Friday, 6 September 2013

The Kapsoya matatu

This matatu defines the terms unroadworthy, rickety, tough, rusty and unwieldy
to near perfection. When you board a Kapsoya matatu, you must have considerable faith that you will reach your destination. Your faith must surpass the litres of petrol that the matatu has and better still, it must be stronger than the matatu's mechanical condition. This is the kind of matatu that can stall on the railway track as a train is fast approaching. They produce blinding smoke from their exhaust pipes, the kind of which a magician can disappear and re-appear with brand new clothes. They elicit thrill, fear and consternation all at once. Yes, we Kapsoya residents have been derided because of our old matatus, to an extent an out-of-town visitor will think that the Kapsoya stage is a garage. The estate has been slighted as "a graveyard of matatus". This is the route where a matatu's last days as a useful public transport machine are spent. This assumption is relative. Kapsoya matatus are as tough as they come.

They can withstand the bumpy and adverse road network that leads to the estate. A driver adjusts the rigid gears and steps on it in a such manner you would think it is Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious. They are old warriors that have survived broken windows, cracked windscreens, failed wipers, non-functional headlights, non-existent brakelights, leaking roofs, dusty seats and coughing engines to still be driven and operate everyday in a difficult route. My cousin from Nairobi once drove me into a fit of laughter when he asked me the route number of Kapsoya matatus. These matatus have no "hewa", so the tunes you hear are; the shrill sound of clanging windows mixed with the stuttering roar of the engine plus that continuous squeak that an unstable chair somewhere produces and Dinka conversations of South Sudanese are part of what makes the music. They have no screens and if they were they would either be cracked or out of service. These matatus have no graffiti, the furthest a matatu has gone in decòr is painting lines of different colours or the classic flame graffiti.

Body work on the matatus is done once in a solar eclipse. This is a route which demands less glamour and more grit so you put aside your snooty attitude, this is not Coast Bus or Modern Coast which has adequate leg room, reclining seats or a beaming hostess serving you with a glass of warm juice. This is a matatu when it rains some seats are reserved for the raindrops. When it is dusty, a bump can cause a sandstorm in the matatu. They are not the sleekiest machines in town even some look like they are crying or miserable by the multiple renovations and repairs they have gone through. If they were human beings, they would have testified every Sunday of how God has seen them through surgery.

The fare is sh 20 to town and sh 30 from town but an increase in fares is accompanied by the following notice, "Due to an increase in the prices of spare parts, the fare has increased by sh 10". Enjoy your ride.

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