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Driving from Nairobi to Nakuru (150km) can take 5 hours. Here’s how.


It has taken me 5 hours to travel from Nairobi to Nakuru – a distance of 150km. According to google maps, observing all traffic rules, I should be there in 2 hours and 42 minutes. On other days that I have taken this route it has taken me about 3 hours (because I often stop in Naivasha for a coffee.

This evening, I set out for Naivasha at 7:30pm. coming out of Nairobi was uneventful and Murage, my colleague is a pretty good driver. I don’t drive long distances on account of how I get sleepy within 10 kilometres of open road – a far cry from the days of my youth when I would enjoy hours of open road. It was understood that Kevin and I will be asleep and we set our benevolent driver up with music of his choice and settled in for a well anticipated nap.

Er. It was not to be. At Kimende, 51km into our journey, we encountered a traffic jam that we were informed snaked its way past Kijabe turn off about 8km ahead of us. We were advised by a passing policewoman  to turn back, drive to Limuru (15km), turn off and use the Mai Mahiu route, which we did. That added approximately 90 additional minutes to our journey (given the very curvy descent on the side of the Rift Valley escarpment in the dark dark road and the hundreds of trucks that we encountered on that route.). We drove past Mai Mahiu and Naivasha uneventfully and our spirits were up knowing that we would. We passed Naivasha at about 10:15pm.

At Gilgil, we found a police road block and as luck would have it, we were pulled over. The jovial police man shone his light into the car and asked Murage (who was driving to open the boot for inspection). Upon realising that all was well – he said that he wanted to “be seen” – a euphemism for making a contribution to their Lifestyle Enhancement Fund.

“It is a cold night and you have to at least leave something to increase our warmth,” he said jovially. We agreed that it was a cold night and we have to travel to Nakuru to also look for something that will “increase our warmth” so how about he lets us go on our way? We had nothing to give him after all so perhaps another time, hehe!!

This was all a very jolly conversation and having been in this situation before, our strategy is to waste their time as much as possible and convince them that they will not be getting a contribution to their Abdominal Welfare Fund from us. In our case, this took a full half hour of back and forth – initially he wanted at least a contribution of 2,500 and he came down over time to 500 (which we assured him we didn’t have, so could we go?)

Meanwhile, we observed that the process was a simple one. Cars would get stopped, the driver would be invited to open the boot for a security check, a secret handshake would be made and the driver would be on their way. No real security checking would have happened. We saw over 40 cars come and go while we were there and we saw at least 20 secret handshakes happen. I really tried to take a photo and didn’t get a good shot in.

Eventually, the copper gave up on us and let us go. Barely 5km ahead we encountered a serious accident involving a small Toyota that had rear ended a petrol tanker. The petrol Tanker was unshaken, but the Toyota was totalled. Passing the snarl up that that accident caused took another 20 or so minutes.

We eventually pulled up to our destination in Lanet at 12:25am.

It does not escape me that there is someone who took off from Kenya around the time we departed, and flew 3,556km to Dubai – and we arrived at about the same time.

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