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Six bikers on Nairobi-Kigali trip in road safety campaign

Sunday April 21 2019

Throttle Queens

The Throttle Queens team and their motorcycles before they began their journey to Kigali, Rwanda. The six women will be in the city for four days before embarking on their return journey. PHOTO | ELVIS ONDIEKI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ELVIS ONDIEKI
By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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Travel, tourism and advocacy. You can combine those words into one using a motorcycle, as six Kenyan women are doing.

At dawn on Friday, every woman with arms on her prized motorbike, fuel tanks full and minds overflowing with optimism, began the journey from Nairobi westwards.

Their mission? Ride across Kenya, across Uganda and finally end up in the Rwandan capital Kigali, where they will remain for four days before embarking on the return trip.

They want to be back in Nairobi by Saturday.

Shots taken from the starting point give a glimpse into advanced motorcycling.

The pictures show primed motorcycles, top-notch protective gear, colourful finishing and decorations and the determination of the beauties next to them.

Ms Rhoda Omenya, Ms Aisha Mohammed, Ms Shiku Njenga, Ms Mary Wanjiku, Ms Victoria Musyoka and Mrs Njeri Mwangi want to use that trip to have fun and raise awareness on road safety.

By Friday evening, the six had made it to Malaba, Busia County, as per their plan, though it took longer than expected.

“One of the motorbikes developed some problems, leading to the delay,” the team said in its Instagram post.

“But we can confirm the six of us reached safe and sound (except) for numb monkey butts.”

“We are looking forward to the Kampala experience and a day of fun and ride with the Ugandan bikers who will receive us.”

In an interview with the Nation on Thursday evening as she made the final preparations for the long journey, Mrs Mwangi said the six “did not meet and form their friendship just the other day”.

She said they met at events organised by Motorcycle Kenya for bikers in Nairobi and surrounding towns.

The six women bonded fast and their friendship led to the creation of the Throttle Queens team, which has been formally registered as a club.

The women come from different parts in and around Nairobi: Ruaka, Ngong Road, Karen, Thika Road, Parklands and Nairobi West.

Five of them, except Mrs Mwangi, travelled to Moshi, Tanzania, on such a trip late last year.

For the Kigali road trip, the six hope to tick many boxes, key among them passing a message on road safety.

Road accidents in East and Central Africa claim thousands of lives every year, with thousands more maimed.

In Kenya alone, it is estimated that more than 3,000 people die in road accidents. Carelessness and human error have been blamed for most of the accidents.

Ms Njeri said the team has a banner, “Share the Road”, “which summarises our message on the need for road users to coexist”.

“We want to create awareness about road safety. Anything can happen to us when we are on the road. We want people in East Africa to know that everyone is vulnerable,” Ms Njeri said.

“But we need to respect the traffic rules, we need to share the road.”

She added that drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, tuk-tuks, boda-bodas, handcart operators and others need to share their space on the road without necessarily fighting “because all these people are trying to achieve something”.

“There are no specific lanes for every kind of road user. On many occasions, the road is just one. That is why we must respect one another,” Mrs Mwangi said.

“If we share a road and we consider everyone, it’s OK. We should not bulldoze others, speed or hoot. We will not be riding dangerously during this tour.”

The women say besides advocacy, they hope the journey will relieve stress.

“Life is full of ups and downs. We are grateful to have got this far in our businesses and family life. We are healthy so we just thought, ‘Let’s do this for fun because we can.’ It’s a stress-reliever, it’s an adventure and it’s fun,” Mrs Mwangi said.

They expect to be in Kigali until Thursday, visiting places before starting the journey back to Kenya.

The women say their plan is to cover 400 kilometres a day.

Having consulted others who have done such trips, the six ensured they would be on the right side of the law by obtaining an insurance cover applicable throughout the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) member countries.

Mrs Mwangi said she is optimistic that crossing the borders with their Kenyan documents would be smooth.

“Those who have done such trips gave us advice so we know there will be no problems,” she said.

“We have heard of trouble on the Uganda-Rwanda border. I understand it is a matter to do with trade. We, however, don’t expect to have problems when we reach there, given the fact that we are Kenyans.”

The group was lucky to secure sponsorship from Vivo Energy, the parent company of Shell fuel stations.

Vivo is taking care of all the fuel costs.

“When the fuel problem is addressed, the rest of the logistics can be handled easily,” Mrs Mwangi said.

The Throttle Queens are following in the footsteps of other Kenyans who have taken part in cross-border motorcycle trips.

The most recent example is the riding couple of Mr Dos Kariuki and his wife Wamuyu who, in July 2018, left Nairobi for a three-year journey across seven continents.

According to a Facebook post the couple uploaded at 2am yesterday, they were on Rainbow Mountain in Peru, South America.

The post had a photo of the Kariukis with a Kenyan flag atop the mountain.

“We did it. We flew our Kenyan flag on the Rainbow mountains,” part of their Facebook post read.

By reaching Peru, it means Mr Kariuki and his wife have covered 12,000 kilometres, though a chunk of that entails using other means than motorcycling to cross the oceans and seas.

At the start of this month, the two were crossing the Atacama Desert in South America.

Such journeys are risky but the couple seems to have found ways of riding safely.

The six women’s family members expressed fear when the idea of the Kigali trip was mooted.

The fact that they are travelling as a group is comforting, according to Ms Njeri.

She, however, added that there would be moments they would regret. “I am sure we’re going to be tired and at some point some of us may wonder, ‘What were we thinking? Who came up with this stupid idea?’” she said.