Day 53, rest day Nanyuki

Today is election day in Kenya. We aren’t going anywhere. We could see on the tv in the hotel that people were keen to vote and turnout would be high. The polls opened at 6am. People started lining up 5 hours before then. We were out on the streets by shortly after 8. Most shops and businesses were closed, which was a bit of a pain because I still needed to get a Kenyan SIM card and to change some money at a bank. The bank would have to wait until tomorrow but on a side street I eventually found a small Indian shop that was open and could sell me a SIM card. He put it in and told me it was automatically registered – didn’t need Passport or anything. But he didn’t have any credit to sell me so we couldn’t test it. I knew the reception desk at the hotel sold phone credit so I walked back there and bought some. I loaded it and tried to use the phone. Guess what? It told me I could not use the phone because the SIM was not registered. Surprise. I knew this had happened to several others. I ran into Phil Howard. He told me that the guy in the little post card shop at the hotel had a computer and could get it registered. So I went and found the postcard guy. He said no problem – of course. He started shuffling SIM Cards Between my phone and two other phones, entering information on the computer, making various calls and generally phaffing in an authoritative WAY. After an hour or so he said ok done, just put some credit on and it is good. I told him I had just put some credit on. Oh dear. You can’t put credit on before the phone is registered. So even though the credit was accepted when it was put in it had apparently disappeared into the ether. The trouble was the girl at reception had entered the credit code for me and then thrown the voucher away. So I went back to reception to pick through the garbage and find the voucher. Dirty voucher in hand I returned to the postcard guy. After a lot more phaffing and attempts to call the Safaricom office (it was closed of course because of the elections) he finally announced that it was all sorted and that I would be able to use the phone in 24 hours. I had to take this on faith. I had now spent almost three hours trying to get and register a SIM card – and still had to wait until tomorrow. I hoped the banking system was more efficient. (To cut the suspense, the next morning my phone magically worked and it only took me ten minutes to change money in a bank.)

The town was very quiet. It is a Kenyatta stronghold so there was little opposition around. There is also a British army base at the edge of town. So it was unlikely anything was going to happen. The polls were busy with long lineups but orderly and quiet. We felt free to wander wherever we wished. People were friendly. There was no sense of anxiety that I could sense. And in fact, even though it was an election-day holiday, by mid-afternoon many of the shops and restaurants began to reopen.

I spent most of the rest of the day updating the blog and reconnecting to the world. And although the hotel had wifi I had no luck getting connected. With 50 TdA riders all trying to use it, it was slow and hard to get on. Eventually I gave up and spent the evening more productively sampling a couple of beers.

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