Day 340: No Gas, No Money, No Water
And so I started pushing. 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.
IN MY head, I've already started writing about today. I do that sometimes: anticipate a day, a day that I hope will have minimal unscheduled adventures. I can see the whole thing spread out ahead of me like a long two-lane highway cutting through the scrubs and red dust of Maasai land. And, like a true desert, it was all going to be a mirage.
The night watchman is still on duty when I wake up. I can feel his eyes clinging to me as I pack Rafiki, as if fearing that I might make a run for it without paying my bill, which, given my current financial situation had across my mind. Not that I would go through with it. When you're low on cash, it's amazing how you simply notice opportunities or a few bills not neatly tucked into someone's pocket. With riding gear on, bags strapped down, Dorsey II hidden inside one of the panniers instead of strapped on the back of the bike, all that's left to do is wait for the cook to arrive so I can have breakfast.
It's going to be a long drive to the Kenyan border. A very full day of riding. I can see it already, a blur of names copied down out of a map as we slip out of the Usambara mountain range and then race west toward Arusha before turning north, passing through Longido and then arriving in Namanga to cross into Kenya.
A large woman with maternal, hippo hips arrives and unlocks the door to the dining room, taking my order for eggs and bringing me a thermos of hot water so I can make myself a cup of instant coffee.
I spread thick layers of local butter on the toast before topping it off with the homemade marmalade. I sip the milky coffee and pray that the night guard had meant 30,000 Tanzanian Shilling per night, rather than 30 dollars. I can't pay 30 dollars a night. In fact, I can't pay 60,000 Shillings per night; I can only pay the equivalent in US dollars, as I'm nearly out of Shillings. If they are willing to take the 30 dollars, I'll have about 40,000 Shilling left.
Now, 40,000 Shilling might sound like a lot, but I'm thinking it will only provide enough fuel and oil to get me to Kenya if paired with a great deal of prayer, which has never been my strong suit. Additionally, I'll still have 20 dollars, as well as another 20 dollar bill taped to a fake credit card used for a magic trick I never perform.
The dire situation of my finances divert my anxiety about making the crossing and secure my registration book from Kenya Customs without my temporary export permit for Rafiki.
“Can I pay you for the room?” I ask the cook when she brings a plate of Spanish eggs.
“How much in dollars?”
“60,000 dollars,” she says, a bit uncertain about the word dollars as it slips out of her mouth.
I hand her the thirty dollars that I allocated for the room, which follows a generous, yet standard conversation rate. If the die hadn't held me here another day, I'd have an extra fifteen dollars in my pocket and already be in Kenya. Or at least I imagine that would be the case.
I half expect the night guard to come in and cause a fuss. However, I don't rush breakfast. I continue to sip my coffee and nibble on the toast.
It's 7:20am by the time Rafiki and I are rolling out of St. Benedict's Hostel. It's a properly early start to a long day in the saddle. Google Maps claims that we're only six hours and 40 minutes away from Namanga However, that's if we're in a car and don't make any stops. In general, it's taking me significantly longer than Google predicts on these longer rides – Rafiki breaking down, as she did two days ago, doesn't expedite the situation.
The air is fresh and crisp up in the mountains. The shade of the tall, straight-trunked eucalyptus trees with their thin weeping foliage are welcome guards, standing in solidarity with their surroundings as we pass by. The road doesn't feel as long, as dangerous, as haunted as it did on the drive up to Lushoto. The waterways that carved the steep valley on my right-hand side are now visible, running fast before tumbling from open waterfalls and continuing their downward journey downward with me.
In Mombo, we don't stop for gas. The oil was topped up yesterday and I filled up the tank before the drive up into the mountains.
Cruising down a long, straight two-lane highway, Rafiki and are surrounded by wide stretches of
sisal. The plant bases are stumpy, shin-high protrusions with frowns bursting from the top like dozens of green icicles. They are laid out in orderly rows, stretching into the distance row after row after row.
On the northern side of the road, the strip of sisal trundles along until they reach the steep slopes of the mountain range. However, on the southern side, there is nothing to rein in the evenly planted crops. Some have gone to seed, stretching an antenna-like stalk several meters above the rest of the plant. From it opens an awkward, spindly head of thin vines and seeds. Several men are cutting the thick sisal leaves, bundling them together, and loading them up into a truck.
