Day 291: Snapping in Dark Outside Amboseli National Park
There was a lot of dirt on the 11-hour ride to Amboseli National Park. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
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.
THE die cast me toward Namanga to cross into Tanzania, which brought me through Nairobi. What was supposed to be a passing kiss, ended up with Nairobi's acacia thorn claws digging in and holding me in place.
We entangled me this time through was drone work. Headmasters Productions along with Lovince were organizing a music video shoot for Kenyan-American performer Naomi Wamboe. After kicking around for a couple of days waiting for the shoot, we got a 6am start.
I was to leave the next morning, but we didn't home until 1am. You're not misreading those times, we were out of the house for nearly 20 hours in order to tick all the boxes for the 3:37 min video.
Unfortunately, the drone footage wasn't heavily used. Video: Headmasters Productions
Luckily, the dice hadn't dictated the departure date, so there were no issues delaying by one more day.
A deep sleep holds me Tuesday morning. I don't come around until sometime after 9am.
Liz, is bustling about in the living room.
“You know it's way past six?” she asks.
“Yeah, I was just so comfortable. My alarm woke me up, but I decided it was best to catch up on sleep.”
“Do you want coffee.”
Laying motionless on the couch under a red sheet, I begrudgingly stir to take my cup of light roasted, French pressed coffee.
Everything is packed and ready to go. Nearly everything.
“Do you have your toothbrush?” Liz asks after I shower and spend about an hour dragging my feet toward the door.
“Yes, though I'm not sure where I packed it at this point.”
Liz returns from the bathroom waving my pink toothbrush.
“I feel like I'm your hygiene manager,” she says.
After a big hug goodbye, me and all my belongs start the elevator ride down to the basement parking lot. Lovince didn't make it home last night, as he and Bosco are pushing to finish the edit for the music video edit as soon as possible.
Rafiki starts up without a hitch once all the bags are strapped down to her sturdy frame. Passing between Wilson Airport and Nairobi National Park on Southern Bypass, I scan the vast shrub lands of the park in search of rhinos and other members of the big five. In the distance, the long, slender line of giraffes neck is visible against the horizon. It's unbelievable that these animals, dancing through the dreams of those of us who find ourselves in Africa once our eyes are closed, are a stone throw away from Nairobi, perhaps even technically in Nairobi. The park should change its name to White Horned Rhino National Park or something along those lines so travelers take it a more seriously.
Southern Bypass loops into Mombasa Road as Rafiki and I make our way toward Sultan Hamud. Mombasa Road is the primary two-lane highway that stretches to the coast.
We hop onto the wide shoulder of the road to pass car after car stuck behind a lorry chugging up a slight incline. Other cars pass into incoming traffic, forcing there way back into their lane well ahead of a collision. At least mostly well ahead of a collision.
After missing the turn into Sultan Hamud, Rafiki and I do a u-turn, backtrack 17 kilometers and pull into town. Sultan Hamud is nothing special, though when the Chinese finish the speed train to Mombasa from Nairobi, the place has potential to boom, assuming the train stops in town.
On the other side of the tracks, I recognize where the 150cc Boxers used by Charlie's Travels were loaded up into the back of a truck. The same place Mustafa and I were packed into a van with the Dutch frat boys for the ride back to Nairobi.
It was miserable. The entire experience with Charlie's Travels was miserable for Mustafa and myself. However, I did drop a pin on my map for Sultan Hamud with the plan of returning.
Returning so I could stop and enjoy the adventure, as well as the wildlife.
Inside a clean, dimly lit restaurant, I order a plate of meat with ugali. I've made a habit of ordering everything with ugali, as if doing so somehow infers that I know what I'm about in Kenya. I also ignore any silverware that comes with it, plucking and rolling balls of the corn-flour dough between my fingers, enjoying the warmth of fresh ugali before grabbing some curried meats and plopping it all into my mouth.
