Driving in the dark has not been a practice of ours in the eight years that we have lived in Africa. We have done everything we can to avoid it. The business class that was held at the Deliverance Church in Kakamega ran from 2 pm - 5 pm, resulting in the return two hour drive taking place mostly in the dark (especially as we did not get out of class until about 5:40 pm). Since I had class again in Kitale on Monday morning, I thought driving back Sunday evening would be necessary. And the rule for not driving at night was mostly true for West Africa, I rationalized to myself. I had yet to test the need for such a rule in Kenya. Suffice it to say, I learned my lesson - the same rule does apply - and I will find alternatives to driving at night even if I have to stay in Kakamega late and need to be back in Kitale early the next morning!
Here are a few reasons:
- The roads are often narrow, with no shoulders at all. In fact, when there are shoulders, they are often a sharp one to two foot drop as the tarmac meets dirt; often there are chunks of tarmac missing right on the edge of the road due to the lack of support. So vehicles are forced to drive very close together.
- Vehicles are often overloaded, both with goods and people, making them risky to drive behind. People may jump on or off moving vehicles in front of you (and a couple of times they jumped on the vehicle I was in).
- Pedestrians are all over. Yesterday we drove after a very heavy rain, so the shoulders were muddy. People chose instead to walk on the road. In the dark, without street lights, seeing them is problematic.
- Motorbikes and bicycles are all over the road, transporting people and merchandise. When a truck decides to pass a motorcycle or bicycle, they are forced to the middle of the road (due to the narrowness), making it difficult for on-coming traffic. If we both have bikes on each side of the road, someone has to slow way down and take turns.
- People move their goods in all sorts of manners, including these carts, which also need to move on the road, as there are not sidewalks or shoulders.
|Hard work, yes. But also blocking traffic due to slow movement.|
|Lorries with sugar cane.|
- In addition to all this, this area of Kakamega is sugar cane country, and lorries and tractors are moving up and down the roads, with wide loads of harvested sugar cane. A few times, the produce brushed up and over the car as we had to pass so closely to the tractors.
|Tractors with sugar cane.|
|A typical matatu.|
And so today, even though I had a different blog prepared, I felt I had to take a moment and thank God publicly for traveling mercies. And I have promised not to do this ride again at night. And as we speak, the mechanic is working on my brakes as well as replacing the two front tires. I have joked that I want a Kenyan shilling for every person that I avoid hitting - while I say that with a smile, I know that EVERY DAY that I do not have an accident is through the grace of God and because of His protection.