Rafiki and I roll on.
She starts to chug. I lean over and flip the fuel line to the reserve. If I recall, it's possible to drive for some distance on the reserve tank.
Moments later, there appear a few old petrol pumps in a dusty white sand lot on the edge of a tiny town. Perfect timing.
I ease Rafiki down to the pumps, where two young guys on a motorbike wave me off.
They're out of petrol here, they say.
Farther down the road, there's gas, they say.
A stretch of dusty landscape away, a small village runs parallel to the road, though not connected to the highway. A small collection of wood-paneled shacks cling to the road where I presume there is a bus stop.
If I stop, I'm sure I'll be able to find someone to drag a couple water bottles filled with petrol out from behind one of the shops. But then again, there must a better gas station a little farther down the road.
At least not in time.
Rafiki shutters. And begins to do her chugging chameleon dance with me rolling back and forth like a toddler on a rocking horse.
Up ahead, far, far up ahead, there is the glimmer of the light gray roofs of a town. It's a proper town.
“Another three kilometers Rafiki. Another three kilometers and you can drink deeply my friend,” I say, silently encouraging the bike.
The thing about rocking horses is that they are incredibly loyal steeds – they won't wander in the pasture – but they also don't get you very far when it comes ridding one.
I've got the throttle pinned on Rafiki when a suddenly perfect silence arrives. Her engine has nothing left to give; the fumes, like a dead man's spirit, have been exhausted.
A few meters away, a woman and a man are sitting in the shade of an umbrella acacia tree. Bundles of firewood, neatly wrapped up to be sold to those driving by, are stacked by their feet. Set back in the arid bushland, there are a couple homes.
Rafiki and I roll down into the dusty clearing.
“It's out of petrol,” I say, tapping Rafiki's white tank.
At first, the man seems confused. Then, understands.
“Do you know where I can get petrol?” I ask, hoping he'll jump on the motorcycle under the tree with him and run into town to fetch some.
He tells me the price of petrol in Swahili, which is the same as telling me the price in dolphin.
Kneeling down, I flatten the sandy dust in front of me so he can write the number out.
It's 3,000 Shilling per litter. The going price is 2,100 Shilling, but I'm not in a position to negotiate.
“Okay, two please,” I say, holding up two gloved fingers.
I give him 7,000 Shilling. Instead of getting on the bike, the man wanders into the bush, a 10-year-old boy following behind.
So how many times can you run out of gas in a single day? Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
The sun has gained some height since we started this morning. We were making good time. Hopefully, the border doesn't close before 6pm. Then again, maybe it will close at 4pm. If it closes at 4pm, we're going to be cutting it very close.
Several minutes later, the man returns from somewhere behind his house carrying two liters of petrol in water bottles. It will be enough to get me into the town, where I can fill Rafiki's tank and pick up some oil.
Same is a proper town with several petrol stations. The man who fills Rafiki up runs across the street to find someone to fetch a liter of 2T oil.
With her tanks full, Rafiki starts to lay down some rubber.
Unlike Zanzibar, which is plagued with police stops, there are even fewer police stops than I remember on the mainland. However, there are still stops.
A policewoman in a long, navy blue skirt and a white blouse holds up a gloved hand. My heart skips a beat, as it always does under such circumstances. If she'd wanted to flag me down, I think she would've stepped out into the road sooner. I don't slow or hesitate as I drive toward her.
Her eyes slid past me to the lorry or minibus that she's actually flagging down.
Despite running out of gas, we're making good time.
Really good time.
Through Moshi, past the relatively nondescript entrance to Mount Kilimanjaro National Park, we're cruising.
Rafiki stutters; I reach down and flip the lever to our reserve tank.
If we're forced to fill up soon, somewhere before Arusha, which is 109 kilometers from the border, I'm not sure the tank will get us all the way there. Though, it should be pretty close. Worse case scenario, I can try to pay for fuel in Arusha with dollars and then use what few Shillings I have left to get to the border.
Lunch is out of the question, as is buying anything that I can't feed Rafiki. On the other side, my Kenyan Shillings suddenly make my pockets a little deeper and 400 dollars should be arriving via Western Union.
