Sunday, June 16, 2013
I'm riding in what?
When I went to Kenya the first time, back in 2006, the highlight of our trip was the stay in Massailand. We worked and played for several days at Mosiro, running a medical clinic and doing health education for the Maasai who live there.
This time in Kenya, my daughter Val and I visited a different place in Maasailand. The town was called Saikeri and the road there was as tenuous, though shorter, than the road to Mosiro. But upon arrival, just like Mosiro, I instantly knew that the trip had been worth it.
This is how we got to Saikeri.
We left the volunteer house around ten in the morning, took a matatu to Nakumatt Junction and then a city bus to Ngong. Ngong is a bit like Narok – very busy, with a mix of modern and Maasai. It is the last vestige of civilization before heading down out of the Ngong Hills and into the Rift Valley.
Our ride to Saikeri, Maggie, said she would meet us at the corner in front of Barclay Bank. As if she had nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, she suggested we stop at a café for chai tea and samosas.
I’d had chai at Nakumatt Junction and had been so disappointed. It tasted like the chai which I made at home and nothing like what I remembered drinking in Kenya the last time. Now here at Ngong, I thought, finally, really chai. But it wasn’t to be; this still didn’t taste right. At least the beef samosas were good.
After visiting and finishing our snack, Maggie directed us to the Naivas grocery store so we could get some last supplies to take with us into the Bush. Maggie left us there while she went off to run some errands.
With our meager purchases crammed in our backpacks we waited patiently at the designed spot and soaked up the ambience of Ngong. Ok, there is no ambience in Ngong, just a lot of people and traffic, dust and noise.
Finally Maggie came back and took us to the vehicle we were to ride out to Saikeri. It was a two-wheel drive, compact, ancient Toyota pickup. The bed was half-full of supplies and Maggie suggested that I ride in the cab with her.
Val naturally thought I should get the full Kenyan experience, so suggested I ride in the bed of the truck with her. That sounded fine to me. How bad could it be? I grew up riding in the back of my dad’s Chevy.
Oh, but it got bad. First off, Maggie took off to run another errand. While we waited, people kept coming up to the truck and setting boxes and bags in the back of it. Then they would just walk off. I kept asking myself, do they know what they are doing and where this stuff is going?
Then two older Maasai women came along and crawled into the bed of the truck. Then another hundred pounds worth of supplies were dropped in. Two more Maasai women and a Maasai girl clambered in.
I said, “Val, maybe we better get in before they run out of room.” So we sat on the boards which were across the wheels on each side and waited some more, while more supplies and more people crowded in.
All total, by the time we left, an hour later, there were nine people in the bed of the truck, two boys on the roof of the cab and three people in the cab, along with hundreds of pounds of boxes, bags and loaves of bread. There was no longer any room in the back of the truck, so we road on the side hanging for dear life to the thin railing running along the box.
After being in Ngong for what had to be hours (this is why you don't wear a watch in Kenya, it just makes for more frustration), it was time to head into the Bush. Check back on Tuesday to see how that went.