11/20/12 Driving to Nyahururu to Begin Phase 1 of Construction December 2, 2012

Over the next two weeks I had several meetings with potential engineers/contractors, both in Nyahururu and in Nairobi.  After evaluating their work and going over their price estimates and schedules, we decided to go with Simon Muchiri from Nyahururu.  Simon has a good track record with the physical planning office and county council office both in Laikipia East and West.  He has been involved with dozens of work around Nyahururu, some of which I have inspected, and he gets good material and transportation prices since he is familiar with the area. Simon is not associated with a very large “Nairobi-esque” firm, he is  currently more of an independent contractor, which means his costs are far more realistic given our budget.  Some people say here, “Once you reach Nairobi, you reach New York”, referring to the extremely high costs of everything in Nairobi.   I admit there is some truth behind this saying.

Today’s mission is to go to Nyahururu to meet Simon to go over the BQ, or “Bill of Quantity”, and to discuss the building specifications and the prices.

This time, after my many previous adventures going to the Hope for Hope Little Drops land via public transport, I decided to rent a car in Nairobi and to drive myself.   With my own car I can get to the land with materials if need be, I can stay on the land to work for as long as I like, the time travelled is cut nearly in half, and I have the freedom and security that comes with a private vehicle.  However, driving can bring its own challenges.

I picked up the car at 8am Friday morning, it was a Toyota Premio.  It was used, old, had worn out tires, and the wheel alignment was off terribly.  To go straight I held the wheel at nearly a 9 o’clock angle.  It was just the car I expected to get and was happy to have it.  I was a little worried about this journey to say the least.  I haven’t driven in 2 months, in Kenya they drive on the left whereas I am familiar to driving on the right side of the road, the car is in bad shape, and the simple fact that I am driving in Kenya, Africa for 200km where the roads aren’t in the best conditions.

After finding my bearings and getting a little turned around Kevin and I finally got onto the Nairobi-Naivasha highway heading North to Nyahururu.  A few hours later we are there meeting Simon and his partner/foreman Stephen Mwangi.  We finalize construction details and prices and after the contracts are signed we go to the land so we all have a clear understanding of where and how everything is to be built.  The first 3 structures to be built is the 40ft deep water-well, the bathroom/washroom, commonly known as an “out-house”, which has two stalls and a shower, and the kitchen/storeroom.  These three structures are to be built first because they are the basics, the bare necessities needed to do further construction of larger structures.

While at the land we also had to speak with a neighbor who is accidently growing wheat on our land (he was confused about the current plot of land he recently purchased).  Harvest season is coming up in 1 month but in order to progress I wanted to seek his approval to slash about 80 sq./meters for this first phase of construction.  Legally I can slash all the wheat as its growing on our land, but we discuss as good neighbors should and he gives us permission to slash as much as needed.  This particular neighbor and all the other neighbors I have met, which has been over a dozen, are very happy about the work we are doing in their community.  They have all been more than helpful, allowing us to store materials at their homes and giving us water we need for building. They are all extremely eager for the project to be on its way.

We finish all of our work, eat a quick dinner, and drive back to Nairobi as the sun sets.  The drive back wasn’t as simple as the drive there, read below to hear about it!:

This is when the burden of driving was fully realized.  We had a lot to do on the land and we didn’t start driving until 6:30, when the sun was setting.  This is all rural area, and it is the highlands, so there is a heavy rainfall most nights and there are no street or house lights for miles.  The roads are not painted, they are all single lanes, and all trucks coming your way have their high beams on.  Before I know it Kevin and I are scared for our lives.  Well I was anyways, Kevin kept telling me not to worry, which made no sense to me.  It was a heavy down pour, the windows are fogged, I have weak headlights, am blinded by the cars coming at me, and have no idea if I am driving off the road or not due to the lack of road paint and road signs.  Add the random speed bumps and foot deep potholes to the equation, which are impossible to see, and I thought this was definitely cause for concern.  As we drive further South the rain subsides and we get back on the Nairobi-Naivasha highway heading to Nairobi.

I forgot to mention, the Nairobi-Naivasha highwasy is infamous for car-jacking’s and robbery.  About 60 miles outside Nairobi, on the Nairobi-Naivasha highway, my left front tire explodes.  I knew this would happen.  I double park on the side of the highway and walk back to a gas station I spotted a half-mile back to get some help.  Its 10:00pm, pitch dark, and I’m stranded on a road famous for car-jacking’s and robberies; I am doomed.  We finally get a boda-boda (motorbike cab) driver to help us. The three of us hop on his motorcycle and head back to my vehicle, all the while I am hoping he isn’t about to kidnap me.  We get to where the vehicle is parked and see a truck parked with the high-beams on the car. I see four men get out of the back of truck, take out there rifles and hand guns, and cock them back. We are all on the motorcycle not sure if we should ride away for our lives.  We quickly realize that it was military police going to investigate the car.  We came up behind them and they didn’t see us, so I whistled gently to get their attention.  When I whistled they turned around quickly, guns still cocked and in hand.  I was able to explain that this suspicious car on the side of the road is in fact my car, there is a flat tire, and I ask for their assistance because we don’t have a jack.  Before too long I am talking about President Obama as they fix the tire.  I pay them a little for their trouble and we get on our way.  We get back to Nairobi and I’m feeling like a Kenyan driving expert by now.  I drop Kevin off in town and drive back to my apartment, park the car, kick the wheel, and say “good riddens”.

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