I Was The First Person On The Bus

Spending A Night At The Uganda-Kenya Border

My very cool yet very different Christmas experience in Burundi left me hoping I’d get to meet Carole! She was so nice to let me stay in her place while she was at home in Eldoret, Kenya celebrating the holidays with her family.

Originally she planned to come back to Burundi, via Uganda, when I was going to be in Uganda. But she extended her stay and it was time to head to Kenya. The original plan was to go straight to Nairobi, then Mombasa and then head down to Arusha, Tanzania where I had a safari booked.

In the weeks leading up to my visit to Kenya a few incidents (Example 1, Example 2) happened where grenades were thrown at foreign tourists. Anything can happen at any time anywhere in the world, but that, plus malaria-carrying mosquitoes, plus preferring to see a countryside city instead of another big city pushed me to Eldoret for sure. It also made sense geographically since Eldoret was about halfway between Kampala, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya.

The day before I was to leave Kampala I went to the bus station to get my ticket. I knew of an issue affecting my travel. Due to a rash of traffic accidents involving buses around the holidays, Kenya banned overnight bus travel. As you can imagine, with the increased traveling around the holidays and losing 12 hours of road time, it threw the transport sector into chaos.

Buses to and from Kenya’s neighbors, including Uganda, generally took place overnight. If I remember correctly, it is impossible to get from Kampala to Nairobi during daylight hours. I was going to Eldoret and if buses left in the morning it is possible to cross the Uganda-Kenya border and make it to Eldoret during daylight hours. But many of the bus companies didn’t stop in Eldoret, and the ones that did only left at night.

When I shopped around for a ticket, one company said they departed at 6pm and they drove all night. They made it sound like they had permission to travel at night despite the ban. I figured this was B.S. but I had no choice. The other companies all had already sold out all their seats.

I Was The First Person On The Bus

I Was The First Person On The Bus

The day I left I showed up an hour early and ended up sitting around for a long time. They were still insisting the bus traveled all night, but we left quite late. I think we left the station at 7pm with the bus almost empty. About half an hour later we stopped on the eastern edge of Kampala and everyone else got on the bus. Few buses I’ve been on have been as stuffed as this one. Every square inch of space under the seats were taken and the aisle was full of stuff. You had to walk on top of huge white sacks full of who knows what to get to the door of the bus.

Once we got started again I got to know my seatmate a bit. She is Kenyan of Somali origin. She was a college student and spoke English quite well. She told me we’d sleep at the border, confirming what I had expected.

We got to the border a few hours later and immigration took far longer than I expected. I think I was the only non-Kenyan/Ugandan on the bus. In East Africa the citizens of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi have visa-free movement from what I understand. I was the only one who needed to pay for a visa and have it put in my passport. Still, we spent a long time there.

We got back on the bus, drove a minute or two into Kenya and then parked in a parking lot until the sun came up. We ended up leaving before the sun came up, actually. It was about 5am and pitch black when we started moving again.

As you can imagine, the bus was very uncomfortable and I couldn’t really sleep. Such has been the plague for the entire Happy Nomad Tour. I’ve slept on a variety of surfaces (beds, mats, cots, wooden pallets, kitchen tables, and the floor, of course) but I just can’t seem to sleep on planes, trains, or automobiles (buses included).

So, no big deal. I got to Eldoret safe and sound early in the morning and despite the transportation chaos I arrived when I wanted and departed for Nairobi when I wanted as well. You can’t beat that!

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