When I heard that I was going to Kisumu I was super excited, it was first time to go to the lakeside city. It didn’t really matter that I would be working through my whole stay. Our booking for the local budget flight was delayed so we missed out and had to take the longer route by bus. We take the night bus to Kisumu and after we had finished telling all the stories we could think of with my colleague J we start dozing off. We are woken up at 4 am that we are already in Kisumu. There are so many taxi guys at the Easy coach offices offering to take us where we want in dholuo, but all I can say is adek, achiel, okay let me stop, we bargain(I could see the shock on their faces, apparently luos don’t bargain) which is unluo like and go to our hotel.
In the morning we had a meeting with our client for a briefing then we start our work. So here are some quick facts about Kisumu, if you are a first timer:
Kisumu is hot, and I mean hot and humid. You will need that bucket hat. The nights can get cold so do get a jacket if you plan to be up and about. If you are prone to sun burns and will be up and about please also do pack some sunscreen and lip protection.
Kisumu is the mother of all mosquitos, I have never been bitten so much in my life, be sure to take some anti malarials before travel, otherwise you will be courting trouble.
Kisumu being the source of most tilapia and nile perch in the country you would expect the staple food to be affordable at the source. This is however not the case, you will have to enjoy it at prices above those in Nairobi. If you are on a budget you can always try café naivas (we found this handy after we had exhausted our per diem on fishes… haha)
The people are in between friendly and contemptuous it depends on how you present yourself. Do not come off as “I am better than you”, that will bring out open hostility.
There is a java, and several watering holes in operation.
There are several supermarkets in Kisumu city, from Nakummat, Uchumi, Naivas and Tuskys and Tumaini supermarkets among others.
So back to my story, we finish our work early so that we can get a feel of the town. I specifically wanted to go to the border town of busia and take a boat ride.
We went to KRA port where one pays 20bob to gain entry. They had these big boats carrying fertilizer form Tanzania being offloaded; we also got a feel of the some passenger boats which we learn are unfortunately underutilised. They would be used on special occasions say they are hired for an even like a wedding. We were left wondering how much revenue they would bring had they decided to be taking people on paid rides. We went to Dunga beach where we take a boat ride on a wooden boat. Our guide when we are in the middle of the lake starts telling us horror stories like how this part is the deepest in the lake and if you sink here you will get stuck in the mud below and die! I check the fastening on my life jacket and hold on tightly to the rails of the boat as I say a quick prayer. I still can’t swim to save a life and the thought of drowning is not one I need in my head especially in the middle of the lake. If these guys were unscrupulous and held us at ransom, I would have willingly given all my belongings to them haha.
Since it was early afternoon we decide to go to Busia. We go take a Nissan matatu that plays tricks on us. They ask for money and they then take the Nissan to a bus and tell us to board the bus. We make a lot of noise but these guys were really arrogant, they even tell us to call the police we won’t get help. This is how they get buses filled because people avoid getting in them. The trick is if you see guys charging before the journey, just alight and find another matatu, insist on paying once the vehicle is on the road en-route to your destination. We were getting to Busia almost six. We cross over to Uganda and do hurried shopping because we had been told that past 6.30 we wouldn’t get matatus going back. By the way things are way super cheap in Uganda, they don’t have so many taxes like us on the Kenyan side. By 6.20am we cross over to the Kenyan side and since we know the journey would be extremely long we decide to buy some snacks. That was our mistake. Because we get out of the tumaini supermarket and the last matatu to Kisumu had departed. We find a bus to Nairobi that agrees to take us to Kisumu and that is where our adventure starts.
The bus leaves Busia well then continues picking up passengers on the way, at some point they stop and tell us that they had booked our seats to Nairobi bound passengers! We really cause a scene, thankfully because J is 6’5” they give us refunds chap chap because we were really spoiling for a fight, well I was because I knew I had back up lol. It is now 8 pm and we are in the middle of nowhere and there is no other bus that seems to be coming. We start thinking of finding a place to sleep when this long distance trucker stops and asks where we are headed. We tell him Kisumu and he agrees to take us. There were so many hyenas on the road which I came to learn are from nearby Ruma national park, occasionally you would meet the night runner on their trade followed by dogs, this was really new for me. As we are about to get to Kisumu we find a police check road block and our driver decides not to stop. Being unauthorised passengers we knew we were being setup to getting arrested. The cops threw spikes on the road and he had to apply emergency brakes on that thing, if the trailer were loaded we would have run through the spikes. The cops are now suspicious of us and come really furious at the driver. This guy was arrogant he really talks smack at the cops and they see us. J was the first to be told to alight and had cuffs put on him, I joined him and offered my hands for the cuffs and the cop opens one side from J’s cuff and puts it on me. They ask us who we are and where we stay. When I mention Milimani one guy comes and asks me if I am related to some senior bureaucrat in that area. I lie and say yes and that does the trick, we are let go. The driver was at this point talking nicely after being harassed to submission, they let us go and we tell the guy he should have stopped when he say the police check. He tells us how he never stops and we are left thinking this was a scheme whenever he carries guys to get them to pay bribes to the cops and they share the loot.
We get to Kisumu well past 2 am and we go to our hotel and sleep. In the morning after all we should be getting back to Nairobi.