Day 293: Loose Dice on Long Drive to Tanzania
Who we got back there? 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 goal today is for it to be as uneventful as possible, which never goes as planed.
Last night, while showing Felix the videos of the elephants, I decided that the mini clutch lever was fine, perhaps even better than the old one, as it forced me to only use two fingers to engage it. So, there's no need to drive into town to replace it. However, I might roll into town anyway so I can see the waitress I took a shine to yesterday. Nothing could possibly happen, but finding myself in her smiling eyes again would be worth the trip.
I woke with the morning light, watching the vague outline of Kilimanjaro appear on the horizon for a few moments, before a game drive. This ad hoc adventure consists entirely of me driving up and down the devil road, which turns up a pair of jackals padding through a boulder-ridden section of the landscape and a gaffer just as the sun appeared above a cloud, the slow reveal of a shimmering tangerine.
On the way back, there's a herd of wildebeests. They're strange, gaunt animals that appear a little deranged with their beards dirty and long, like a malnourished middle-aged man stumbling out of a mountains after a year of meditating in a cave. The drone swoops high over them, yet they are already running. Running from what, I'm not sure. They charge forward, bucking. The herd splits like strands of hair to be braided. Then, comes crashing back together. They stop, the drone comes closer, there seems to be an internal fight in the group, a male is pushes a young buck hard.
There off again, racing, blindly racing.
One crashes through the steel wires of a nearby fence with the sound of cannon fire. Moments later, the entire herd is blasting through the wires; fire after fire from a Spanish galleon at war. Attentive, but unperturbed a well endowed waterbuck watches the chaos, the Thompson's gazelles, a little farther back, don't even lift their grazing mouths to watch the wildebeests crash through the fence.
After a hearty breakfast of beans, burnt toast, crepes, sausage and tea, I'm ready to pack up and hit the road. Sitting there at breakfast, it occurs to me how many meals I eat alone. Many of those traveling alone through Kenya are at least accompanied by their guides, who join them when they take food.
Instead, I sit with my thoughts, which can be lonely.
The tent gets a good shaking and all the bits and pieces of sticks and dirt find their way back onto the ground. Rafiki's engine starts and I wave goodbye to my Maasai mechanic one last time.
Or so I think.
Ten meters later, before I make the gate, the clutch lever slips and comes loose.
It just needs to be screwed on tighter, I tell myself.
Stopping Rafiki, I wander back to the cook, who digs out a pair of pliers.
By the time I'm back to Rafiki, the Maasai mechanic is on site and ready to help.
My Maasai mechanic is on it. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Felix, left to run some other errand earlier today. He's lucky.
Metal filings from the threads being torn come off the lever as we unscrew it. It's a piece of shit replacement.
I might be projecting, but the Maasia Memhanic and I seem to have come to an agreement that Felix is a little punk pushing shitty parts.
After about thirty minutes of fiddling with it, the Maasai mechanic and I agree that we won't be able to properly repair her, but what we have might hold until I get into town.
It doesn't. The handle comes loose.
My left thumb holds the top bolt of the clutch lever in place, while the rest of my fingers keep it from sliding down the handlebars as Rafiki and I bump 22 kilometers back to the main road.
Rafiki and I pull up to get some work done on her. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
On the outskirts of town, we pull off the road onto the trash filled dirt in front of Kilimanjaro Motorcycle Repairs. A thin, young man, the head mechanic, comes over.
“Yeah, somebody bought this for me yesterday, but it's wrong and a piece of shit,” I explain pointing at the clutch.
There's four of them fiddling with the clutch, thinking about what to do. Longer screws comes up as an option.
“No, it just needs to be replaced,” I say, not that anyone is listening to me.
One of them looks straight at me and gives a big smile, as I repeat what I said. It's like we're sharing a secret about what needs to be done.
Four or five attempts at explaining later, we are all on the same page.
