happy to matatu you

kenya volunteeringKenya Teaching and Building trips focus on helping communities that lack government funding, but how do you get to these villages?  Intrepid’s Samantha Finn takes us on a unique ride in Kenya that leads to a remarkable real life experience…

“Let me take you on a typical Kenyan journey in a matatu, an erratic ride on a Nissan minibus out of Nairobi. Something like a rollercoaster safari amongst the smells, chaos and exciting random nature of Kenyan public transport.

We begin our journey with a friendly, yet persistent, face through the window of the bus, proffering a bewildering mix of strawberry biscuits, hot sausages and lurid plastic jewellery. Having purchased some of these questionably essential travel items, you tune your senses to the upbeat melody of Kikuyu radio or marvel at the tightly-braided heads moving eagerly as mamas chat to their closely-sat neighbour. This is all enveloped in the unfamiliar and exotic aromas of hair oil mixed with dust, that is surprisingly more enticing than unpleasant!

Incredibly, as your matatu climbs the newly-paved road north into the hills above Nairobi and you catch glimpses of bustling roadside markets, you are folded into the close confines of this mad little bus and might even find yourself drifting off to sleep. Fighting slumber for your first matatu journey is infinitely worthwhile, as at 1000 metres (3280 feet) above sea level the roadside views abruptly empty into an awesome lookout. Prehistoric green, Neolithic escarpments and crater filled volcanoes etch the skyline. Welcome to Kenya’s Rift Valley.

A journey in a matatu is best taken as part of your first Intrepid visit with your Intrepid Volunteering leader, who can give you a powerful introduction to a Kenya that is so much more than its rich wildlife. This is a land of laughter, extremes of need and tenacity, corruption and honesty and most of all, welcoming open faces waiting to hear the story behind your choice of choosing their homeland for your own real life experience.

The road taken on this journey leads to a wonderful town that most guide books sweep haughtily past with some vague reference to its military past. However, Gilgil is so much more of a treasure, holding the communities of many wonderful hardworking Kenyan people who await a visit from enthusiastic Intrepid volunteers.”

Tour Kenya and Tanzania and make a difference with Intrepid on trips like these Intrepid Volunteering adventures:

Kenya Teaching and Building – 14, 28 or 42 days
Tanzania Teaching and Building – 14, 28 or 42 days

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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