At Artisans & Adventurers we believe in keeping things small and local. So when we travel to see our artisans, rather than buying from re-sellers at busy markets or hiring huge four-wheel drives to move from one place to another, we prefer to tag along with the locals and travel the way they do. It’s a cool way to meet people and far more adventurous and cost effective- not to mention environmentally friendly.
Co-Founder Bee's last basket
buying adventure begins on the Horizon Night Bus which leaves Nairobi at 10pm, fully loaded with people and their bags – destination: Mombasa. Read on as she shares stories of dusty roads, imaginary lions and sing-alongs.
Around 4am, we are dumped at the side of the still busy road in a bustling town where a local taxi, held together by sting and willpower (and reeking strongly of petrol), collects us. We speed through the silent bush arriving at our destination as the Sun is peeking over the horizon.
Here Robert and myself get a couple of hours sleep before hopping on a hired Piki Piki to set out visiting the groups. Piki Piki’s are a major form of transport in Africa – sturdy motorbikes used to carrying up to 4 or even 5 passengers and capable of handling the soft, sandy and stony roads. Robert and myself on one and Paul Mwanjala on another.
Robert is now working for the World Bank after completing a MA at Yale. He continues to work whenever he can with the weavers. Paul has being trained to take over from Robert. Robert and Paul both share an amazing passion for uplifting the area and it’s people. Paul is a local who has had various jobs but is now the no. 1 man on the ground. Without either Robert or Paul, the opportunity to develop these beautiful baskets could not have existed. Their local knowledge and popularity with the groups helps our business tremendously.
We zoom along in the staggering heat from group to group – welcome dances are danced, songs are sung, baskets displayed, baskets are bought and paid for. They are then piled high and stuffed into white sacks, which are tied with rubber onto the trusty and sturdy Piki Piki parcel rack.
Home is a makuti roofed mud hut, open to the wild mountain lions (my imagination runs wild). Here I slumber, listening to the wondrous sounds of Africa to awake the next morning when it is back on the Piki and off again down a sand road to meet the weavers, chat and choose their lovely bright woven wares.
5 days later, on the last day (I am always a little sad on the last day) we are collected early in the morning by a Matatu – again a popular form of transport – a mini bus where our many, many sacks of baskets are squashed into the back seats. Matatus (or similar) carry folk all over Africa – smaller and faster than a bus - if you have to get somewhere quickly, hail a Matatu and hold onto your seat – where there is a Matatu, there is a way!
Our destination, the local Post Office, is an hour and half down the dusty red dirt road, passing people, chickens, vehicles and the occasional snake!
Smiling faces at Post Office greet us, baskets are unloaded and the packing and weighing process starts – punctuated by much chai drinking and catching up. The folk at the post office and myself have become very well acquainted over the past 6 years of my basket buying exploits. They remember when I sent 1 box – then 2 and now 10!
Then with the many boxes are taped up to within an inch of their lives, many shillings are handed over and off they go on their way: some by air (taking a week to arrive) and some by surface (taking 6 months) to London.
Along the way all the people I deal with and all the modes of transport I use are local - this is what makes what I do brilliant – this is why I love it…