23.07.2009 - 23.07.2009
When I crossed back from Uganda a couple of weeks ago, the Kenyan border guards were extremely friendly and must have assumed they were doing me a favour. Sadly, it hasn't really worked that way. In East Africa, once you have a visa for each individual country, you can cross as many times as you wish between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. However, once you leave that trio for another country, you theoretically need to get a new visa for each of the the east African countries you then re-enter. The other East African countries or Burundi and Rwanda are included in this as they have yet to join the free movement agreement, but should soon join.
What the Kenyans did, was despite my waving my 25usd visa fee at them and actively wanting a new 1month (or more) visa, is stamp me back into for free. They could obviously see that I had left the area because the stamp was put on the same page as my Burundi and DRC stamps, but they stamped me back anyway. Normally, this would be great and would save me money. But in this case, I was close to the end of my original 3month validity anyway, yet still needed to be in Kenya for medical purposes beyond that point. After making inquiries as to the cost and ease of extending a Kenyan tourist visa, it quickly became clear that it would be much less hassle (and probably cost) to leave the country for a few days instead of trying to get it fixed in Nairobi.
Which is how I came to be in a taxi at 5.45am heading to the bus terminal in town, in order to get a bus to Tanzania for a few days on a visa run. I had picked Tanzania simply because it was the closest, cheapest and easiest country to get to, rather than any more devious reason. I had previously caught the same bus southwards on 2 occasions in the last couple of months so I wasn't overly worried about events, at least until the first 'bang' noise.
Coming around one of the roundabouts on the main North-South highway through Nairobi, we first heard 2 banging-metallic thud noises, followed barely a second later by a dull thud that sounded almost like a muffled gunshot and the cracking/sprinkling of glass. It was still dark, and even though it was an intersection on the countries busiest road in the capital, very poorly lit.
The driver and I both instinctively ducked, and glanced at each other is slight shock. We briefly slowed a bit, before the driver started to speed up again and I swiveled around (still half ducked) to survey the scene. The rear driver's side window was now sporting a fairly large hole in it's centre, with the rest of the window badly cracked but still just about in place. In the middle of the roundabout a few dark shapes of young men could be seen heading towards the car and then hesitate when it started to speed up again.
A few minutes later, we stopped at the relative sanctity of a well lit petrol station with several people around and took stock. A survey of the car revealed obvious dents on the driver and rear driver side doors just below window level, whilst I retrieved a lump of jagged rock a bit bigger than a golf ball from amongst the shattered glass on the backseat. Instantly, we both realised that we had been very very lucky in pretty much all respects (excepting the taxi driver's needing to spend a small fortune he probably doesn't have on a new window).
It seems we had been caught in one of Nairobi's current trendiest carjacking methods: Had we continued to slow down or stop to inspect the damage when it had occurred (as would be the natural reaction), there is little doubt that we would have been relieved of the vehicle and everything in it, and quite possibly we would have had been subjected to other 'entertainments' as well. Being forced to withdraw lots of money from ATM's, being ransomed, injected with AIDS infected blood, driven around for hours whilst tied up in the boot and/or being murdered (as happened to one Member of Parliament in a carjacking only last month) are par for the course in Nairobi. Similarly, if one of the rocks had been a few centimetres higher, or the successful one a half second earlier, then the driver would have been hit (whether they were specifically aiming at the driver or not is unknown, but all 3 hits were on the drivers side, so probably), with probable horrific and – quite likely deadly – consequences. And we were extremely lucky that there had not been a rear seat passenger, who would undoubtedly have been hit by the window-breaking rock and probably badly injured or worse.
After looking at the scene for a minute or two, with nothing else we could really do, we continued on our way. In the 3minutes or so it took to continue to the bus stop, i had made a decision. I have occasionally been in dangerous places or situations before, and admit that I had come to Nairobi with a very poor preconception, but after being shot at and now almost carjacked within a week in a 'normal' city/place, I resolved there and then that regardless of anything else, I would not be returning to Nairobi in the near future if I could in anyway prevent it.
I know that i still need to be here for probably another couple of weeks, but that's for me to try and solve. For now, my loathing of Nairobi is at it's highest and I need to leave – and for some time, not just a few days – before it ends up being the death of me. At this rate, literally.
I REALLY hate Nairobi.
(Sorry there are no rock/broken window pictures. I did think of it, but my camera was buried deep in my locked rucksack in anticipation of the bus journey, and I didn't want to start rooting around for it and unpacking everything at that point. Besides, it would have been a bit of a p1ss take to the poor driver who has to fund a new window)