Tagged in: walking

Kahawa Sukari & the Second Random Walk

Another random walk. Another blank page.

Clean and fed now, it all seems like a blur, becoming clearer as the words flow out 😉

Okay, not this words..but a threat is a good way to start 😉

Unlike last time, today was driven purely by the spirit of adventure. I was minding my own business (read surfing over 15 tabs at more or less the same time) when my friend Bill came to visit. All men know that after two males explore the topics of women, booze, sex (different from women, in a way) and money (genre includes cars and all that it can buy), what follows is the weird silence. Where ladies would normally fill it up with conversations of their boyfriends, hairdresser, or a good shoe she saw at Jade Collections, we men are not inclined to do the same. It is the spirit of the Bro Code 😉

So after roughly fifteen minutes of conversation, with all topics explored beyond all points of available research at the time, Bill and I decided to take a walk. It was meant to be random, no direction at all, and so it was.

We left, followed Thika Road for sometime, which I must say is turning up to be quite something (although I still think the foot bridges are overdue, I saw someone narrowly miss getting hit by a speeding car yesterday), and walked leisurely. First stop, a furniture store where I saw this nice sofa bed(huh?), nice ended when the lady outside told me it is worth 40K. You know that feeling you get when something turns up to be too expensive to be beautiful? Yup, that kind..

Where was I?

At the Kahawa Sukari (which always sounds like a different way of saying chips funga) turn, the idea to enter Cyber Inn (the CRAPIEST name ever given to a club) and find out how good their nyama choma is, but it remained just that, an idea. Then there is the place where Pause Club (which I always thought was ‘Paws’) used to be, that little deformed club that was actually just one triangle tent at the end of the petrol station?

Into Kahawa Sukari, and the journey began…

If you have ever been at the Kahawa Sukari shopping Centre, then you know that as a visitor, there is not much to see except a few shops, clubs and such shenanigans. For the keen eye though, the economy of that little shopping centre seems to be built on something else that is not visible, at first. That’s when you notice the posh cars following the road…and what used to be a big barrier for getting into the estate. Now, when you look at it from the road, it seems like a small estate, I have only been there once before, a few months before I joined campus, and I kind of got lost…but that’s an embarrassing story only my journal knows ;)..

Two packs of sugarcane worth 10 bob each and the journey began…we just walked in as if we know the place, followed the tarmac road. Proboxes and its cousins the Succeed and other ugly but still practical cars were in plenty, I think I almost got hit thrice because I thought they were leaner than they seemed, like we could both fit on the road.

Kahawa Sukari is a posh estate, posh in the sense that you can see the well-manicured lawns and the effort placed on making the outside of the houses fit in. There are small shopping centers, a lot of quiet and peace after you have left the business of the highway. Bill asked me a funny question, it was funny to me because I was thinking it too, ‘how comes I do not know a single person who lives here?’. It is not like I would have dropped in or anything, but none of us knows anyone, at all, or has ever known anyone, who lives in this Sukari place. It is an upper middle class, mildly rich place, the kind of place you move to after several promotions, with or without quotes. It gives you a sense of what the gated communities such as Tatu City will look like when and if the court battles and greed ever end.

We stalked a girl for a while, okay, I just said that to sound creepy, we did not stalk her, she just happened to be headed the same way, and she kept looking behind like we were rapists at 3 PM (very few freaks have those kind of balls missus). Anyway, it is a boring place, there is little to see except big houses built on one of the few tracts of land that the Kenyatta family has sold. There were huge gates, monstrous houses, too much effort on the outside appearance, except for one guy who had what seemed like the empty crates side of EABL and KWAL combined on his balcony…trophies?

So we kept walking…

An hour later, we came to what we had been looking for, the end of the tarmac road. For the seasoned adventurer, this is where the learning begins. But it had already begun a few meters before…At the end of the tarmac is an academy whose name escapes me. It looks posh-ish, not exaggerated, but you can tell that only a good payslip can afford it. Next to it, next like sharing an electric fence (‘sharing’ in that one side erected it and the other has to live with it) is a public primary school with dilapidated buildings, and children with torn uniform. My camera was working, but I could not bring myself to take a photo of the school sign erected a few meters in. There is no gate, no fence except the one that divides them from Kahawa Sukari. It is Irony at its crudest…

Anyway, where was I? The end of the tarmac…yes…

And the snaking earth road where we had to hop into the tall grass to escape the dust from passing trucks and Proboxes (this things are everywhere!). 200 meters and we found the stage where those tiny matatus (if you can call them that) behind Engen dock, were in Mwihoko.

Mwihoko means hope in Kikuyu, and its on the other side of the valley from Kahawa Sukari. Its situational irony, or the person who named it wanted to pass a message. There is little to see in this place, the dilapidated houses, the new apartments, the dust, the clay soil…When you look behind you, the beautiful houses from where we just were in this journey. This are the unofficial servant quarters of the Sukari side, I presume. This is where the gardeners, house helps, drivers, watchmen, out-of-town thugs, come from. It has little to show except for open fields, and in the horizon, the Eastern Bypass. I actually saw a plane take off from afar, then when I was going to show it to Bill, it was not there anymore. I am sure I saw one, at least I was at the time…

The weird thing is, there was no hotel where the sign was pointing, not even a kiosk..