“Here's the monkey who sold the part,” the head mechanic says as a mechanic in a gray jumper sheepishly appears from a nearby shop.
The die gives me permission to leave Rafiki and most my bags with the mechanics, returning me to my tea crush. Inside the cafe, she's sitting at one of the tables with a three-year-old girl bouncing on her knee.
I take a seat on the narrow balcony overlooking the road.
“You came back,” she says.
In my head, I'd thought about all these silly things to say, mostly about her being beautiful, for no reason other than it would be fun and I'm sure she'd enjoy the compliments. However, it doesn't seem so appropriate now, especially as the man sitting at the table with her and the baby could easily be her husband.
“Is that your little girl?”
“She's beautiful,” I say, momentarily fearful that I'd mixed up the kids sex.
The waitress looks a little more worn out today, her eyes a bit glazed as if she's fought off several boughts of malaria. There are also the little white stretch marks above her breasts that are natural effect of them having swollen to feed a baby and then returned to their normal size.
I sip my tea. Pay my tab. And leave a little tip.
“I hope I will see you again,” she says.
“I think I will come back, but not soon. I head to Tanzania today.”
I put my camera down on the wooden bench outside the mechanic shop and have a look at how it's going. The mechanic is kick starting Rafiki to give her a test ride. He roars away.
One of the younger guys, perhaps in his late teens, picks up the camera to play with it when my back is turned.
“Here,” I say, showing him where to press to take pictures.
Not a bad shot. If only the subject was a better looking. Photo: Kenyan Teen
I pull out my phone to show one of them some videos of the elephants I videoed with the drone yesterday. He holds onto the phone while I check on Rafiki.
The screws are holding the clutch lever in place.
By the time I'm back to the bench, my DSLR has been abounded so the younger guy could focus on taking selfies with my phone. With BlueTooth turned on, he's sending the pictures over to his friend's phone.
If I recall, there are a few photos on there that I'd rather they didn't find; there are pictures of woman. However, just as undesirable are the picture of those anal warts – which have now completely healed.
Though the pair are doing a lot of swiping, they're going through my photos, but are instead lost in their own world of selifes.
They took a lot of pictures with the phone. Photos: Kenyan teen
“So how much?” I ask the mechanic.
“For this piece, 200 Shilling. This one, 200 Shilling. For me 200 Shilling,” he says.
Jesus, Felix skinned me alive. It seems as if there are two types of people out there when it comes to finding a sheep lost and separated from the flock: those who skin it on the spot and those who lead it back to its brethren. There are also those who sheer the sheep, but they seem few and far between in Kenya.
The welder mumbles the price for his work, as if not exactly happy about being peer pressured into giving the muzungu a fair price.
“What?” the mechanic says.
He also only needs 200 Shilling.
In addition to fixing the clutch, the mechanic tightened up my back break and a few other bolts that came loose from rattling back and forth on that devil road.
At the gas station on northern outskirts of town, I drop the die.
The original plan was to cut through the back roads I came on to Sultan and then take some more off-the-beaten-track trails to Highway A104 before heading south to Tanzania. At first it appeared possible to follow C103 along the border to Namanga, but that road cuts straight through the Amboseli National Park, where I can't take a motorcycle. A bit more planning and I'm sure I could find a trail, but that isn't what's happening.
However, it's 1pm. I'm ready to be in Tanzania. There have been too many delays.
The die has two options: dirt roads or stick to the highway all the way up to Kitengela, a few minutes south of Nairobi, and then all the way back down to Namanga.
The die agrees: too many delays.
So, we're on highways all the way there.
A huge gust of wind strikes my chest. Rafiki wobbles for a moment, but holds true. Another lorry zooms by, blasting me with a gust of air. Overtaking the lorry ahead, my chest falls forward. There's a vacuum as the lorry blocks the cross wind and I momentarily draft behind it. You don't realize how hard your body is fighting the wind as you fly down a highway until it suddenly ceases to be there, like pushing on a jammed door that suddenly swings open.
