Updated: Feb 14, 2021
AS soon as they alighted at Malaba, a squad of bodaboda riders wheeled their bikes to their spot, and seeing a white woman amongst our friends, they figured our friends were tourists.
“Kakapel Centre? --three hundred shillings,” one said.
“Two hundred,” Bruno said.
Four bobabodas who had accepted the bargain would have ferried them; for it was a distance under eight kilometers; only, a tout nearby grabbed Lady G.'s arm, and while conducting her to his matatu, promised to charge them fifty shillings each.
Malaba was another border town. It was smaller than Busia; it had a smaller market behind the shops. On the main road, which was tarmacked, tens of trucks lined--the stretch extending toward Amagoro.
The matatu that our friends boarded left Malaba for Amagoro with few seats empty. The people of Malaba (and Amagoro) were predominantly Teso; Bruno could not interpret a word to Lady G. as they traveled; but he knew the dialect was Teso. In about fifteen minutes they reached Amagoro, which was a small town centre, with linear settlement on either side of the road.
They would embark on a rough road to the left-hand side, at seventy shillings each; on bodaboda. This route led to Kakapel Centre. It had not rained for weeks and so the dust was thick. They rode for twenty minutes before the ascent became steep, and the road began to wind around the hills.
"Do you know where the stadium is?" Bruno said to his rider.
"I used to hear on radio--football matches being played here in Amagoro--where is the field?"
The rider pointed somewhere. Bruno dropped the questions. He now scanned the landscape as they went. He saw little houses of iron roofs, and crops in small parcels. In every eight hundred meters he would not miss a plot of tobacco plant; with their large, light green leaves stirring in the wind. The plants by the road however wore a brown layer, on account of the dust.
They arrived at the site by and by. A signpost stood at the start of long path--wide enough for vehicles to travel--which was lined with trees on either side. This straight path led to the centre's gate. The bodaboda riders dropped our friends here--at the start of the path, and they walked onward; with Syp trailing.
“Are you tired?” said Bruno to Syp.
“No,” she said. “I like this place.”
This was the first time Syp talked freely with Bruno. He stopped to wait for her. She said, “Thank you for yesterday. At the petrol station.”
“You are welcome.”
“That does not mean we are friends.” She passed him and now hurried forth to join Lodoviko. Bruno laughed quietly.
Our friends entered the centre's compound.
There was a circular structure--looking like a house--with iron roof, located at the very foot of a high and steep hill. Outside, on the white walls of this house, and inside (still on the walls) were condensed the history and culture of a people. There were drawings; there were paintings; there were writings in Teso dialect. The structure had wide openings in place of windows. They accessed the structure. A guide, who was a man of sixty or so, enlightened our friends about this heritage; at an entrance fees of two hundred shillings a head.
Then they stepped out. The compound, shaded by big trees, was cool. And the grass was light green; and tempting to lie on. Behind the structure, there was a hut and a granary. Beyond the compound, there was a structure under construction. The centre would be modernized in time--to provide social amenities to visitors like our friends.
After the tour within the compound, the guide permitted our friends to climb atop the hill, as he stayed to man the establishment. They followed an exit at the side of the compound, and first entered into a cluster of tall trees. Within this spot they saw a big and steep rock, upon a section of which were the famous rock art and paintings. Bruno seized this chance to educate the others about the history of these paintings.
"Are these really 3000 years old?" said Lady G., as she stretched her hand to feel the art, which was protected with a mesh.
"Probably 4000 years," said Bruno.
"Ouch!" said Lady G.
"What?" said Lodoviko.
In this cool place under the trees, there were cattle flies which stung our friends.
Bruno said, "Let's go up."
Syp and Lodoviko led the way; Lady G. started taking pictures of the landscape and rocks. Bruno followed Lady G.; he then, after few strides, snatched the camera from her.
“No!” said Lady G.
“No!” Lady G. blocked her face with outstretched hand.
“Come on. Let me.”
“I do not like my pictures taken. Give it to me.” Her tone was severe.
Bruno returned the camera. “Why wouldn’t you want me to take a snap of you?”
“I just told you.--I can take a shot of you. If you want.”
The ascent became steeper; and Bruno began to pant. He mounted a big rock and posed, raising his hands. She took a photo and showed him, saying, “Handsome!” They climbed on.
“Are you married or something?” Bruno said.
“Ha. Why do you ask?”
“Maybe I’d like to marry you.”
Lady G. laughed and brushed him at the back on his head. “Silly.”
“I know you are.”
“I mean it.”
“Your mama will not like it. ‘Bruno has hooked up with a mzungu.’”
“Never had a mother.”
“Don’t change the subject.”
“You don’t want me to be touched?”
“Never seen my mother, never seen my father. I have my grandmother. Paternal.”
“I’m so sorry--may I ask why?”
Now Bruno trailed the others. Climbing exhausted him. He did not surrender though. On he went. Lady G. took more pictures, while waiting for him where the thicket was sparse on either side of the path.
Then she said, referring to Bruno's orphanage, “Is that why you want to make me both your mama and wife?”
Bruno laughed aloud. “Just wife.”
“I will not make you a good African wife.”
“Why wouldn’t you?”
“I’m older than you, Bruno.”
"You people!" said Lodoviko from a rock, up. Bruno took Lady G.’s hand; she pulled him along.
Syprosa and Lodoviko reached the summit ten minutes before the other pair; and they sat on one rock. When Bruno and Lady G. arrived, they rested on another rock; adjacent. Bruno was sweating and heaving. Syp laughed at him.
From here they could see Busia town, Malaba, parts of Bungoma town, and Tororo (in Uganda, across the border). Lady G. drank her water as she photographed the panoramic views.
Syprosa was sitting next to Lodoviko. “I wanted to ask.”
“What is it, little flower?”
“For how long are we going to travel around?”
“As long as sunshine wants. As long as YOU want, little flower.”
“What about your business?”
“Sheep is not going anywhere. Myself, I am drying up.”
They stayed silent awhile.
“It is strange,” said Syp then.
“What is strange?” Lodoviko said.
“I feel like I have known you before. Though I am sure we have never met.”
“You cannot have known me before. I am a foreign seed. I came to buy land there at Kakoyi.”
“Where did you come from originally?”
“I was a refugee.”
Syp felt sorry for him. Lodoviko had slanted his arms upon the rock, propping his sitting thus. Syp touched the back of his hand. Lodoviko took his arm away. Still, Syprosa pressed. “Any family?”
Lodoviko’s lips immediately shook, and a film of tears lined his eyes. Syprosa stopped her probing.
Our friends remained at the top of the hill for thirty minutes, after which they descended--the descent was easy, especially for Bruno. It was about noon; and it was hot; for Lady G. more so. They appreciated the guide once back in the compound, and then left the centre, promising to return some day. Then they entered a kiosk, which was some distance away, and took buns and cold soda.
Bruno then announced that they’d now go to Kisumu, the city with a lake.
He asked what the others felt about the plan. Lady G. said she first wanted to see the Crying Stone. She’d not leave the region without touching that stone. “It is just a stone,” Syp said.
“I want to see it,” said Lady G., “I know it is a funny stone.”
Bruno said that since Kakamega, Busia and Kisumu formed a triangle, they’d return to Busia, then travel to Kakamega, and see the stone, enroute to Kisumu. That was fine, said Lodoviko.
They’d rather travel straight to Kisumu, said Syp. For her, coming to Kakamega was returning home.
Lady G. told Syp, “If it is no bother, I’d really love to see the stone.”
Syp told Lodovico only, that the three of them were ignoring her suggestions. “Little flower, I will get you something to warm your heart.”
Let's remember that the previous evening, as our friends entered Busia town, Syp had meant to withdraw cash from her Mpesa but never did. And her phone had stayed on during the night and morning: no one from home had called. She liked it that way. Now at this kiosk, she withdrew fifteen thousand shillings and then shut off the phone.
Another set of riders returned them to Amagoro. The same riders renegotiated to transport our friends to Malaba, and then to Busia; they claimed that matatus for the return journey from Malaba to Busia were few and would delay them for hours.
It was a very dusty ride.
At Busia they took a matatu for Kakamega; which was new and played soul music. Only Bruno and Lady G. sat next to each other. Lady G. checked through her photos. She asked Bruno which ones he liked. Meanwhile, Syp ate the chocolate bought for her by Lodoviko.
Bruno thought Lady G. was a terrific photographer. He was not a photography critic himself.
“Bruno boy,” said Lady G. later, when they were heading back to Kakamega. “Have you told anyone about this?”
“The journey we are doing like mad people.”
“Ha ha. No, I have not told anybody.”
“Not your friends?”
“You want them to join us.”
“What would be the harm? Wherever I go, I love making friends with as many people as I can. I am a people person, Bruno. The bigger the group the better.”
“What if they do not have money?--for traveling I mean.”
“Right. I had not thought of that.”
In the late afternoon they arrived at Kakamega.
Notes from The Afrilens:
We hope that you do enjoy the episodes of this true story; if so, please share with your best friend!
The contributing writer to this series is a photographer
Check out some of our photos here
Check out some of our albums here
See you next time for another episode, Kwaheri!