In Summary
  • He spent around Sh18,000 trying to ensure his vehicle met the required standards, but he never got the pass.
  • It was at this point that he decided to change it from a passenger vehicle to a cargo vehicle.

Decades ago they were the face of rural transport in Kenya.

Nicknamed “face me”, they were matatus designed for passengers to sit in two rows facing each other.

Passengers had nowhere else to look at but the person sitting opposite them.

Sometimes, obscuring that view would be excess passengers clinging on horizontal reinforced metal bar running along the roof of the passenger cabin.

They also had the annoying habit of making frequent and random stops to pick up and drop passengers.

The “face me” matatus have since been phased out, but in Nyeri, one vehicle has defied the test of time, plying the Nyeri-Kirurumi-Kinunga route for 26 years.

At the Kamakwa stage in Nyeri Town, the Nation finds the blue matatu. Although it is no longer a public service vehicle (PSV), it is still operational and carries luggage on the same route.

THE BEGINNING

It is arguably the oldest PSV in the county, but has kept going thanks to skilful mechanics who mostly improvise while scrounging for spare parts.

Mr Karuga Kiraguri, who is in his mid-60s, is the owner of the vehicle that even in its old age, looks impressive.

He traces his journey in the industry back to 1993 when he started off as a conductor of his own vehicle because he did not know how to drive.

Before then, he had worked as an offloader for lorries that would transport logs from the Aberdares to Nyeri Town.

After partnering with a friend, and lots of savings later, they bought the vehicle at Sh130,000.

“We had savings of Sh100,000 and took a loan of Sh30,000 to finance the purchase,” he says.

Page 1 of 2