Restless in Naivasha.
Just to recap on the situation here:
Arrived in Kenya from Abidjan on March 12. Stayed in Nairobi for three days. Travelled to Naivasha to self-quarantine and have been here ever since.
A few days after my arrival in Kenya, they imposed a self-quarantine rule. I did mine voluntarily. On March 25th Kenyan airspace for international flights was shut down. Evac flights have since taken out most of the Europeans who wanted to leave.
The week before Easter, they imposed an inter-county travel ban. There are 47 counties in Kenya. Naivasha is in Nakuru county, 100km/60miles from Nairobi.
Life could carry on pretty much as normal. There was no total lockdown. But there were numerous restrictions put in place. Matatus, the mini vans used for transportation were restricted to running at 50% capacity, but the fares were doubled, which had the desired effect of naturally reducing travel. Such a fare hike is tough for many.
Curfew was introduced. 7pm until 5am. The evenings were deathly quiet save the barking of dogs.
Here, the small restaurants are still open but social distancing must be observed. My local eatery has 8 tables and 1 chair per table to maintain the 1.5m social distancing rule. The market was shut down but then re-opened with a limit on those allowed to enter.
The streets were fairly quiet out of fear from corona, lack of money to spend, and the road blocks.
The wearing of masks is mandatory (but not enforced). As is washing of hands before entering any establishment.
Then last Sunday night I noticed things were changing. I hadn’t heard any official report but late into the night trucks were running on the highway despite the 7pm curfew. I went into town the next day and it was busy. Not pre-corona busy but a noticeable increase on the number of cars and other vehicles.
I’d say that 30% of people were not wearing a mask. One Twitter contact said that in Nairobi people face arrest for not wearing one. ‘For the sake of 20KSH’.
Since the mzungu that tested positive for corona in the early stages of the pandemic and was traced back to a resort style hotel here, there have been no further reported cases. Life is pretty relaxed. People became complacent.
One of the sisters in the café said that “Kenyans don’t take this seriously. People are on the street until 10pm,” despite the risk of being caught, given a beating, and a night in the cells and then issued with a 200USD fine. That’s more than a months wages for most people here.
It seems that the transportation of non-essential goods from Nairobi has resumed, which means an increase in motorcycle traffic buzzing around town delivering parcels.
There are more improvised stalls set up to cater for the increased number of people. The people are doing what they can to survive.
I talked to my guys here. Said how ‘busy’ it was. I was told that people are also getting through from Nairobi. I asked the girl here and she said it was common knowledge that people would get the trucks to take them across the county boundaries.
The girls at the café always have more intel. “Getting to Nairobi is easy, if you have money.”
I had already looked at the map. There are 2 county boundaries you must cross to get to Nairobi. And of course there will be ad hoc check points as well. In fact, she said, it was easier than getting in a truck.
“You can just take a normal matatu. It’s just a question of paying at the police check point.”
This is what I wanted to know.
“Just 50bob (KSH), imagine!,” she told me. That’s 50US cents. The price of a small cola here.
“No. Per vehicle. You want to go?”
“No, I’d get arrested.”
“No you wouldn’t. You’d just have to pay but a bit more than local price.”
It was almost comical.
“But once in Nairobi,” I continued, “where would I stay? I’d be under scrutiny as a new arrival.”
“You are safer here,” we both agreed.
I have no business in Nairobi. Life would be more expensive. Maybe a tad more interesting witnessing some of the protests at Eastleigh where they shut down the district. Nothing going in and nothing going out in an attempt to contain a small corona hotspot. Well, I say nothing going in or out. Containing the spread is not helped by motorcycle taxis bribing police.
I browsed through the newspaper and saw this, which summed up the situation fairly well:
I am not needing company but it makes me feel less anxious. The guys here have things to do and there is money coming in. Not a huge amount but better than nothing. And, more importantly, the remaining staff get to keep their jobs a while longer.
I go into town most days, either for breakfast or lunch. The café can use some regular business. I always leave a tip.
But I don’t go further. I could but I don’t.
Last Saturday, a young chap called out, “Mzungu, why you bring corona to Kenya?” He was drunk and a bit too aggressive for my liking. As an ex-staff member at my guest house said, “Not everyone is so welcoming.”
People are not avoiding me when they see me coming. Most barely give me a passing glance. Yet there are a few isolated instances and just now I feel safer if I just go where there are people around.
And the police. I have never had an issue with them. On another trip here, I have asked them before taking photos of road signs or asking for the confirmation of the street name when in Nairobi, but I don’t want to be on a deserted stretch of road where they invent a ‘mister meaner.’
And what do I have to look forward to?
Well, this coming Saturday (May 16), President Kenyatta will announce the situation regarding the ‘lockdown.’ By my reckoning, the 21 day extension will be up.
I am hoping that the travel ban will be lifted. That means my guest house will start getting business. I feel for the guys here. And other hotels can also reopen, not just here. Across Kenya.
I will then be free to travel within Kenya. I have no complaints here but I could do with a change of scenery.
I have paid up until the end of the month. I would go back to the Crescent Island Game Sanctuary, and make a few other day trips too.
My visa extension was granted. I am good until June 29 for the time being. I will be sent an appointment of when I must present my documents for official endorsement. I can’t really understand why it isn’t done electronically but that’s how it is.
Maybe they have issued me with an appointment already. I may have even missed it.
Even if Kenya opens up, I doubt that the border to Uganda will open, but this is just my view.
But I have just checked the news feed. There is quite a hike in the number of cases. It doesn’t bode well.
This is going to go on and on.
Read more of the ‘Stuck in Kenya’ series on Vagabond Journey: