Departure Nairobi, 10am.
Army worms had infested my farm, destroying the surviving crops and I need to get back to Voi. I book myself the 10am bus to Voi and I really cross my fingers this time hoping to land a Zhongtong bus. These Chinese buses are fascinating and I want a ride in them all. While at the office chatting with the beautiful Juliana and her colleagues, I hear a familiar horn sound that is distinct. I go out to peep, the bus gods have heard my cry and a Zhongtong Bus is pulling up, KCJ 860E Malindi’s finest. I don’t hide my excitement, I cross the road and I take photos as it parks. I get back into the booking office waiting for boarding time as it is still quite early. I am joined by Hummie and we exchange a few Euro truck simulator files.
It is boarding time, I am informed that our driver for the day is Gideon assisted by Dula, an energetic guy. My seat number is 27 (that is what you get for sleeping first then booking later) right at the rear wheel of the bus. I take my seat and recline it, no complaints from the lady behind. These seats are very comfortable, soft cushion covered in black leather. I adjust the A/C vent to blow away from me since my chest gets irritated easily by moving air. This bus has a clock at the front just like the Scania Higer A80 and beside it a temperature reading, I assume it is the outside temperature reading and not the interior temperature. When the clock strikes 9:59am, the bus pulls away from the parking. A matatu is reversing into a parking and the bus has to stop. I take the chance to take a pic of the Coast buses parked outside their office. I don’t even notice Mandela Kyalo the leading bus photographer in Kenya right now taking a pic of our bus, haha.
With no traffic on a Sunday, we move fast and we are soon at their Sema Plaza offices on Mombasa Road to pick more passengers. I had hoped to see Tee Jay but he is nowhere to be seen. We stop again at their Mlolongo office to pick more passengers and I see Junior Bayano, I don’t expect to find him there so I do not get out of my seat. I instead snap a photo and send it to him, ha haa. Down The hill at Lukenya and the bus slows down and comes to a stop on the side of the road. I struggle to look upfront and I see a familiar green Peugeot Van, it is NTSA. The driver gets off the bus and they take him to the Peugeot wagon further to the side. It is taking forever now, Mash Passes us, Coast bus passes too, and we had taken a nice lead of almost 20 minutes. I get off the bus since everyone else is sneaking into the bushes nearby perhaps to discover the botanical names of the trees. I take a photo of the bus, then head out to find out what is happening. The driver is being charged for overspeeding. He had clocked a whooping 82Kph and endangering everyone’s life onboard. We are relieved that the fine is paid and we can continue with our journey.
Coast bus had stopped at Malili and we catch up with it as they are about to leave but Mash is nowhere in sight, they must be long gone by now. As we move towards Salama on that steep hill ascent after Malili, Spanish coach suddenly appears and overtakes us then joins the queue infront of us. Our driver has to move out a bit to the left give the other bus space to fit. Then out he goes again leaving us still trailing the truck. We overtake the truck after the uphill stretch and catch up with Spanish at Salama town. We then take the descent of mlima Kiu together until we finally overtake the bus as we approach Sultan Hamud.
Gideon has good timing too when overtaking but he is a typical bus driver with nice Kata funuas, fast shifts and pushing the bus properly, I try to imagine how it would be if he drove a Scania P360. A movie is now on and I try to concentrate on it but there is a loud squeaky sound from the suspension that is very irritating. I cannot concentrate on the movie and I can’t see the front of the bus and I end up falling asleep for about 30 min. When I wake up, the screens are shut off and they have retracted themselves, nice. It is now music time. I ask my brother seated next to me whether any bus has passed or we passed any, he tells me there is none. I even forgot to mention that I was travelling with my brother. At least now I have.
We get to Mtito at 2.35pm and I hand over my drinks to Dula for storage in the fridge. The bus has a fridge at the front, whooa! I then step out to take a walk and take photos the Mash bus that had passed us and is leaving already, it is a P360 Scania and I take a video. Then the two Spanish buses trailing each other, I guess the 9am one and the one that we had left behind. The passengers must have only been allowed to relieve themselves then continued with the journey. I head over to Oil Libya and take a photo of Coast bus, then back to Shell to take a photo of Mash and our bus, as usual my phone disappoints when I start experimenting with filters and HDR mode. My bro is done eating now and I go over to him to sit and wait for people to start boarding.
As we are leaving Mtito, Mr Blue Zhongtong driven by the Mokorino guy checks in at 3:07pm some hooting from the two buses as the drivers greet each other and we are off. I am now enjoying the scenery of Tsavo through the window, a few zebras here and there, baboons, antelope. I notice no elephants today.
The SGR railway is now almost complete, I spot a train on the tracks, it is the passenger one, quite short but beautiful and fast too! I must say it will be fun to travel by the train since its track is elevated and gives one a better view of the surrounding area. The super bridge over Tsavo river standing tall and beautiful, has really changed the landscape and I think the pillars should be lit up by flood lights like the sides of skyscrapers to let them be visible at night and it would be a beautiful sight. Hopefully it will not distract drivers.
I spot the beautiful Sagalla hill and I know my journey is coming to an end soon. The airstrip, the sisal estate, Rosewood and the very unique rubble strips and the bus pulls over to the side of the road for the Voi passengers to get off. It was a pleasant journey and I wish the driver a safe journey as they continue to Mombasa. It is now 4:25pm, good timing considering we has stopped for more than 30minutes courtesy of The Headmaster aka NTSA.
I listen to the sweet Cummins turbo sound as the bus leaves. My bro tells me he really enjoyed the ride and he wishes to take the bus again when he is going back to school.
Entertainment 8/10: A movie was played, but I would prefer something more family friendly like Animations, since the bus had many children and the series is hard to follow and had violent scenes. Music was good, an assorted mix. The charging ports are placed somewhere in between the foot rest and it took me a great deal of effort to locate them, but they worked well, fast charging too.
Ride Comfort 7/10: The seats are wonderful, the suspension is good even while seated near the back of the bus. The A/C is a bit too loud where it is mounted, sounding like one of those industrial fans, this makes its sound overshadow the speakers at moderate volume and makes the movie inaudible. The bus is generally rattle free but the suspension makes a lot of noise. I know it will be fixed.
Speed 10/10: The bus moves well at 80kph, the driver is very time conscious and we arrived in good time.
Safety 10/10: The bus has two point retractable seatbelts on each seat, there are roof exit hatches, and each upper pane is designed to be broken in an emergency to facilitate exit, the bus even has several glass hammers placed strategically on the windows. Although the space on the upper pane is too small to fit anyone bigger than me.
The Zhongtong bus has a lighter body and I noticed how they achieved that. The have used less padding (which means more external noise into the coach), so the pillars appear thinner. Also there seems to be a pillar only from the bottom going up, the pillar across one window to another, the one dividing the lower and upper pane, seems to be missing with the window frame looking glued to the glass, something like how the new model Toyota Hiace is designed. The roof of the bus also seems to be made of a lighter weight material and so it moves a lot when on the rough stretch of road. All in all the body is well built, the luggage racks have a lid that is very firm and does not rattle even after the trips the bus has made so far, they open and close with ease. The racks are very small however due to the Duct passing through to channel air to the seat vents so big bags will go to the boot. Even with the bus being dirty on the outside as a result of rain and mud, the boot was very clean and dry, your bag goes in clean and comes out still clean. Everything else functions well and is a testimony of good quality.
Departure Nairobi, 10am.