A young, pretty woman took my order. She returns with the food and the bill, which she places under a salt shaker.
It's 300 shilling, which is expensive. This should be anywhere between 150 and 200 Shilling. But the waitress is a pretty woman, and I can't be bothered to make a fuss over the dollar. I chide myself for letting a woman's looks play role in the decision, but it does anyway. Who wants to look like a miser in front of a pretty woman?
“I think I will take tea too, please,” I say.
The tea comes out. The bill is modified.
I add two scoops of sugar to the milk tea and take a sip.
They're charging me 100 Shilling for tea, which is insane. Chai should be anywhere between 20 and 50 Shilling.
I take a few sips of the tea, watching Rafiki through the lace curtains of the front window of the cement building.
The owner of the place, Jennifer, catches me looking around.
“Do you have everything?” she asks.
“100 bob for chai?” I ask.
“Is it too expensive?”
“Yes. I'm not in Nairobi. I don't want it. I'll just pay the 300 for the meat.”
“Okay, okay. What about 40 or 50 Shilling?” she asks.
“40 Shilling is okay.”
“Okay, I want you to feel welcome. Karibu,” she says. In Swahili, kraibu means “welcome” and manages to find its way into nearly every conversation.
Seeing how much you can overcharge someone because of the color of their skin is no way to make a person feel welcome. However, I don't press the point. Why bother?
“Isaac, son of Abraham,” Jennifer says when I introduce myself. “Do you read the Bible?”
“No, not really.”
“My parents aren't Christian,” I say. Though, to be honest, I'm an adult: if I wanted to jump on the Jesus Jet, nobody is stopping me.
Jennifer cuts a big African mama sort of figure as she attempts to not let my lack of accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior ruffle her feathers.
“You'll find Jesus in Tanzania,” Jennifer says. “You can come back and give testimony.”
Jesus conversations are difficult to navigate. It's my policy to refrain from making snarky comments in such situations, even when it's pretty clear that Jesus isn't in Tanzania based on his estimated birth date.
“That would be something. I'd be glad to come back,” I mumble.
I tend to give quiet, vague responses in order to avoid lying, as well as being inundated by a Biblical storm.
After promising to pray for me to find a good wife, along with a number of other things, all of which she explained God knows comes from her heart, the conversation drifts to different topics. I'm pleased to have her praying for me, even if I can't find the right words to say so.
“I'll tell them to give you a good price for the gas,” Jennifer tells me, after I ask where I can fill up before taking the dirt roads connecting Sultan Hamud to Ambroseli National Park.
“Some people charge people more just because they're white,” she warns me.
“Yes, I know.”
We exchange contact information so I can get in touch with her next time I come through town. I do it because saying no is rude and there's no good reason to be rude.
With a full tank of gas, Rafiki and I start out on a familiar, wide dirt road. Dump trucks full of gravel rumble past, kicking up clouds of dust. The red road turns to white. I'm on the right track, the gravel mine must not be too far ahead.
My mind is swirling with the last trip. It was so miserable, especially the second day. However, that's not the freshest wound from the experience. A few days ago, I saw all my drone footage on a Facebook ad for Charlie's Travels. It linked to a Facebook page, which gave a big shout-out to the video editor and zero credit to the videographer.
Though I tried to salvage the relationship with Charles when we had a falling out over whether or not we'd work together via Dice Travels, apparently I failed.
We'd been on the verge of welding, painting and branding one of his 150cc Boxers with Charlie's Travels and Dice Travels and having me launch an entire media campaign for him while getting to use the bike for free while in Africa.
It didn't work out.
Before that fell apart, I gave him the drone footage from the trip around Amboseli National Park, because that was the deal. Also part of the deal was him crediting Dice Travels appropriately. The fact that he didn't credit Dice Travels in the Facebook ad or in the video, was shitty. However, it was understandable, as he was putting money out there for the ad, and co-branding something like that could be confusing. However, not even giving me a shout-out on Facebook when he launched the dope video, but thanking the fucking editor was him showing his true colors as a shitty person.
