Thursday, November 09, 2006


I was too lazy to come up with something new, so I just took something out of the drafts folder and finished it off, enjoy......

This post is a kudos to one thing that Kenyans know how to do well...walk!
We also know that some Kenyans run well but let's not get derailed. Unless you were part of an upper middle class or rich family, the fact is that we all did quite a bit of mileage. It was walk to the kiosk/shopping centre, walk to the bus stop, walk to the gate, walk to the neighbours (depending on where you lived this could take quite sometime), walk to school, walk in town. Walk walk walk. We are indeed a walking nation.

This was brought to the fore during the Matatu strike over the Michuki rules. People used to walk from the City Centre to areas like Buru Buru, South C, Kangemi etc. If it was in Europe people wouldn't have made it, I'm not going to mention America because this is one nation where people love their cars and drive everywhere; other than some select cities up North.

I once remember my sister going home on vacation packing all her dainty shoes bought in America. Within one week of walking around town she had killed an expensive pair of shoes and decided to buy Bata shoes instead. Let's face it most of these shoes out here sold by athletes and entertainers are made to do everything but walking.

Look at that shoe? Good looking huh? Expensive too! Try walking round Nairobi cbd with it for two weeks and see how long it will keep its' look and form. Not too long if you ask me. Reminds me of shoes specially made for Kenyans like Safari boots, akalas and Bata Prefects. There was a pal of mine in primary school whose dad bought him a pair of Safari boots while his siblings were bought inferior brands. Almost a year passed and he had to watch jealously as his siblings were taken shopping time after time as their shoes wore out. He tired of his Safari boots and in desperation took a razor to them, it was only then he was bought new shoes. I wonder if the new Safari boots are half as good?

I also remember one neighbourhood we lived in where the matatu numbers were in triple figures and my parents decided they were not going to leave us a car. Let's just say leaving the house was like planning an expedition of sorts. You would have to leave the house one hour before you wanted to be at the bus stop because it would take you around 45 minutes to 1 hour to get there. Budget another 30 mins for one of those manyanga matatus to pass by and for you to be added to the mass of humanity in there. On finishing your errands it was the reverse. Get ready to be packed like a sardine in the matatu and then for your 45 min to 1 hour walk home. To burn time I used to buy something to eat during the walk and I would comfortably finish a pack of fries and a sausage (damn I miss farmer's choice), ironic thing is that I never put on any weight because the walk would nullify the potential calorie gain. Let's just say until we moved out, I usually only used to leave the house if there was a ride or if I had to take a matatu I would do one week's tasks in one day! Double irony was that the 'hood got minibus matatus a year or so after we moved out. Fate can be cruel huh?

I can't talk about walking without giving you all the Maasai story. During my teens there was this friend of mine who was chatting up this girl who lived on a farm in Ongata Rongai. He wanted to see her and got some simple directions and pulled me along to keep me company and run interference with his sister (a good wingman does these kind of things). So we took the number 125 matatu (correct me if I'm wrong) and got to walking. Anyone who lives in those areas knows that most of the time things are not close to each other. So we got to walking.

As we were walking we realised that the simple instructions that read go to the end of this road, turn right walk until you get to a certain landmark and then turn a right 2 houses to the left were the exception of what we thought. It seemed this girl lived near the bus stop! Woe unto us! As we walked it seeseemed that this road had no end so we asked a maasai moran nearby who was grazing his cows where the land mark was.
He told us,
"Ni hapa tu tembea kidogo na utafika. Unaona hiyo mti? Ni hapo."
As he pointed to a small tree in the horizon.

To be honest that tree looked real close to us too. We got to walking and it seemed like for every one hundred meters we walked, the tree would recede a hundred meters. To some point I began to feel like the Israelites when they accused Moses of taking them to the desert to die, at one point I almost wanted to choke the life out of my pal.

Anyway after turning my sweatshirt into an adhoc turban and braving the heat, we made it. I know at this point people are expecting me to say the girl wasn't home. Even though this was in the pre cell phone days, she kept the date. Sadly the girl's sister turned out to be a pain in the ass but as a trooper I took one for the team. Even so my pal didn't fare as well as he thought he would and we left (never to come back I happily add!)
But whenever I talk to a native of any up country area and they tell me, "Ni hapo tu!"
I take it with an extremely large slab of salt.

Don't forget to take your walk today and do share your walking tales!


Movie Buff said...

I remember when I first landed and was walking around... people were looking at me like I was from mars or something.

I so hear you on these shoes not being made for walking... You have to go get the "longer lasting" and "not pretty ones" at an added cost ofcourse if you want good running shoes.

LOL.. I was one of the ones who did not live near where the mats stopped... lol... GOOD TIMES!

Don_quixote said...

Lol the massai, i would have been whinning silly. The most walking i did was climb a mountain ok it was a hill, but asking my legs would easily qualify it for a mountain seeing as my knees were shaking when we got to the top, and our hike captain decided ati we start heading back just 45 minutes after reaching the top, i just strapped my backpack to my rasa and rasaboarded down the hill, might sound fun but the scracthes uuiiii and the explaining to mother dearest.
Those waits at the mat stop were so much fun something always happened.

aegeus said...

Still do the walking. When I go to shaggs during the rainy season, the murram roads are impassable and you have to hoof the 10 to 14 km between the end of the tarmac, which is just at the edge of town and grams ranch. These days luckily, you can call so that they send the tractor or use boda boda. (Bicycle taxis)

Shiroh said...

Been wondering why my shoes do not last at all.

I remember another jungu who i met at a super and asked for my assistance commenting that us guys walk too much. Lol at movie Buff

Aco, let not a Kau tell you "No Vaa". yaani you drive on until your butt hurts, imagine if you were walking.

