“Eventually off we set, back to Eldoret. We stopped for a break at Matharu, a typical highway town. There we entered a roadside duka, rejoicing in the name of Highway Hotel, for chai and chapatis, as it was now 14.30, and there at last my poor, distended and abused bladder was emptied. To be fair, it had been nearly three hours…. The lady, mine hostess, ushered me through to the back, and delicately asked if it was a short call or a long call? Upon my startled response that it was a short call, she directed me round the back to the usual drop pits. I wonder what her answer would have been if I needed a long call? Perhaps she has a private and mechanical loo somewhere near, which the general public don’t get to use……? I get the feeling that my travelling companions would be greatly shocked if I leapt out of the car and jumped behind a tree, yet this would be hugely preferable to some of the noisome drop holes I have used over the last few days. And no matter how I try, I don’t seem to be able to hold my breath throughout the requisite duration.
But there was good cheer in this little Kenyan Road Chef, with lots of banter, some at my expense, and much bonhomie. The lady of the shop sold maandazi, chapatis, and samosas, as well as what looked like buns. We were too late for ugali, which didn’t bother me one bit, though as I have already said, ugali here is much better than nshima in Ndola. Rirei says he has eaten nshima in Zimbabwe, and that it was inferior to the local product, as it was too light.
I felt very much at ease, sitting there, for in some ways it had the same feel to my old Portsmouth lunchtime sandwich bar run by Mark & Lynne Fanculi. Folk come to eat, relax, drink chai, and it’s a meeting place. And I guess when there is often not much to eat, when one does get to a meal, it brings instant happiness! I could have sat there for a long time, soaking up the acceptance and happy atmosphere. Two Sikhs walked in and seemed delighted to see me, greeting me with breezy goodwill. There was a mother using a fork to feed her baby girl with ugali and beans, and the baby was fascinated by me, to Rirei’s amusement. He is very good at engaging people in conversation wherever he goes, and always elicits smiles and welcoming reactions.”
Goodwill is a currency worth spending and it was there in abundance that afternoon.