Can you brave a six-hour journey with nothing else to shield you from biting wind apart from your clothes and a helmet?
Mark Maraga just did it. Nairobi to Kisii and back on a boda boda motorbike. He has done so many times, sometimes with a passenger in the pillion.
For many city dwellers, the holiday season brings a bag of mixed fortunes and misfortunes.
Before the joys of the festivities can begin, many have to endure the pain of getting upcountry by first securing the bus fare -- which is usually increased due to high demand -- and then find the vehicle to board.
It is a struggle Maraga does not have to bear with for the 320km journey.
Every so often, he fills up the tank of his motorbike and rides off to Kisii. “I fill up the tank with Sh1,400 worth of fuel which is enough for the journey and riding around for a few days,” he says.
“Once I leave Nairobi, I don’t make any stop, save for a tea break in Narok.”
Maraga, 26, is a boda boda rider who operates from the junction of Kenyatta Avenue and Uhuru Highway.
“I started my boda boda business in 2012 after I finished secondary education. I started in Kitengela, Kajiado County, before moving to Nairobi where the earnings are better,” Maraga, who makes at least Sh2,000 daily, says.
So used is he to riding to Kisii that he now takes a passenger with him. “In 2013, I rode home with a customer who paid me Sh3,000. Since then, I have never boarded a matatu home. The journey takes beween four and five hours but a matatu or bus will be on the road for up to eight hours,” he says.
Maraga is not the only one who rides his boda boda motorbike to the village during the festive season.
To Solomon Owise, a good Christmas is just five hours away in Lurambi, Kakamega County.
“I spend five hours on the road provided my motorbike is okay and I am dressed well and armed with all the necessary documents,” he says.
Owise, a 28-year-old father of three, says he leaves Nairobi for Kakamega at about 6am. “I normally pick up a passenger at Kangemi bus stop and will charge them between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000.”
Maraga and Owise say preparation is key to a good journey when traveling long distances. “A motorbike is not like a car. You have to dress well and a motorcycle jacket is mandatory,” Maraga says.
But just how safe is riding a motorbike over a long distance?
National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) board member Moses Nderitu, an ardent rider who has travelled to Cape Town, South Africa, says it is an insane for a boda boda rider to travel even 150km with a passenger.
“Our riders we are not trained for long distances and especially during the festive season when we have many vehicles on the roads. You are risking your life and that of your passenger.
“Such distances require a lot of concentration. Fatigue and minor mistakes can cost your life,” he says.
Juliana Mwangi, a sales person at Car and General, Nairobi, says any motorcycle with a small engine, below 160cc is not good for long distance trips.
“It is prudent for boda boda owners to know which kind of motorbikes they are using to avoid the unexpected. They should dress well with proper safety gears, be armed with a licence and have valid insurance cover,” she says.
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