Day 1,431: Carry On Nairobi

Sat 01.12.12:

So after a night of almost no sleep I find myself in Nairobi, ready to get this 6am bus to the border. For some idiotic reason only known to the Kenyan government, all international buses leave from the area of Eastleigh, aka ‘Little Somalia’. When I was hear three years ago, the roads were all dug up like you would not believe. Some were just massive holes as though they were operating some kind of ‘cut and cover’ operation for a new subway system. Glad to say things have changed massively since I was last here.

Oh no, they haven’t. The roads are just as insane as ever.

The rest of the city is actually quite respectable. Why they chose to locate there national and international transport hub here of all places is quite beyond my programming. Perhaps they just really want you to fly. Talking of flying, if I flew to Addis Ababa, I could get a visa on arrival – I wouldn’t be at all surprised to here that the difficulties put in place for people who wish to overland aren’t at the behest of Ethiopian Airways…

But I can’t fly, as easier and as cheaper as it would be. I’d see it as cheating, and come on, I’ve got just THREE WEEKS from today to get back to my hometown of Liverpool. If you don’t see that as an epic challenge, you either a) have no soul or b) don’t know Africa very well.

I am taken by a bus tout over some mounds of dirt and across various WWI-style trenches to the Moyale Bus (Moyale being the bordertown between Kenya and Ethiopia). I clamber onboard and fall sound asleep.

I’m woken up an hour later by the same tout, The bus hadn’t moved. ‘You have to get off the bus, it needs to go for petrol.’ Unhappily, groggily, I sling my bags over my shoulders and shuffle off the bus.

‘When will it be back?’


Cursing myself for not getting the later bus yesterday, spending the day in Kampala and getting a decent night’s sleep on a real seat, I sat on the narrow wooden bench outside the ticket shack. With my backpack as my pillow and my other two bags as my teddy bears, I leaned to one side, curled up with my sleeping bag over me and fell fast asleep.

Yep, you can add ‘sleeping rough on the streets of Nairobi’ to my (rather copious) list of insane things I did before I died.

At 9am I was woken by the tout who I assume had been fending off ne’er-do-wells as I slumbered. Great! Time to go!

Ah, no.

Time to buy my ticket. The bus doesn’t leave until 3pm.

Oh for the love of—

Ticket in hand, I jumped in a taxi and headed off to find breakfast and wifi. Anywhere but Eastleigh. I was hoping to meet with Tom, a guy who had contacted me on Twitter offering beer if I was ever in Nairobi. Unfortunately he wasn’t going to back in the city until 2pm, so we would end up just missing each other.

That is if, of course, the bus actually left at 3pm, which, of course, it didn’t.

By 6pm I was getting a little tired of this. But it was when people started climbing on board the bus and I looked at my ticket that my heart really sank. This was Bus #1. My ticket was for Bus #2 which was currently Christ-Knows-Where.

I had words with the bloke in the ticket office. He swapped my ticket for one of a passenger who hadn’t turned up. Thank the maker.

And so I took my seat like the wanton cuckoo I am and off we jolly well popped north towards Isiolo and then even norther to Moyale. The road to Isiolo is paved, but after that… oh God. Did I mention yesterday that it was the worst highway in East Africa? I wasn’t kidding…

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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