It had been two months, that is 62 days or 1,488 hours to be exact of no travel. I was at the peak of fernweh. A strong craving to travel to somewhere new and far. At the same time, I was also at the peak of poverty.
I felt trapped.
But God heard the cry and yearning of my heart. And I got an invitation to a friend’s wedding in Mombasa. Food and accommodation were to be provided once there. All I needed was my own transportation. It was like a miraculous sign from God that I could not ignore.
Except, I only had 30,000Ugshs (8.3USD) in my life at that time, plus debts. Then I remembered, on my last trip to Nairobi, I had made friends with one of the bus conductors. And he had invited me to his home and also offered to take me along on some of his bus trips.
I had not taken up the offer back then because I did not know him so well. Now I had to go out of my way and ask him if the bus-trip offer was still up. I needed a full trip from Kampala to Mombasa and back. He said he would have to first check and get back to me.
I was hopeful, so I got ready. I packed my bags and also got in touch with some of my friends in Nairobi to let them know that I would be passing by. Also, given my limited “budget”, I asked one of them to help me get a Kenyan Safari-com line from Nairobi which I would pick on my way through Nairobi.
The bus conductor got back to me at the very last minute, when I had almost lost all hope. I had even already told my friends that I wouldn’t be able to make it. And then, just like that, I had a secured bus trip to and fro Kampala-Mombasa. So I packed my bags and with only 30,000Ugshs (8.3USD), and total faith in God, I set off for Mombasa.
Kampala to Nairobi
I spent 10,000Ugshs on transport and airtime within Kampala from home to the bus. So I had only 20,000Ugshs (5USD) left. Luckily on the bus, they offered us some snacks and drinks so I kept my $5 intact for any emergencies.
After 13 hours on the road, we finally reached Nairobi early in the morning at 0700 am. From Nairobi, I had to switch to another bus to continue to Mombasa. The Mombasa buses were filling up quickly and leaving but they would not let me on any of the buses until they got confirmation from the bus conductor.
I had to borrow a phone from a Kenyan stranger to call him because my Ugandan sim-cards had lost signal. He took some time to arrive. But I was also hoping to meet my other friend for a Kenyan sim card before I left Nairobi. So I did not mind waiting.
In the meantime, well, me being me, I started talking and making friends with some of the other people who were also waiting at the bus station. In particular, there was a woman who was quite loud, super self-confident and a bit intimidating, that I weirdly bonded with. I guess she somehow gave me a sense of protection.
Then, finally, the bus conductor arrived at the bus station. We talked a bit and he asked to see my bags. I had three big bags. He told me to get only one that had the most crucial things and we go. I asked why I would leave my other bags behind. And he said that we were going to his place first.
He said that he had prepared for me to spend the day and night at his place and then leave for Mombasa the following day. Well, there had definitely been some miscommunication somewhere. Staying at his place was not in my plans and I believe I had already told him that initially.
Anyway, I apologized for the misunderstanding and told him that I had to get to Mombasa quickly because the ceremony was starting the following day, which was true. He tried to change my mind but I was adamant. He looked very disappointed but he finally accepted and said that he was going to go and check if there was still a bus he could get me on.
He went to the booking counter and checked something. Then I saw him talking to another man in a bus staff uniform before walking out.
I went back to my new girlfriend. She asked me and I told her everything. After we had both waited for some time, we decided to go and take a walk through Nairobi and see if we could get Kenyan sim-cards as well.
But when we walked out, we found the bus conductor just there, standing outside lounging against the wall. I asked him if he had got a bus for me and he said that all the buses were already full. He seemed very relaxed and unperturbed about it. I tried not to panic.
When we returned, the bus conductor was nowhere to be found.
Then I spotted the man in uniform that the bus conductor had talked to. And we decided to follow him to the back of the bus station where he was going. At the back, they were loading and offloading cargo from the buses. It was very busy and loud but we managed to catch up with the man in uniform and ask for his help.
He was very warm and friendly. He invited us for breakfast with two other friends of his who were sitting right there in an adjoining open room to the bus store. I was about to decline out of politeness but my girlfriend had already followed and made herself comfortable.
Having eaten only snacks since the previous evening, I was famished. And that’s how I got a nice heavy free breakfast. Afterward, he helped me to call the bus conductor but he was not picking. Although later, I saw him talking on the phone and smiling while glancing my way.
I was then sure I had been abandoned.
Luckily, my friend who had promised to bring me a sim card arrived soon after. I told him everything. My plan was to borrow an extra $15 from him and I get a bus back to Kampala.
So he asked me for my $5 and went to the booking window for a ticket. He came back and gave me a ticket for Nairobi-Mombasa. He topped up $6 for me.
I will forever be indebted to him. And my faith in God grew even much more.
And he said that since I had had enough faith in God to bring me thus far with only $8, then I should trust him to sort out the journey from Mombasa.
And off I was to Mombasa.