But on a light note
"rates of obesity in Kenya are vey low"

Infact obesity is for spoilt brats who are taken everywhere by their drivers.

mocha said...

Indeed we are a nation of walkers.

I walked to school when I was in Primo and Secondary seeing that we lived closed to where I went to school. When there were riots in CBD, I could easily walk home. My 'shags' (as my nan lived in Nai) is walking distance to where we live.

I lost my first job (didnt pass the interview) due to walking.

It has its positives and negatives, but I like to do it when the weather is right. Perfect way to take good pictures.

Anonymous said...

Dont know when that was that you were in 'Roonga' but for the last few years things have been pretty much close to each other. Town's so big, so many cars if you are not out by 6.30 am you'd just rather,well, walk. I know. I live there.Oh, you are right about the 125.Good post.

egm said...

Walking is the best thing. And having the right shoes to do it makes all the difference! We lived in a place where you had to walk for about 40 minutes to get to the mats. And now apparently mats drive by there all the time! As you say, cruel fate. But I still loved the walking. Except for when it rained. Some of those roads are treachorous bila sidewalks or even a pathway. So it was either you got muddied up and stayed alive, or died clean by insisting on walking on the road.

I walk everywhere still. Haven't owned a car while here and don't intend to for as long as I can avoid doing it. Like MB, when people realize I walk everywhere, they look at me like I have my head screwed on backwards. Not only is it great exercise, but, like Mocha says, it is also a very good way to take pictures!

With that said, this morning walking to work was a pain. In trying to run for the bus I pulled muscles on my right thigh and calf and my left thigh. And it turns out this wasn't the bus I was expecting due to confusion of the schedules resulting from some people having the day off today for Veteran's day which is actually tomorrow. And so I got off about 2kms away from the regular stop. Wasn't I in pain walking! And I still had another 4kms to walk beyond that point. Luckily for me a colleague driving by stopped to give me a ride. Ah well, walking is still great!

Itchie Geezy said...

i think its for real that we have to enjoynthe fate of being the Kenyans we all jivunia being(i mis saying this)It all turns out that the"si mbali sana,its just by the corner"turns out to be mileages of sweat.Aniwe thanks for the coverage its really nice.

Its friday ENJOY!

Quintessence said...

i remember walking to school and home for lunch and that tendancy has shifted to my adult life, i walk more than i ride in cars or other forms of transportation and the advantage to that is it helps keep me fit

Jadekitten said...

Fortunately (or is it unfortunately) for me, my mum was very considerate in deciding where we lived, ie. in relation to transport. Or maybe she got tired of me falling every morning. I was a clumsy child me. But I still walked to primary school, though not home for lunch, it was too far.

These days, well....since most of my life (70%) is spent in the office, and due to dressing constraints (read:3 inch heels and clothes made only for offices), and human traffic (read:Mungiki and Nairobi layabouts threatening to strip us), I don't do much walking. Only get the opportunity when I go on holiday.

Udi said...

wah, reminds me of when we hepad chuo at night to go to a heng. Lets just say walking for two hours and 1 hr of that being through a forest was not amusing. My black ass fikad the heng sweating like a fool. But it was worth getting there and heading to the bar to ask for one tusker, dance with the langas and then head back to chuo. Memories of diggs.

stage was 15 minutes walk from diggs. right now i am heading for lunch. Its a 10 minute walk, but I am taking moti. fuk that walk. America tumefika. Gari ni lazima.

Lawyer in the Making said...

Thanks for the vacation comment. Actually it was more jobbo than vacation...was working for the U.N.

Girl next door said...

I guess this habit is in the blood! I love walking so much and it's a regular part of my day. Fresh air, exercise, a chance to clear the mind, what's not to love? I remember one of my first outings on arriving in the U.S. when we drove to a neighboring city and all I saw were cars and buildings. It looked strange. "Where are all the people?" Barely saw anyone till we got to the mall.

I know that Ongata Rongai area with the road leading to Kiserian. Walking in that heat takes determination.

Acolyte said...

@ Movie Buff
I walk around 8 blocks daily bila shame, not looking forward to having to move to the ATL and driving all day.
As for long distance walking to the bus stop good to see that I am not alone!
@ don q
As a dude you are meant to grin and bear these things sadly. I also did mount Kenya once, now that was a walk and a half.
Sadly our matstop wasn't as interesting as yours.
@ aegeus
When you go to shags walking is lazima but boda boda have infiltrated all parts of Kenya and lessened that trend.But I would like to ride on a tractor though!
@ shiroh
I think nowadays shoes arent made to last.
I do feel you on the low obesity rates, over here they are on another level.
@ mocha
You sure have done alot of walking in your time and I am sure you are doing loads more in the UK!
@ anon
I was there a long long long time ago! Yes my teens were around a decade ago.But I am sure things have changed for the better in terms of transport.
@ egm
You my friend are not only a walker but a rider too if a I'm not wrong!
I have been in your situation of having a pulled muscle and being lucky enough to have someone bail you out but in my case it was my knee, thank God for friends!
@ itchie
Yes part of being a kawa Kenyan is learning how to walk long distances in all sorts of weather.
Have a good weekend too!
@ quint
Much as people knock it, walking is a fun part of life!
@ jadekitten
It is sad that the Nairobi CBD at times just isnt too walker friendly due to crime and the sheer masses of people.
@ udi
Yenyewe you had roho! That I'll give you but now I understand why you love the moti to death!
@ Lawyer in the Making
Seems whichever way you had loads of fun!
@ girl next door
I think walking has been under-rated in the States. People need to get their walk on!
I think that must have been one of the roads we were on.

makanga said...

Many, many eras from now when they dig up the land and discover a homo sapien species that they will call Athiriverpithecus, next to the bones there will be a brand new pair of bata bullets, ready for their day in the limelight.