I was fuming when I figured it out. I nearly sat down that night and bolted together the exact same edit of my footage with the plan of posting it in a lot of Nairobi expat groups in Facebook to call him out.
Then, I realized I would be shooting tons of additional, insanely-awesome footage on this trip. So, if he wanted to be a petty child about it, I should let him.
I sent the business a Facebook message:
“Hey, awesome video with the drone footage! Looks like you forgot to credit me though. Any chance you can fix that? Thanks.”
Somebody saw it, you can tell when their profile pic pops up next to the message.
So, I sent a message directly to Charlies:
“Love the new profile pic... Looks like you ate it hard 😛 I'm sure you just forgot, but can you please give dice travels credit for the drone video? Saw that the editor got a shout out (great job on it)!” I wrote.
He saw it.
He didn't respond.
I have to unclench my jaw as Rafiki and I drive down the gravel road, my brain boiling from recounting the experience.
I try to think of something different.
Suddenly, I'm not so sure where I should be going. It would have been best to get GPS coordinates for the ride from Uri, one of the motorcycle guides with us last time. However, that's not my style.
Instead, I'm relying on a vague recollection of the four-hour drive on crisscrossing dirt roads with only a few prominent landmarks to confirm that we're bearing the right direction.
A new, double-steepled church stands on top of a low hill overlooking a dusty medical center and a school.
From the dirt parking lot on top of the hill, I spot a significant dirt road in the distance.
“That's where I need to be,” I say to myself.
Rafiki and I backtrack down the hill, find a dirt road that connects to the main one and off we're off.
Dump trucks have dug knee-deep ruts in the road. Daintily we attempt to pick our way through them, as deep pools of fine red dust swallow Rafiki's front tire.
The dust is as soft as untouched snow powder at the top of mountain. If there was the sharp, hot smell of a Christmas kitchen in the air, or even on my breathe from gum, I would swear that Rafiki and I were awkwardly plowing through a mess of cinnamon after some giants rushed off to get more baked goods into a holiday oven.
Out of a pit of dust, my bottom half is painted red.
I move to the edge of the road as a dump truck rocks through a series of ditches ahead of me.
This doesn't seem right. Surely, these dust ditches would ring a bell. Unlike the trucks I do remember, these aren't coming from the gravel pit on the other side of the church. I've no idea what these trucks are carrying.
On the left appears the welcome sight of a broad white strip. The dry riverbed runs deep with valuable sand. A dump truck sits in the sand, engine running as it's loaded. I remember crossing the bed of sand last time, but not at this point.
A Maasai market is set up where the road dives to the river bed. A couple dozen people sit in the shade.
I follow the path into the deep sand.
On the far side, there are about half a dozen local motorcycles and drivers. Even if this isn't the right spot, surely it will do. Halfway across, I realize there's no way to get to the other side. There's too much sand.
Passively, everyone's eyes follow the white man with fox ears as he muddles his way through the sand – I can feel it.
The sand is getting deep and soft. It's very possible that I'll end up having to push Rafiki out.
Rafiki and I turn around and head back to stable ground.
She stalls and dies.
I kick start her.
She comes to life, then she dies.
I kick start her again.
We travel a meter; I kill her. At least the her tires aren't digging in. The full sun is bearing down on us, but it's not hot, yet.
Out of the sand, I turn Rafiki off. Three Maasai men draped in red shuka sit in the shade.
“Which way to Amboseli?” I ask them.
The rustle from their position and come down to me.
Maasai men are beautiful. Well, perhaps the men aren't beautiful, but they're plumage is. Have you ever looked at a peahen and been impressed? Of course not, it's the tail feathers of the peacock that are mesmerizing. These men are meticulous in their beautification: one of them has intricate earrings hanging in his elongated lobes, a beaded anklet stretching high on his leg, each fold in his perfectly clean red cloth is crisp and a knife in an ornate leather case hangs at his side. The two other men are similarly dressed.
