Day 276: Loneliness seeps in, Kenyans vote Trump
The ride into town was perfectly timed. Video: Isaac Stone Simonelli / Music: Gunctrl
Daily Updates are not edited and function more as daily journal entries – so if the plot seems to be all over the place or missing entirely and the tenses changes faster than a kaleidoscope, well, that's just the way it is.
ALONE in the large two-bedroom ranch house in the bush, I intently read The Magician's Assistant. It's a sad book. Not tears welling up in your eyes sad, but a deep sad. A lonely sad. It's not a good book to read when you're 31 years old, alone and going broke fast.
To be fair, it was a great weekend, Liz, Lovince's wife, got us into a private game reserve through her connections. We had a couple morning game drives filled with plenty of giraffes and other grazers, followed by evening game drives and early bedtimes. It was dirt cheap, but still a stretch for my budget.
Though everyone else had already left for Nairobi, I wanted to stay here at the Mpala Research Center until 4 or 5pm and then do a drone shoot on the way back into Nanyuki. However, walking up to the office to settle the bill – the rest of the team left money – I could feel a restlessness awakening inside me.
I want to go.
I don't want to go anywhere in particular. In fact, without internet, I'm not even able to come up with options for the dice to tell me where to go. But a new destination isn't what I need. What I need is motion. I am at home in motion. Home is neither something cliché, such as where my heart is, nor is it a physical place. Home exists in a chart with distance and time running the axis.
And that's what I want, I want to be home. I don't need to go quickly, but my soul wants to rest in the motion of my body.
That's what I'm think as I walk up the dusty path, past the canteena, where an old American in front of a Mac is chatting with a middle-aged woman. That's what I'm thinking as I shake Joseph's enormous hand.
“I hope they left you with enough money,” he says, leading me to the office.
The invoice reads 4 pax x 2 nights accommodation = 24,000 Shilling. Because I am not a Kenyan citizen, or even a citizen of an East African country, the prices for parks, reserves and even private ranges twice that of a local. However, even at 60 dollars a night, the experience at the Mpala Research Center is a steal. Now, I'm getting the same price as a local or someone with a work permit or dependent visa. That's only 30 dollars a night. That's three meals and an insanely nice place to stay for 30 dollars a night. I can accidentally spend that that much at a bar.
Sitting on an enormous, empty porch that stares directly out into the bush mostly comprising thickets of long-thorned acacia etbaica. I hand things over to the dice.
It's up to it if I stay for a few more hours, remaining still in this beautiful place when all I want is to move for the sake of motion.
At night the hyenas whoop like gibbons, rolling their Rs. The Zebra cough and chuckle, sounding like Donkey's signing at a Bar Mitzvah, their voices no longer a child's, but certainly not a man's. Now, with the hot sun warming the ground, but leaving the air pleasantly cool, there is only the sound of the wind in the bush. It comes in gusts. The sound starting far off until it reaches me and the bushes in front of the porch stiffly wriggle.
Evens, I stay here for a few hours longer; odds, I finish packing and get on the road to Nanyuki to find a place to stay for the night.
Once settled tonight, I'll pen options. Make more rolls. Follow up on potential work leads.
Without any further income to fill my pockets, I should be headed south to Tanzania to see what Work Away or perhaps Dive Master work the dice would like to see me pursue. However, I feel no need to rush to the border; I still need to register Rafiki in my friend's name.
That said, I only have about 300 dollars left for my time in Kenya, and it would be nice to take a little of that across the border.
The die shows a four. I guess I'm not going anywhere yet.
By about 3:30pm, I star to pack. Everything is ready to go by 4.
Rafiki fires up beautifully, her tires full of air and the oil tank topped up. Cringing, I pull through the long electrical wires that allow cars through, but keep large wild-things from wandering into where the people are.
It feels good to be in motion. So good that I don't stop as we pass a herd of Grevy's Zebra, their stripes, thin and tightly packed together. Across a small bridge, a twenty-meter boulder holds my attention, a couple has managed to scramble to the top, their silhouettes a moment from the movie Titanic. On the other side of the road, only a meter away, is a small pack of baboons. I'm seeing more animal life on my drive out of the park than I did on this morning's game drive.
