No, this is not what you think.
While we had Thai herbal massages on our trip to Thailand, as well as a lot of excellent foot massages in China and several of those funky foot massages where fish nibble on your feet too.
A Kenyan massage is riding just about anywhere in a safari vehicle.
The roads in Kenya were nothing like we ever expected. The roads in Nairobi are a little rough, yes there are some multi-lane highways, but a majority of the roads we encountered were two lanes, pretty bumpy and wide dirt shoulders where dust flies everywhere.
You see, in general, Kenyans walk everywhere and especially the Maasai.
Matatu and Motorbikes
There are small busses and vans called matatu, that are brightly colored, some with incredible artwork, most with loud music. These are privately owned and transport people everywhere.
The other mode of public transportation is motorbikes. You’ll find drivers all over the place, sitting under a lean-to or under a tree waiting for a fare. You simply hop on the back, and they take you wherever you are headed.
Speedbumps and Small Villages
The other things that add to a Kenyan massage are speedbumps, you’ll find them all over, especially heading through small villages.
With sheep and cattle grazing along the edge of the road, kids sitting and waving at traffic, people walking and motorbikes, you need to go polepole (po lay-po lay), which is Swahili for very slowly.
Outside of the city, the roadsides are incredible. People are gathering local markets to shop for everything under the sun.
We saw people hauling milk from local farmers to brokers who distribute it in the city, people with motorbikes hauling big bundles of handmade baskets and sometimes two and three people on a motorcycle.
Surviving The Ride
Sports bras for women are probably the best tip we could share. The other advice would be to pack a large bag of individually wrapped LifeSavers, it’s dry and dusty, so the mint helps keep your mouth fresh and moist, and you can only drink so much because usable clean restrooms are few and far between.
We wondered why our travel plans showed six-hour drives between locations to go 180 or so kilometers – once you experience the roads, you’ll understand why.
Crossing The Equator
One of the pit stops we made was at the equator in Nyandarua. It was fascinating as right off the road there were equator line banners where locals show you about the magnetic pulls on either side of the equator.
And, you can stand in both hemispheres at the same time!
There are guys who take a bowl of water with a pinhole in the bottom on one side of the equator the water spirals clockwise and about 20 feet away on the other side of the equator it spins counter clockwise.
More fun than watching this was watching the local kids, they ran out and waved, several people gave them candy, they smiled and ran back to play watching us to see if they could come back.
People we saw everywhere were incredibly happy, they get by with very little, and most have not seen enough of the outside world to know what they are missing. While it was hard to watch as we drove by, it never seemed to bother them as they went around their day to day lives.
Beyond the incredibly rough roads, the Chinese are adding a few major roadways, but they will not be done for quite some time, and the construction debris and detours are insane.
We detoured about six blocks off the main road and around the back of a village seeing cattle pens, back alleys and even rougher road.
Ten Miles Of Bad Road
If you have ever heard the expression “I feel like ten miles of bad road,” it was probably coined by someone heading to one of the Kenyan national game reserves.
Aside from the Nairobi National Reserve, which is right in the middle of Nairobi’s city limits, traveling to Samburu, or the Maasai Mara requires driving as much as 40 kilometers off the main road on what are genuinely cow paths.
Once you pass the park gates, you weave back and forth on narrow, rutty, rain warn paths for several hours. But, this is the only way to get into the wide open spaces, away from the noise and light pollution and transport yourself to another world.
As amazing as the images of the animals and camps we visited are, the openness of the spaces is just not something you can describe or really capture in a picture.