Another group of men appears around me.
I then spot a third group heading toward me from across the sand, a shovel slung over one of their shoulders.
They're crowding in close, hands on Rafiki.
Even as a man, it's easy to feel vulnerable in such a situation.
The conversation is disjointed. Some of them speak English, they're translating options. The men with the shovel arrive. A man in front of me fiddles with my helmet, which I took off.
“You can take him. From here it's not far,” one man says, suggesting I take a young man in a black t-shirt with me.
“It's okay. You said it's this way,” I say, vaguely pointing in the direction I came from.
We could have wrapped it up then, when they pointed the way, but they didn't seem keen on letting me go so soon.
The men are tightly packed around me. Their hands fiddle with Rafiki and my gear.
I try to remind myself that this is a cultural, personal-space-bubble difference.
I try to relax.
“Do you have the money?” the kid in the black t-shirt asks with the flicker of a disturbing glint in his eyes.
“No.” There's more talking, more suggestions.
“Okay, so I think I've got it. Thank you so much,” I say.
Most of the men pull back a few inches as I put on my helmet and prepare to start Rafiki. The keys are lodged between the handle bars and the speedometer. Someone must have pulled them out when they were fiddling with the bike.
One of the guys continues to hold the clutch handle in for me as I kick start Rafiki.
She roars to life, and we're away.
Back down the road, I attempt several small dirt roads that head toward the river, but none are right.
Then I spot a sign for a campground. I go the other direction. Shortly thereafter, I'm following goat tracks through scattered acacia trees and Maasai compounds.
The compounds have outer walls of thorny acacia brush to keep out wild animals. Inside, are a number of small single room dwellings. These are mud with thatch roofs. It's what you think about when you think about African huts – at least if you grew up flipping through National Geographic in the 80s and 90s.
This is getting us nowhere.
I pull the die out from my necklace.
Evens, we go back and check out the campsite. Odds, we keep driving around looking for the river crossing.
Thank god, it's a two. The phrase “check out” has become a go to for the dice, as it allows them to bend my fate without committing me to something before I have a better pictures. For all I know, the campsite is shutdown or outrageously expensive.
One little green sign leads to another, which leads to another, as I drive about 600 meters deeper into the bush.
The gate is open. There's a wire fence erected on both sides of the path, as we make our way down a protected driveway. The main compound is straight ahead. However, a sign says the campsite is to my right.
I drive deeper into the bush. Following the path, I see an area for setting up a tent, but no reception. Deeper in, there is a half-built bungalow and a toilet bowl sitting out under a tree. It looks like the project never got off the ground.
Back at the gate, I find two men. One of them, the one with dried blood plastered across his ankle from a cut on his narrow calf, approaches me.
I turn Rafiki's motor off. She blows a huge cloud of blue smoke.
He waves his hand in front of his face to fan it away.
There is silence.
“Do you have camping?” I ask.
They do. It's 1,000 Shilling a night, which seems a bit expensive. However, he explains that it includes electricity and running water.
“Do you know where to cross the river to get to the other side of Amboseli?”
“Go left. Follow the electricity lines,” he says.
Yes, that makes sense. On this side of the empty river is a small town, if my memory serves me.
“Great, thank you. I might be back soon.”
I take off for the river bed.
I'll just go for a little bit to make sure I understand, I tell myself. The die did push me to the place, but maybe to get directions.
There's no way I'd remember this turnoff. The turnoff looks like nothing, though the electric lines head off in that direction. I remembered a wide dirt road on this side of the river.
The turnoff peters out at a section of road washed away, before opening up to the road I remember.
It's pretty late in the afternoon to try and push to Amboseli However, the campsite we stayed at, whatever it's called, is probably going to be the cheapest place to hole up for the night, assuming I can get there before dark.
