I work in Turkana. Everything about my job is great, except what I undergo to get there. The long trip normally daunts me especially after our inconsiderate but well-intentioned transport minister decided that night journeys are too dangerous. Travelers using private means, however, are still enjoying the quiet night travels that are traffic free and convenient. Talking on convenience, traveling north has become harder than it already was. Rarely will you be lucky to get there in the first 24-hour cycle from the time of starting the long and uncomfortable journey. So now you understand why the mere notion of going back to the northern parts of Kenya sends my happy nerves to a coma. Worse still, the means of traveling available are all in a deplorable state. I would have loved to use Fly 540, but every indicator points that I am not ready to live that large. The bus below is certainly not the ideal mode of transport for a journey that will take more than twelve hours. However much you do not want to imagine, this is one of the options you get when heading to the northern parts of Kenya. The last time I was coming this way, this was the only bus still standing at the bus stop.
We, my roommate and I, paid KSH. 2,500 to travel by this bus from Kitale to Lodwar, instead of the usual KSH. 1,000 we were used to before the night travel ban was set. That is 35% what you would have to pay to travel by air from Eldoret to Lodwar. Why didn’t I take that option? I would have arrived in Lodwar within one hour. My friend, who was coming with another bus company, Dayah Express, paid slightly higher – KSH. 3,000. Most people who in one way or the other have to go through this horrendous excursion prefer using Dayah – it is stronger, faster, and more reliable. Over time, the bus company has turned to extorting money from desperate commuters. The situation got worse with the night travel ban. However I do not mind traveling with another so long it’s cheaper on my not-so-deep pockets. A keen look at the Sabre star should tell you the state of roads that lead to Turkana. Oh, there is no actual road. Just some tracks that provide the direction to the destination. The journey is anything but smooth. If you happen to sit at the back of the bus, you will need someone to literary jump on your back to straighten it. I remember the windows to our bus falling off as the uncaring driver sped off on the excessively rough terrain. When I passed at the bus stage a few days ago to see if the bus was repaired, I was shocked to find that it was still in the same deplorable condition it was when we arrived. Where does all the money the bus company makes go?
Transportation has become a lucrative business for bus companies plying on the Kitale-Lokichogio route. However, like the rest of us Kenyans, these businessmen have been bundled with greed, and they plough very little back to the business. As a result, the buses deteriorate at a very fast rate and, at times, go for a long time without mechanical tune-up. My friend, who was waiting to hear how my journey would go before he started his, was unlucky to travel by a bus that had not been serviced well. The brakes were weak, and the driver did not even know. Considering that he was paying more than KSH. 2000 to travel by a 65-seater bus, lacking proper service was the last thing I would have expected to hear. They say speed kills, but I believe that greed destroys at a much faster rate compared to over-speeding. The underserviced bus was not able to make it far on the rough terrain. No sooner had they passed the Kamatira hills than the brakes failed. Praise God we are currently writing this article with him, but here is a picture that shows how lucky he was.
I am hoping that things will become better for the people of the northern Kenya and me. That I will get a job promotion that will enable me afford to travel by air. Until then, my prayer is that our drivers, and bus companies for that matter, will become more human and less greedy. Traveling has become expensive to all Kenyans, but those who are marginalized and forgotten, like us, are going through extremely hard times.