Yes, Mwihoko was not the end, we just walked into the town, getting dusty in the process, with the early evening sun doing what it does best. The valley stretches for miles and miles, with little civilization in the dry river between the two humanities. It is a weird balance, yet it shows the perils of capitalism, the way some have and some do not, and in most cases, it is a fault of neither. So whom do you blame for such an imbalance?

We just followed the road, staring at the little children with running noses outside their houses as we passed. Mwihoko is not a slum, at least not in the context of dilapidated houses. Actually, after a few turns you can see nice houses, and fenced plots of land. There are no paper houses, at least in the parts I saw, and there is breathing space. Some houses are so good that they seem lost on this side of the valley, but somehow, they seem to fit in…

Houses, almost in the middle of nowhere...

SO we walked on…

Then we got to what looked like an open field, it was not a field, it’s a huge tract of undeveloped land which am suspecting belongs to that family from Gatundu. Its an expansive tract of land, I think it took us about half an hour to cross it, and on the way we saw a couple of teenagers making out, that, or they were miming at each other, cows in abundance, and a lot of excrement. I cannot say here whether it was all animal or not, but I bet there is something from intelligible life from other life forms there.

At some point I thought we would emerge somewhere in Mwiki, or the backside of Kasarani (which sounds so wrong), but when we got to the civilization we had been seeing all along, I knew where we were, Kimbo, where I was in my other random walk! Phew! For finding, we had not gone so far, and darn! For the dust attack we were just about to endure…and endure we did. We walked all the way back, sometimes walking for hundreds of meters without saying a word. There was little to see, at least for me, until the turn where we could escape the dusty road and head back to Wendani, but there were more than three weddings. I am not one to show concern for such ceremonies, but the dust…I guess someone will have to take a very long shower before those honeymoon perks can be viable.

Then there was a road (thats Bill on the left)

the Dust, and thats when there was only one vehicle on the road..

And there was litter of cute dogs, cute, until their mother growled from underneath them when I went too close. I guess today’s walk was somehere between 12-17 kilometers, which is not the longest I have done in the name of randomness, but it ranks as one of the most random. Bill said he got three coats of dust from the changes from tarmac, clay soil, weird looking dusty murram, and the dusty soil whose name I did not care to even guess. That, and that the Nakumatt attendant almost held her nose when I walked up to her.

...and then the evening sun...


So, where to next?

Kahawa Wendani and the Random Walk

Dusty. Tired, hungry and in the dark. That is Kahawa Wendani and I right now.

Since my bachelor pad is less than a minutes walk from Thika Road, I tend to exist without really exploring my neighborhood but today, the universe conspired against me. Bogged down with writing contracts, deadlines and no inspiration at all, I called one of the few people who know me well enough to know that a ‘writer’s block’ is a code red state for me. She offered several solutions, the most striking of which was something I used to do some years back, walking. I did not think it was a good idea at the time, but when KPLC decided that I have been paying the bill for too long and they want to help me save some money (scoundrels!) I decided to walk to Nakumatt Wendani and window shop (and maybe buy a pack of Tic Tacs). If you have ever been to Kahawa, then you know that the paved road ends just at the turn to get to Nakumatt. Beyond that is what looks like, and probably is, the dustiest road in Kenya (I thought that for a time, but I have had a change of mind). In a moment of randomness, I ventured towards that stretch of dust, walking with the pace my old man taught me-Which reminds me, it is his 65th Birthday today, and am sure he is doing what he does every evening, walking-the dust was unbearable at first, but a faint heart never found new shores.

The only aim of taking the walk today was to explore and get inspired, and that I did. I now know I live in a cocoon of apartments and well-developed residences. I found the real Kahawa Wendani as I ventured further and further inside. I also know why the boda boda guys at the stage are increasing by the day; there are people who live far from the road, dusty, dusty far. It reminded me of Kiambu, where I was born on bred, the serene atmosphere, the simplicity of the neighborhood, the bougainvillea fences and mabati gates, the incomplete houses and unfenced-interconnected homesteads. I knew it was only time before I found a river, and after following the road for sometime, I found the bridge, but that’s not exactly my idea of a river, it looks green and slimy. So one mark off for this place being all-natural….