At some point, though I'm not entirely sure when, it becomes clear that I'm not turning back.
On the far side of the empty river bed, the landscape comes in waves. There's a section thick with acacia trees, their branches mangled, stretching not too far over head. Then, they would abruptly stop and we would be dumped out to Savanna, with antelope nibbling at the low, yellow grass in the distance. Five minutes later, we're be back among the acacia.
“Holy fuck,” I say, coming to abrupt stop. A pair of slender, long-neck antelope look up before sauntering into the thick bush. They're a rare sight.
The road spills out into a collection concrete buildings painted blue and white. The tallest of the buildings is a hotel of sorts. I remember the town. We're on the right track.
A few minutes out of town, Rafiki gives me a red light. It's the low oil light. I have a spare bottle of 2T oil. However, the light also means I'm getting low on gas.
There's not been a petrol station of any sorts since leaving Saltun.
Three minutes later, a small herd of wild ostriches appears in the open, dusty landscape. Technically speaking, herd is not the right word. It should be a flock, as they are birds. But all one has to do is spend moment in their presence to understand that they aren't some fowl, but a distant cousin to a raptor: the way they move, the way they watch you.
They're one of the reasons I wanted to come back this way, which now gives me a perfect excuse to pull over and fill up the oil.
The outer wall of the compound is made from thorny acacia branches. Video: Isaac Stone Simonelli / Music: Turku
The drone draws out a few Maasai women and a bundle of children from a nearby compound. They crowd around me. I crouch down low, so their shadows fall across the phone screen and they can see the drone chasing the ostriches.
One of the little boys looks up to spot the big birds somewhere out ahead of us.
As the drone buzzes back to us like a hive of angry bees, the children scatter, running as fast as antelope when confronted with the same piece of technology. The women laugh and laugh, watching the kids run.
The drone leaves. The kids come back.
This time when the drone returns, it is only one small boy who bolts. The six year old races across the soft white dirt, the drone follows him for a bit to the glee of everyone standing around me.
“Where can I get gas?” I ask the only woman who appears to speak English.
It takes a minute for her to understand, but we get there. There's nowhere for Rafiki to drink anywhere ahead of me. I have to turn back.
“Here, all of these videos will be online on my website,” I tell the woman. “On the internet.”
She doesn't seem to understand. I dig out some Dice Travels stickers and give her one; they have the website address on them. The kids don't want any stickers.
“This is it?” she asks, unimpressed with the sticker, as if it was supposed to be a proper gift.
“Yeah, the website is down there: DiceTravels.com.”
“They want to know if you can give them something for the pictures,” the woman says, translating what a couple of the older woman are saying.
I'm sure they want money. However, I shake my head. I'm not in the habit of giving out money.
The blue and white town is dusty. I stop next to three men lounging on motorbikes outside a little wood-shuttered store.
“Hello,” I say. I'm learning not to rush in with questions. It seems customary to greet someone, then let an awkwardly long silence prevail before getting to the point.
The silence doesn't last as long as it should – I'm still learning.
“Do you know where I can get gas?” I ask.
“Yes, let me get him,” one of them says, waving down an old woman who is missing most of her teeth. “It costs 150 Shillings per liter.”
That's a 50 per cent mark up on the recently hiked price of petrol, which went from 94-96 to 100 Shilling per liter – no doubt connected to the upcoming election. However, in the middle of nowhere, you have to expect to pay more.
I drive Rafiki to where the hotel is across the path. The bottom floor is split into a number of small stores, including a salon. Four little girls come running over to me as the woman disappears into a dark hallway at the entrance to find gas.
“It's okay,” I say, handing one of the girls my helmet. They smile and giggle, tentatively touching the soft fox ears; the glowing smiles of Kenyan children are enough to melt anyone's heart.
The woman returns with a giant blue jug of petrol and a 1-liter plastic bottle.
