They arrived in droves, eager to make merry, sell their wares, rob, spike drinks and for the majority, see the fast-moving cars as the World Rally Championship (WRC) kicked off in Naivasha.
Riding all manner of cars, dressed in skimpy dresses, armed with all manner of liquor, the so-called rally-lovers arrived at the lakeside ready for fun and merry.
And the town did not disappoint as nightclubs, bars and lodgings were filled to capacity to the joy of traders.
For those who could not make it to the rooms, the roadside and cars turned into their new homes with liquor, sex and bhang offered openly for the willing.
The Moi South Lake Road, which links Naivasha town and tens of hotels was the point of action, with over 10 musical events organised and graced by the revellers, some drawn from abroad.
On this road, everything, from sex, cheap liquor, nyama choma, condoms and ‘new stolen’ mobile phones were offered, but at a fee.
From lovers of reggae to mugithi, the organisers made sure the needs of the revellers were addressed as the road marked one of the worst traffic jams ever.
Armed police were forced to work an extra mile to deal with the drunk and uncontrollable crowd out to join the various joints on the road offering music or stealing from the visitors.
But as the hundreds made merry, tens of innocent members were left counting losses after they were either robbed, their cars broken into, while others were victims of the famous ‘pishori-babes’.
Though security agents and the organisers of the rally had banned hawking and parking by the road, this was the order of the day, leading to the snarl-up.
Come Saturday morning, those strong enough were ready for the second-day rally in Roysambu while others were left nursing hangovers in their rooms and cars.
When the sun set, hundreds of motorists were forced to spend the night by the road, following a major traffic snarl-up that lasted for over eight hours.
The most affected were the Moi South Lake and Naivasha-Mai Mahiu roads as revellers who had come for the rally moved in to attend various musical events in the town.
Unlike last year’s event when the organisers had limited the number of spectators, this year’s event was different with the doors open to all.
And on Sunday evening, the revellers started trooping back to Nairobi, penniless, facing hangovers, others seeking P2, phoneless, tired and traders counting huge losses.
Two of the rally-lovers, unfortunately, died on the spot along the Naivasha-Mai Mahiu road when their speed-bike was hit by another car on their way to Nairobi on Sunday evening.
Elsewhere, a reveller was robbed of Sh500,000 while a security officer lost Sh130,000 to a group of well-organised women who had arrived in hordes.
According to a source privy to the investigations, the victims were drugged and the women used their phones to withdraw cash from the banks.
The source said they expected the cases to rise once the event was done as ‘pishori-babes’ who had arrived in town in hordes continued to make a killing.
“All the victims are working with WRC and one of them was a police officer attached to the event and this is just the beginning,” said the officer.
And as the curtains for the WRC 2022 came down, many were those who came to make merry and the closest they came to the rally cars was through the social media or TV sets.
A rally lover, Simon Mwangi, termed the event as one of the best, having missed out last year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Mwangi, who joined his friends in Kedong in viewing the rally cars, was full of praise for the organisers for making sure the spectators’ needs were addressed.
“Though it was very dusty, we easily accessed the venue of the rally and it was pure fun watching the drivers we see only on TV,” he said.
But according to many traders, this was the worst event since most revellers decided to bring their own food, tents and even alcohol.
One of the traders, James Njau, who had a van full of liquor and soft drinks, said the market was flooded with alcohol.
Njau, who had travelled from Nairobi, said that two in every three traders, who had travelled for the rally, sold alcohol and soft drinks.
“Everybody came with his alcohol and soft drinks and we ended up making huge losses as our sales were very low,” he said.
Another trader, Peter Mbugua, who operates a butchery said he had been forced to sell his readycooked meat and chicken at a loss, since he could not ferry them back to Nakuru.
He blamed the organisers for the crisis, saying they had paid a licence of Sh10,000 to the county government but the event had been hijacked by unlicensed traders.
“We had been assured that only the licensed traders would be allowed into the designated areas but this did not happen and the market was flooded with all manner of goods,” he said.
The Nakuru County government, however, defended itself, saying its duty was merely to license while planning and security belonged to the rally organisers and national government.
Naivasha Sub-county Administrator Samue Wamae said close to 100 traders had been licensed by the county ahead of the rally.
He admitted that tens of other traders who arrived with various goods packed in their cars led to flooding, adversely affecting the sales of the licensed ones.
“This rally was better organised compared to last year’s and as a county, we did our part of licensing while the issues of managing the traders were under the organisers,” he said.
Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Mutua Kisulu said security had been intensified in the town and around various hotels where the musical events had been organised.
“We have heard cases of spiking of drinks and this comes to individual responsibility as police cannot be manning who you are drinking with,” he said.
Mutua said they had worked closely with event organisers around the town to make sure that there was ample security and free flow of traffic.
“We had received over 700 officers from the special unit in Nairobi and even bomb experts to help in addressing the issue of security during the weekend,” he said.