When am walking with no direction except where the road leads, I adhere to a few rules. You could call it my guide to safe random walking, but it has worked for me so far. These are the five simple things to remember:

  1. Blend in! It does not matter whether you are walking in your estate or your shags; try to look like you belong.
  2. Dress simply-There are two reasons for this, one, unless you are walking in a posh estate, a simple jeans-t-shirt-jumper-rubbers will do. Two, refer to Rule 1 above.
  3. Walk confidently-Not necessarily fast, confidently. Thieves and con artists, and wayside Jehovah Witnesses, can tell a sucker from miles away. If you walk as if you are lost, you will be. Even if you are lost, try to walk like you know where you are going. Ask for directions from shopkeepers or guards in uniform, preferably those who are alone, and preferably women ( I know the last part is stereotypic and a shot in the dark because women are blessed with many things but direction-telling abilities, but it is less likely that a woman will screw you up)
  4. Follow the road: Keep to the center of the road if it is deserted, or to the walkways. A road will always lead somewhere, of that you can be sure. Where a road exists, people have made it going to a place of importance to them. If you follow the road, even when you are lost, you will find a feeder road, or something that will get you back on track.
  5. Be paranoid: You are walking randomly, note, not aimlessly, and the natives of the place can tell you are headed nowhere. If you think you are being followed, walk fast, and follow rule 4 above. If your instincts tell you to run, and you are fit enough to do so, then for Heaven’s sake SPRINT! You might look like a lunatic or a budding marathoner, but it is better to be safe.

but I digress….

Then I saw a guy in his shamba in gumboots, digging so hard you could tell he is being paid for it. Mind you, it was five in the evening, which tells you he might have been doing this all day, or it is his idea of a side gig. Then I passed the village goons, okay, I think I overrated them, they were teenage boys in Arsenal T-shirts trying to look tough. I walked past them, and found the residential ‘bridge’ between Wendani and Sukari (I wonder what pervert named this places). On one side are the posh houses, with well-maintained lush lawns and gleaming walls, telling stories or upper middle class people trying to outdo each other, and on the other, the simple houses of people who have been watching the world change around them, without them. I eavesdropped on two old women discussing ‘tights’, the new fashion in town, they were 70 years old at the least, and they were sited about ten meters from the road. One said something about ‘airitu’ and ‘thuruari’ ( Girls and pants) and I pieced the rest together because I doubt they were talking about boycuts.

As all good roads go, the one I had been on for about forty-five minutes turned out to be a feeder road for another one. This is where you learn to tell whether you are decisive or not, you get to a bigger road and you have to decide whether to go right or left, the former will lead somewhere to Githurai, and the latter will lead to Sukari. I chose the former, not because am mad or I wanted mbogas from Githurai 45 (forte fae) but because I have always wondered how far inside it stretches. Turning to Sukari would have led me to the boring posh estates, somehow a part of me wishes I had taken that option…

I passed a church, then a school, then another church, then a deserted homestead, or so it seemed until a girl emerged pushing a wheelbarrow with three mitungis of water. Right behind her was her younger brother, he could not have been anything older than 13, with three on his wheelbarrow too. Water is an issue in this sides, and by the look of things, so are clothes. This story sounds familiar, where life is so hard that when you get home from your primary school, you must do all your chores in your school uniform. It is no easy task, looking for water, and seeing that young boy so determined to outdo his younger his sister was quite something…anyway, I digress.

I got to Kimbo, which is basically the shags of Githurai 45. If you have seen those old matatus with number plates issued a decade ago, with broken windscreens replaced with clear-but-now-dusty-as-hell paper bags somewhere in Githurai 45, then they go past here, and its far. I have not encountered such a health hazard in the recent past, but any one raising their kids in this place is signing a waiver for their child’s health. The road is so dusty it is impossible to see five meters around you. Since it is busy enough, you can bet that a  car will pass every minute, and with it, raise even more and thicker clouds of dust. Then you see the four year olds minding their own business, playing and jumping onto the road before they disappear into their homes, and you know asthma and a million other respiratory diseases have a future. That, and the fact that for the entire stretch of the road until I emerged in Githurai 45, the drainage trench on my left was full of sewage, greed, weird-looking, smelly sewage. It looks like it has been building for quite some time, a year maybe, and yet a few kilometers away, we boast of a 30 billion shilling road.

I could have stopped one of those creaky matatus and saved myself from the dust outside for the dust inside, but that is not fair to the art of walking randomly. I chose to walk, but I got one disposable hanky from my pocket and held it to my nose for the entire four kilometers. I doubt any description of the amount of dust I encountered would do it justice but suffice to say that if I had not followed my Rule 1 on blending in when I started, then by the time I was halfway to wherever t was that I was headed, I was as dusty as the next guy, if not dustier, because the damned dust seemed to be picking on me.

Girls? I did see one, she was busty! I think I saw them first and then I saw her, but I could tell she was underage because she was looking at me ( And statutory rape is not really in my bucket list). So I ignored her, or rather I turned to steal a glance on whether in a few years, I should make the walk again. I should…

Pregnant women? One, and she looked moody as hell, or she is in a sneering competition…

I wish I had carried a camera since my phone was dead ( no thanks to KPLC again). I saw a sign saying VUNDI WA VIATU  and I cringed, like you just have…and then there was End Hours Revival Ministry, MABOYZ KEG, MABROSE ENTERPRISES….

Anyway, two hours after starting my journey, I emerged under the flyover on Thika Road. I was dusty as hell (I think hell is more of smoky, but it must be dusty too), tired, hungry and now extremely paranoid because it was 7 in the evening and I was in what is perhaps the most insecure place in this lairs. I found nothing that qualified to find its way back as a trophy, but the blue jeans I am going to scrub in a few hours will probably tell the dusty tale for years to come.