She funnels a liter of petrol into the bottle, which I then dump into Rakifi's tank. Three liters later – she almost panicked when I said I might need seven liters – the tank is nearly full.
“Can I have half a liter?” I ask, miming as I speak.
Nope. I can't have half a liter. I'd have liked to topped Rafiki off, but there's not enough room for a full liter.
Back on the path toward Amobseli, I honk my horn and wave at the Maasai compound the women and children live in, unsure if they can see me through the thick brush wall.
It's getting late. The sun is falling from the sky faster than a New Year's Eve ball. Warm colors are going gray as the ball of flames battles a blanket of cloud cover.
Rafiki and I are kicking up a trail of dust as we cut across the barren landscape. I'm heavy on the gas, perhaps a bit too heavy, but I don't want to get caught out in the bush once it's dark.
Dice Travels started with the rule of never driving at night. A rule broken by the dice once early on and subsequently broken by me with disturbing regularity. However, I told myself when I got to Africa that the night driving would come to an end. Driving at night here is begging for trouble from bandits, drunk drivers and wildlife.
Up ahead, there is a beautiful straight line of asphalt: Highway C102. I remember the place. Just after we crossed the road last time, the mechanic who was driving me dumped the bike in deep sand – it was the first motorcycle crash I'd been in since starting the trip. Not that it was much of a crash. We were both fine. The bike was fine. However, it did nothing to improve my feelings about Charles.
Jumping across the road, Rafiki and I are back on dirt. This late in the evening, a wise man would have grabbed hold of the path to guaranteed civilization rather than continuing to cut through the bush. I may be many things, but wise is not one of them.
The trial splits past a watering hole. Splits like streams in a river as it runs through a series of volcanic boulders. A few minutes later, it becomes clear that I'm riding the wrong trail. Turning, I find the primary unpaved path and get going. It Ts into another dirt road.
A Maasai man in full regalia leans on his walking stick next to a a couple plastic bags of groceries.
“Amboseli?” I ask.
There's some confusion. I move on. According to the map, I'm at least headed the right direction.
The sun is getting so low.
The road goes black, the land on either side a dried up water hole, cracked and thick with dry silt. The landscape is riddled with lava bombs. The large chunks of black igneous rock are scattered everywhere in the dark remnants of the lake, making it look burnt up rather than evaporated away.
The number of lava bombs continues to grow until they dominate the landscape. A pale pink streak of light appears above a dark cloud as the last moments of day fight to keep the road lit. That's the problem with racing the sun: we're never racing to the same destination. Of course, we'll both get there eventually, but usually he arrives eight to ten hours late, leaving me in the dark until then.
Rafiki's headlight appear on the dirt road. The landscape is familiar as we meet up with another dirt road on the edge of a little town. We continue on in the dark, hugging a fence line, following it away from town.
Like Donkey, the little 110cc Honda Win I had in Vietnam, Rafiki's not the brightest of friends – it's nearly impossible to see the road in front of me.
A white minivan passes, leaving me choking in a cloud of dust.
The road starts to split. There are too many options. None of them look right. No, with night settled in around us, there's no way I'll be able to piece together the trail to the campsite based on my fragmented memories from a month ago.
This isn't going to work.
Rafiki comes to a stop.
We turn around and head back toward the little town, cutting up and away from the path, through ragged shop houses, their doorways glowing, silhouetting those lingering at their entrances.
Another section of Highway C102 is directly in front of me. The campsite is still about 45 minutes away.
On the outskirts of Kimana, the last major town before the turn off for the campsite, there's a gas station with a convenience store and restaurant attached.
After filling up Rafiki's tank with petrol and mine with a surprising good Chinese-style beef dish selected by the die, we're back on the road.
There's a paved turnoff for Amboseli National Park and the better part of a dozen lodges and camps. I don't remember the turnoff being paved; I remember a horrible dirt road.