Though I couldn't stop Rafiki for baboons or zebra, for giraffes, I stop. I'd hoped they would be lingering in the same area we spotted them when we came in a couple days ago. They are. The reticulated giraffes, with large, red splotches splashed across their hide are wary of the drone, sounding like an approaching hive of bees.
Then, they are frightened. Fleeing, their gangling long legs swing out in all directions.
There's nothing graceful about a giraffe running.
There are two on one on side of the road and two on the the other side. Feeling a bit guilty about chasing the creatures, I switch to the other pair.
These two also take off, finding their way onto the hard-packed dirt road, galloping together toward the horizon. From up above, where you can't see their awkwardly long legs, they look beautiful as they run down the road.
With the drone following me on the motorcycle, I hit speed bumps hard, trying to get airborne, but failing.
The panniers slam down hard on the home-made rack. I can hear the metal snap. Nothing falls off, but something broke. The washers that hold the rack to Rafiki's are broken.
Though I'd love to make a hard run down the dirt road, the Savanna spreading out infinitely on all sides, it can't risk the entire rack snapping off.
The landscape is expansive, sparsely furnished, yet not empty. Here and there, far out among the acacia etbaica and the Indian figs are single, huge lumps, hills left behind from erosion. The reds and yellows of the landscape overwhelm the faded greens of any flora that chances the idea of appearing vibrant.
Slowly, Rafiki and I search for the path of least bouncing. The natural washboarding of the road feels like something left behind by the tread of a land-mover: the metal rollers digging deep row after deep row into the dirt, like ridges left behind by an out-flowing tide, but bigger and rock hard. On the edges of the road, however, it's possible to find strips where the tread has been worn down and no longer jolts my entire body second after second.
The sky has opened up over Mount Kenya. The nipple of a peak stands on top of a swollen areola is clearly visible. Here and there, are patches of white snow, taking advantage of the high altitude of the second tallest mountain in Africa.
My two-lane dirt road runs directly at the mountain, like a man in a bar who has spotted the love of his life. It's not until we're back on tarmac that the road starts to bend, now heading more in the general direction of the mount rather than directly for it.
Cosmas, the man in charge of the Mpala Research Center, answers the phone. Liz told me he was expecting my call.
He gives me directions to the Jumbo House, which contains PeakView Hotel – a cheap place with secure parking for me to stay the night. I promise to send him an email following up about the possibility of coming out and supporting some projects with drone footage.
PeakView is a tall, dumpy cement building in a line of tall, dumpy cement buildings. A narrow hallway leads up a flight of stairs to a metal gate that opens up to the interior courtyard. Down below are a couple of cars, oil stains, pools of water and piles of unidentified junk. To the right of the stairs, behind another set of bars is a counter to book a room.
It's 100 Shilling more a night for a big bed, but I don't need a bigger bed. A tiny bed is fine. The tiny, decrepit room, smells of oil, gas and raw sewage – without a doubt I brought much of the stench into the room with me. The walls are stained and the toilet in the water closet, which hardly has enough room to stand under the shower that pours directly onto the floor, is broken. The lid is raised and the piping is bare. Even after pumping the handle several times, it's impossible to get it to flush. The bed is a piece of foam laid on top of a wooden frame. The mismatched brown sheets have all seen better days.
Yet, PeakView is charming. Charming in its own way.
In the dimly lit restaurant and bar downstairs, a waitress finds me a seat in one of the booths next to a power socket. The man who was sitting there is done charging his phone. He relinquishes his spot.
A small man, who I presume is drunk at first, slides into a seat next to me.
“Where are you from?” he asks.
“Trump,” he says, as if the name itself carries enough meaning to need no verb or context.
My head drops, which is my go-to response when Kenyans identify my president.
“He's a tough man,” the man says.
It seems that most Kenyans think this about Trump. With “America First” as Obama and Bush Jr-era initiatives in Africa being rolled back, I'd presume that Kenyans more so than any other Africans would despise Trump.
I tell them that I don't like Trump. I tell them that Trump is crazy. But they are impressed by his “toughness” and strong rhetoric, even if it's not to their benefit.
“I have the VOA open for you once the music stops,” the man says, he apparently works here. I don't know what the VOA is, but I nod in thankful agreement.
The man takes my dinner order: ugali and beef.
After dinner, I find my way back into my tiny room, close the door and try to fall asleep.