Hail Riakanau The ‘Legend’ Bus
Years after the invention of the wheel came Matatus (a name for public transport vehicles in Kenya ). Read about the origin here. As many of you may recall, Kenya Bus Service used to be the only mode of transport in the city of Nairobi for a long time. A number of entrepreneurs felt it not right for Kenya Bus Company to rule the scenes in public transport.
Then, transport was mainly from Nairobi Eastlands where majority Africans lived. So, a few people came up with ideas and started private transport services and charged Ksh.30cents only, to any place you traveled within Nairobi.
This served as much help to poor African workers who trekked by foot to work from Eastlands’ estates such as Hamza, Makadara, Maringo, Mbotela and other places to town. Ksh.30cents in Kikuyu dialect is Mang’otore Matatu thus the name Matatu.
When we were kids, right after the introduction of multi-partisim in Kenya, deep down on the slopes of Mt.Kenya were Kings of the road namely the Miraa pick up trucks, Nissan caravan-make & customized pick-up truck vans, Peugeot 504s and 404s in the name of PSVs (Public Service Vehicles). You wouldn’t mention them all and forget to mention their god father Riakanau the bus.One of Riakanau Buses, image source: @Ma3Route
Riakanau was an ugly eew! beautiful bus thats was as fast as…but could hardly beat a bicycle. Its journeys began at cock’s crow. It took not less than five hours to get to Nairobi from Embu via Mwea. It cat drove along Nairobi – Embu Highway like it had the whole day at its disposal. Its fares were always a third of the normal fare charged by other matatus of the day.
It was a darling of my fellow rural folks of villages along the slopes and beyond. The bus had a wide clientele. There always were sacks of dry maize on the roof carrier, others of sweet potatoes, a group of several bewildered goats tied together heading for a not so romantic date with the city butcher, a number of calves and chicken mashed together at the rear boot.
In its hall-like cabin, there always was an expectant mother fighting for breath at the rear seat of the bus while the village shopkeeper with his bloated stomach seated in the front passeger seat reading an old newspaper. In the middle, strangers were ‘trying’ to know one another as the local teachers of the booze deliberated how they would pass by Njuguna’s for two for the road, before catching the same bus back home. The bus was always full house
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