I am not mistaken. The pavement quickly ends, presenting 22km of hellish riding.
It's like driving over corrugated sheet of metal, but all the ridges are exaggerated to shake every bolt loose on whatever vehicle passes, as well as a few bolts loose in the head of whoever is attempting the journey.
“Fuck!” I scream.
I know I've snapped, but enough is fucking enough.
I've been on Rafiki for nearly 11 hours.
A particularly rough section of road shakes me so hard that I lose control of my body. If the tank bag wasn't so wide, I could stand up, taking the pumps in good riding form: knees are incredible shock absorbers.
There are often narrow strips on a road like this that are rough, but not soul crushing. However, Rafiki's headlight is too dim for me to see far enough ahead to assess which path might be less punishing.
I'm going too fast, the back wheels starts to slide out behind me, but Rafiki doesn't go down.
“Fuck this shit,” I mutter.
The water bottle strapped to the back of the bike pops off and the drone nearly falls off. I stop to reorganize the tent and drone, well aware that this isn't the safest place to do so. There are no fences keeping wild animals in the park and people outs. The animals are free to roam, which includes lions, leopards and more worrisome water buffalo and elephants.
What if this isn't even the right road? What if it is, but the camp gate is closed and they won't let me stay the night? What if I have to come back through all of this?
I'm sure it's the right road, there was a sign for Amboseli Lodge, which I remembered seeing last time.
But what if it's not?
I harden myself to the world. Eyes glazed, jaw locked, I let the road tear me apart, holding onto the throttle.
I snap out of it. Three sets of tiny glimmering eyes on boulderous bodies peer directly at Rafiki's dim headlight. The fact that they fall within the scope of the headlight means the tuskers, elephants, are no more than seven or eight meters away.
This is how stupid tourists die.
Tuskers are amazing beasts, but I'm not about to slow down. If I had brighter lights and could see them properly, I could do a head count and ensure there weren't more on the other side of the road. In that case, maybe I'd be dumb enough to stop farther up the road and watch them for a few minutes. As it is, Rafiki doesn't stop.
The road is endless. Who knew 22km was a distance with no ending?
It goes and goes.
I'm not even sure of the name of the campsite, though I'm sure I'll recognize it when I see it.
A small wooden sign, directly in front of the park gate reads: Kimana Camp.
That's it! So close: maybe 200 meters or less.
There's a nasty clank behind me, something breaks. Then, there the grinding sound of something pressing into a motorcycle tire.
I try to drive slowly, but if it's the metal rack that's broken loose and pushing into the tire I could destroy the tire in the 100 to 200 meters to the gate.
So fucking close. Why? Why? Why the fuck?
Furiously, I get off the bike. I'm hit in the face with a huge cloud of oil-rich smoke. Rafiki seems as pissed off about this as I am.
The last couple percentage of battery life on my phone provides light to assess the damage. The back-left side of the rack broke free, which is no surprise. The bolt on the back-right side was shaken loose and is gone.
It's not as bad as I thought. However, the rack can now pivot into the tire.
Slowly, slowly, we limp toward the florescent lights of the campsite.
The gate is double padlocked.
Rafiki's horn screams into the night, growing louder when I rev the engine. A flashlight appears, a glowing dot in the darkness on the other side. I let up on the horn and take my helmet off. I'm sure I'll get a more hospitable reception without the helmet blocking my white face.
A young man in a beanie, Ben, spots me. He opens the gate. I'm glad I'm white right now. Maybe it makes no difference, but I have sad suspicion that if I was black there would be a bit more questioning about why I was there.
“Hot water on the left, cold water on the right,” Ben says, after informing me that I can set up a tent under the umbrella acacia next to my bike.
I take a long, hot shower. I'd tried to take short showers at Lovince's house because I know the hot water causes there electric bill to skyrocket. However, now, with water heated by a wood stove behind the cement showers, I relax, scrapping off layer after layer of dust and sweat.