Rat-routes …


That’s what the first familiar female face I met today morning said in calculated chuckles when I bumped into her at the pedestrian crossing on the Haile Selassie – Uhuru Highway roundabout. Traffic was lazy as usual. Pedestrians were patient. They do appear that way most mornings. Or maybe they had no option but just stare at the traffic policeman on his bike as he waved hands, pointed, whistled and worked himself up in all that frenzy that earns him his bread.

I’d just emerged from the rail trail that snakes its way from Dagoretti (or maybe Kibera). I’m not a celeb. I don’t do those things that would make ladies coo about how I’d saved the world. Mostly, I hide in between the lines of interesting Facebook posts that sound matter-of-fact and yet interesting enough to tell the world I am interesting. Either that, or behind fake Twitter accounts where I ‘heart’ your humble tweets; so that your timelines twinkle in my ‘spiderman’ attempt to decorate the depravity of social media, like Christmas trees do.

That’s the closest I’ve come to being a superhero. Thence, I’d be lost for words today morning until this lady offered to scrub at my scruff with her bare palms as she rid it off tangled spider webs. Scruff is that stage between shaving yesterday, and a full-fledged beard. My embarrassing moment had begun. A quick glance at my pullover confirmed her fears. Or mine. I’d been webbed. Luckily, she didn’t notice the blackjacks that had formed a colony on my pants.

Like a rat avoiding the rat race, I’ve always made a habit of avoiding the rush hour calamities by using lone footpaths as I troll to and fro the ‘Wildventurer’s Cave’ in Lang’ata. They’re plenty, but I’d hate to reveal any of them since they appease when they’re deserted. It’s easy.  You just cruise down a trail through the shadows and the brush until you pop into a government gazetted road instead of paying hiked up fares and sitting with boring people in a nganya. It’s something idiots have been doing in fairy tales since the beginning of time. I grew up on cartoon violence too. But these panya routes are God’s ultimate proof to mankind that there are people who think alike. These are: the people who carve them out; and us who follow the panya routes. Actually, the people who follow the trails are the ones who carve them out in the process. Never mind.

However, lately, I’ve been lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling, mulling over what to do next. I don’t know what to do, but I do know I have to proceed cautiously. Like I’ve always blurted, life’s all fun and games till you get the first lemon, then the second, then you’re knee-deep in lemons. This must be what hitting rock bottom feels like.

Simply, someone became cleverer and decided to fence off some chunk of land that has harbored my cherished footpath into the city. I don’t know what they’ll do next. And; for the past three days, I’ve had to appease my hound instincts by ducking under the barbed wire fence rather than trek all the way back to “the paths more taken”. I’ve felt like the ‘wanted person’ on top-list and obviously expected to be shot all those whiles. Yet, all that while, I didn’t expect to fight through spider jungle and emerge victorious with spider webs all over me as trophies of war. Whoa! Don’t blame me. Some lady boosted my ego into a blog post. Of course I know it’s temporary … like everything.

When you think about it, most of the good inventions and innovations come along to make sin a whole lot easier, fun and faster. Rat routes must have been evolved by people who wake up late and have to dash to work to lie to their bosses how they were stuck in traffic. Oh … the joggers? And smokers too. Let me narrow the scopes down to ‘weed smokers’. The rest have nothing to hide. Funny though; we short cut users know each other by name; at least a false one. You don’t just collide with the same person everyday in such a forlorn a place as a trail through a park and don’t ask their name. After all, the use of foot path rat routes is a trait carved out in history and carried through to the present day mostly by creative, razor-sharp, bitingly curious and wildly inappropriate people.

I know. There are people (obviously the majority of my neighbors) who would never take a short cut if there was a longer, twistier road available. Even if they are walking. They are loyal. They’d rather sigh than branch brazenly off from most of our hardworking government’s roads (like Mbagathi Way) into paths hacked out of the undergrowth. They’d rather dig deep into wallets to oil the palms of unfair P.S.V (passenger service vehicle) owners who charge any price for a ride; and squirm in their seats for hours in snail-speed traffic.

Then there are us. The inciters. Call us ‘haters’ too. We avoid that small trail of thought we just had passing by our brain by hopping onto the next foot-trek trail. It diverts all our attention. Sometimes you don’t want to remember that creditor who has left your phone’s screen reading 20 missed calls. You see; on most lone footpaths, your eyes become small and your nose sensitive. I saw a hyena on my way to town the other day. I was alone. Thank heavens, he was dead and lying beside the path. But you never know. The next one might not be. So you walk like it’s a delicate piece of art. Not so fast. Not so slow. Wittingly; as if you’re going to bump into that chic from your college who didn’t accept your friend request and probably thinks you’re the hyena. At dark hours, you’ve no option on panya routes. You play the hyena and laugh your wild venture through the graveyard.

I agree that lasses should have more self-respect than to run through shrub alone as they were properly advised by their mothers. I’m factoring in the ‘make-up’ too, considering that women collectively wear enough war paint every day to prime the hull of an aircraft carrier. However, lads who are not attracted to the solitude of panya trails; what are you? Some kind of nancy? Get up! Grow some Tarzan in you.

There. Damage done!

upperhill trail


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