Back in Thailand, I hesitated about upgrading the windshield on Roxinante, the Honda CB500X I dreamed of taking with me for the entire Dice Travels trip. However, it didn't take much research to realize that a high windguard significantly reduces riding fatigue. Rafiki, a naked, enduro-style motorcycle not made for a long haul like this, which means, though I'm rarely aware of it, my body is constantly fighting steady battle against the wind.
To the west, an enormous storm system is wetting the parched savanna. A sheet of rain, wide as it hits the ground, narrows as it rise up toward the cloud, which mushrooms out, dark and ominous above.
If the storm sustains itself, I'll no doubt be looping back through it.
The mud flaps of a matatu reads: “God is Awesome”.
If you believe in God, is there really any need to state the obvious? If the dude created everything, I think awesome might be underplaying it a little. What words do we have to describe that level of awesome? I mean, people are awesome – just watch the YouTube videos. God's got to be on a whole nother level – assuming such beliefs are what keeps your boat afloat.
With my headphones broken, I'm stuck in my own head. After hours of driving Rafiki, my ass is numb and there's plenty of loose thoughts rattling around.
“Bejesus. Baby Jesus, Baby Jesus, Baby Jesus, Beb G, BG, says 'gagagagagagaga',” I say into my helmet “Baby Jesus meet Lady Gagagagaga.”
Nonsense continues to therapeutically flow from my mouth. It's a step ahead of the other game I've taken up while bored on these long stretches of mostly empty highway: close your eyes.
My mind is tired of describing the landscape, tired of thinking about words for the gnarly, low branches of the acacia studded world around me. It's tired. It needs some stimulation.
My eyes close. Only for a couple seconds. I know it's stupid. Even as they remain shut, I tell myself it's stupid. Then they pop back open and the world is the same. I am still alive, yet I feel a hair more alive.
I'm not sure when I picked the game up, but it's become a death-sentence staple for these long drives on Rafiki.
The road is wet. There's the smell of hot asphalt kissed by a summer storm. The desperately needed rain falls somewhere ahead of me, retreating from Rafiki's two-stroke roar. It's the sound of Rafiki as well that is no doubt playing a roll in wearing me down.
The sun is starting to set. Am I really going to end up driving at night again? Namanga is so close.
There's a sign for a river. Like the ones we crossed earlier, the sign seems more to be a marker for God, reminding him that he needs to make a deposit at said location, as even after the recent rains the river beds are empty and cracked.
I desperately need internet. I know nothing about Tanzania.
It's like entering a new level of a game, beyond the border I have no idea where things are or what to expect. I set these bizarre artificial crossing points and fail to do any research of what happens after them.
In my head I need to cross into Tanzania. What town is on the other side? No idea. Where can I sleep tomorrow night? No idea. What is there to do? No idea.
There isn't much to Namanga when I arrive after dark. I attempted to get a room at a roadside lodge a on the road a little farther back, but they had no WiFi. As it would happen, it doesn't seem as if any hotels in Namanga have WiFi. Even the ritzy place with a sign that demands you not tread on their finely trimmed grass as no WiFi.
Bumping down several dark, broken dirt roads. I settle on a single building that is a nightclub, restaurant and hotel – all still under construction.
The walls of the room are unfinished. Not designed to look unfinished, but simply unfinished. It's a dream project – you can tell sense it. However, it's opening to light traffic far before it's ready. The owner tries the hot showers in three different rooms, before finding one he says is hot. It's not. But at this point I don't care.
What the place lacks in finishing touches, it makes up for with help. The owner runs off to organize 100 Shilling of AirTel top up for my phone so I can at least have a little internet tonight and see what's across the border.
There's so much to be done.
There's writing to be done.
There's planning to be done.
My bags need to be completely re-packed with the drone stuffed into one of the panniers to avoid drawling any unnecessary attention. But all I can do is futz around on Facebook and scroll through Twitter.