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You snooze, you lose: roll call for ride back home

OPINION
By Anonymous | April 14th 2021

The vehicles have a mental register of those who had “booked” to go to town. Some passengers emerge from the darkness. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Being the last Thursday of the month and a market day in Kabarnet, Baringo County, I needed to rise up at the cockcrow. The matatus would naturally be full. There are two of them. You miss the ride and you have to wait until the following day, or perhaps up to Monday.

I was there by 5.45am. Most of us from Keturwo Centre taking the 35km journey know each other. The elderly and mostly teachers, the chief and other local administrators and shop owners would find sitting spaces in the vehicles. The rest – you wouldn’t call them unlucky because getting to town by any means possible was no mean feat - would hang outside the vehicle or make themselves comfortable atop the carriers.  The beanie hat (or mbushuri in local dialects) will keep the dust and the cold breeze away.

The engines of the hardy Toyota pick-ups sputter and come on, but the vehicles don’t take off just yet - the drivers make sure that no one is left behind. The cars move a few metres forward, stop and the drivers hoot. They have a mental register of those who had “booked” to go to town. Some passengers emerge from the darkness.

At about 3.30pm the passengers collect the wares they bought as they head for the vehicles to take them back. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

We drive off just as the clock hits 6.15am. It will take us an hour or so to get to “town”. The vehicles stop at the County Council to shake off the dust. The teachers will be going into banking halls and the Sacco office. The shopkeepers are going to replenish their stock - paraffin, seeds, nails, cement, iron sheets, bicycle tyres and tubes, torch batteries, new clothing, grocery and so much more. In no time, we are in town. Kabarnet is hilly. Passengers disembark at the market, the lowest point. Some, like me, walk into a hotel (Mekawani).

Soon it is time to “hunt and gather”. You buy the stuff as you move up to the newsstand up the road. You reserve your newspaper and run to do other errands.

You also remember to “book” lunch at Kapchorwa Hotel. At about 3.30pm the passengers collect the wares they bought as they head for the vehicles to take them back. 

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Before starting off on the journey home, a roll call is called out. “Who has not boarded yet,” the driver will ask making sure not to leave anyone behind. It is now 5pm. The prospect of being left behind is dire. The matatu glides away down the winding road. Heaving under the weight of all the luggage, its pace is slower. We will arrive at our destination shortly after 7.30pm.

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