving bye is paramount. He can get to anywhere; without asking anyone. Not a look on his GPS.
From Kiambu County’s Limuru, Githunguri, under the foot of slopes of the Aberdare Ranges, over tea areas to Murang’a County and on to Nyeri, the roads are getting fixed and it’s all becoming a blissful “Switzerland”. But it is a travel maze. Like I have found out in my attempts to make it may route of travel over those beautiful areas of the Central of the country.
So many forks, junctions, etc. and not a village centre marked by its name. Without a living background of the area — if you are say from Lodwar, Kwale or New Zealand — you will just get lost. And don’t even think about driving at night!
We may be in need of the Kenya travel “Green Book” but it will be no good if ‘Babayao’ of Kiambu, wa Iria of Murang’a, Gakuru of Nyeri and Kimemia of Nyandarua [worst affected county] do not make it a policy that every metre of their county roads that needs to be marked and labeled is attended to.
Kenya citizens are ready to get out and ‘Tembea’ Kenya; to every nook and cranny, because the country has changed. These trips that you can make, blind fold, to Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret and Naivasha … aren’t they such a bore?
Many new destinations are opening up. But when you get there; where the heck is this? No signage!