Our taxi to the coach station failed to turn up at 6:30 am, and when I phoned, he sounded very sleepy. Since he lived on the far side of town, we opted for Uber and in good time, we were dropped at the coach station. The station was very muddy from the rains of the previous days, so we tried to stay on the sidewalk (or pavement in British English (BE)). The sidewalk was very crowded with people, many of them school children returning to boarding school. Everyone had bags and bundles, backpacks and suitcases. We finally found the door to the waiting area, and a security guard helped us get our various suitcases and bundles up the stairs and into a place that was out of the way. The seats in the waiting areas are the same seats on the bus. Thankfully, they are quite comfortable.
The time for our departure came and went with no sign of the bus. We checked periodically, and were told to just wait. A man with a microphone was standing outside the waiting room door shouting out the names of the places the next buses were going. We listened carefully to see if Kakamega was mentioned. Finally, about an hour past our departure time, the Kakamega bus was announced, but we still couldn’t find it.
We made quick dashes to the ladies room, which was an experience in itself. At last the bus appeared and we got on. The tickets did give seat assignments, but we hadn’t seen that. So, after getting settled, we had to move again. However, being in seats 1A and 1B did have certain advantages. It is ALWAYS better to sit in the front of the bus if possible.
As we settled into our right seats, we were also given a packet of cookies (biscuits in BE). We had asked for a packed breakfast to take with us, so we had food and water, but drinking water or anything else was not advisable as there are no toilets on the bus. The first stop was to be Nakuru, about three hours out of Nairobi.
After seeing the route we were taking out of Nairobi, I fell asleep, missing much of the descent into the Rift Valley. Margaret, on the other hand, was in increasing pain. As it became clear that it was still a LONG way to Nakuru, she asked the driver to stop for a “short call”. After a short time, he pulled to the side of the road and signaled for her to get out of the bus. As far as I could see, there was not even much bush on our side of the road. In fact, Margaret had to cross the road to find a suitable tree to get behind. Shortly, she returned and we continued on our way.
Unfortunately, her problems were not over. It became clear that she had a urinary tract infection, and without being able to drink a lot of water, that was not going to get any better. By the time we finally reached Nakuru, we knew we could not continue our journey. I began to search on my phone for hotels where we could stay, and I talked with the manager of Easy Coach about continuing the following day. He was very helpful, and agreed to try to clear it with his manager for us to leave about 11:30 the next morning to continue our journey.
The hotel I chose, Fairfield Resort, had opened about three years before and after some searching by the taxi driver, was found down a dirt road across from a lot of houses and small fields of corn (maize in BE). It was clean and the staff was very helpful. We got into a room with an en suite bathroom, a necessity at this stage. I went down to sort out the bill, and while there, I made the mistake of mentioning that Margaret had become ill. I said she just needed to rest and drink a lot of water, and she would be fine. However, the staff and the owner panicked, deciding she had cholera! They interpreted “drink a lot of water” to mean she was dehydrated. Apparently there had been a recent outbreak of cholera there, and hotels had been totally shut down because of it. They were most insistent that Margaret had to immediately go to the hospital to be tested, and they were going to quarantine the room until she had done so!
I went up to the room (on the 3rd floor, 2nd floor in BE) with a staff person to tell Margaret the bad news. She agreed to go down and talk with them. In the course of her discussion with the owner, his wife, a nurse, arrived on the scene. She could immediately tell that Margaret did not have cholera, and so Margaret was able to convince them that she was okay. They picked up on the fact that she was dehydrated, and Margaret finally said, “If you were on a bus that kept on going and going, wouldn’t you be dehydrated too?” Even the owner cracked a smile at that! No trip to the hospital was necessary. I was very grateful for Margaret’s persuasive skills.
We settled in and Margaret went to bed with a bit of food and some antibiotics. After a rest, we nibbled on our respective “breakfasts” and spent the rest of the day relaxing. I went down to the restaurant to get some tea and toast for us about 4:00 pm. That ended up being one pot of milky tea and one pot of hot milk with chocolate powder on the side along with four slices of bread. We also had some “butter”, which I’m sure was Blue Band margarine and some red “jam”. That provided enough food for supper, along with our bananas and other snacks.
Whenever I saw the owner, he was apologetic and kept explaining he was just trying to be careful and keep everyone safe. He was most anxious that we not be angry or upset with him about the previous incident. I tried to assure him there was no problem, that we understood his concerns. Each staff person, as well as the owner’s wife, made trips to our room to make sure we were not displeased with them, and maybe to check that Margaret wasn’t dying! Given that the cost of the room for the two of us was about $18 we really couldn’t complain!
In the morning, we both went down to breakfast, and again the owner came to see how we were. Margaret told him his hotel had made her better! They continued to apologize until we left. We said we would write good reviews for them, as they are a very reasonable option, and certainly cheaper than the $400/night rooms in the luxury hotels. The beds were comfortable and they had a TV, though we never figured out how to turn up the volume without a remote.
We arrived at the Easy Coach station in good time, and our tickets were returned to us, indicating we could continue our journey. However, we had lost our prime seats, and had to take what was left. We were just grateful to be on the coach on our way to Kakamega.
From Nakuru to Kakamega is about four hours, and there were NO pit stops along the way! Margaret ended up in the very back row with a chatty Kenyan businessman. I was seated about two rows ahead of her, next to a young woman who spoke no English or Swahili, so far as I could tell. She was not thrilled to have me, but tolerated my presence.
At one of the brief stops to let off passengers, a lady asked to see the book I was reading. I handed it to her, and she kept it until the end of the journey. So, I got out my iPad and tried to play some games. The road was so bumpy that it was just a trial and an aggravation, so I looked out the window or tried to take a nap. However, being in the back of the bus means you get bounced around, and my head was acting more like a bowling ball that I would have liked. The road got worse and worse as we traveled; so it was quite a relief to finally arrive in Kakamega.
After a much needed pit stop, we found our taxi driver who took us to the forest and the retreat center. It is a beautiful, peaceful place. We can sleep, eat, drink, walk, read or just sit, and that is great. However, at the end of these few days, we have a return trip to make, and because of commitments on Sunday, there won’t be any overnight pauses along the way.