There's no point waiting any longer to fill up. I'm already into the reserve tank.
Rafiki and I roll down a sharp slope into an old filling station. It's a dusty building with large tires and rusted parts sitting in a lorry garage. The cement block building itself seems to mostly be out of commission. A couple middle-aged Tanzanians, including an older gentleman in a suit jacket, are sitting in plastic chairs watching the single attendant working the pumps.
“It's okay girl. We'll get you something to drink now,” I mumble.
I get off the bike to push her the last few meters to the pump.
She's pissing herself.
Fuel is gushing from the overflow valve. A steady stream of exactly what I need to get to Kenya is spilling across the dusty soil.
The float in the carburetor is probably stuck. I have no idea how I can unstick the float without taking the whole thing apart, which I'm not sure I'm capable of doing. I roll it up to the pump.
A cold, steady stream of gas keeps flowing. I'm always surprised by how cold gas feels when it's coming out the overflow valve.
The attendant points to the gas puddling below Rafiki, as if there was a chance that I, crouching down next to it, messing with the carb, was unaware of the leak.
“Not good,” she says.
“Yep, not good at all. But what can I do?”
My best chance is to put a few thousand Shilling into the tank so I can reach Arusha and have a mechanic take a look at it.
She hesitates before putting the gas in. I don't want to be driving the bike with gas gushing out the bottom, but what choice do I have?
I kick start Rafiki, but nothing happens. I try several more times.
Nothing. The engine's probably flooded. If I could stop this damn gas from spewing everywhere I could look at what my options are, but the gas keeps coming.
“Mechanic,” she says.
“Yes. Do you have a mechanic you can call to come here?”
She shakes her head. Not because she doesn't have someone she can call, but because she doesn't understand. A person's eyes look different between when they understand and say no and when they don't understand and say no.
I push Rafiki to the side.
Well, this isn't good. Video: Isaac Stone Simonelli
A young man gets off his Chinese bike with his friend and they come take a look. The older man in the jacket also comes over to see what the issue is. We're all crowding around Rafiki.
“Do you have a screwdriver?” the younger guy asks.
I start to dig in my bag, but before I can bring the tool out, they've found one on the inside panel of his friend's bike.
They poke around.
“Floaty,” one says.
“Floaty, floaty, floaty,” they all start chanting.
The boys jump on a bike and race off toward Arusha.
I suddenly remember that the fuel into the carb is gravity driven. If I remove the tube and plug that, it should stop the flow. There are no twigs, but I do find a pen to jam into the small, clear tube. The pen begins to fill with petrol and leak.
Bending the tube in half, I wrap it in tape – feeling overly proud for managing this part of the problem. A few minutes later, the two guys return with a tall, lanky man. He's in his early twenties, wearing black pants that are unable to hide the dirt, grease, and oil stains ground into them.
He undoes the tape, then starts flipping the lever from reserve to regular, looking for the off position on the petcock. There is no off position on a Yamaha DT175, but I can't tell him that – it's so frustrating.
He jams a screwdriver up into the tube and Rafiki stops leaking. The small bowl placed below Rafiki has less than a half liter of petrol in it; I probably didn't lose that many miles of driving.
The young man takes the carburetor off, unscrewing everything to access the float. He pokes it a few times, making sure it works. He bends a couple small bits of metal to make some adjustments to the fuel level. Then, we plug the fuel line back in and it starts filling the carb.
A few minutes later. He pulls the line and I jam the screwdriver back into the tube, which becomes my stable job during the repair.
He opens the carburetor up again. The fuel level in the tiny box is too high. He dumps the fuel, makes an adjustment and then starts filling it again.
Turns out I might have gotten some bad gas. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
I step into the office of the building to borrow a pen. The office space looks deserted, despite people sitting out front. With a blue pen I found on the dusty counter, I begin to forge the rest of my Yellow Fever card information.
My card was stolen in Zanzibar. The one I now have has everything filled in beside my personal information – got to love black market documentation.
The pen is a slightly darker blue, the lines thicker than those used on the rest of the card. I look at how whoever started filling out the card wrote their As and how their Ss are similar to the way I'd write a Z. Doing my best to mimic the handwriting of the nurse or doctor who stamped the form, I fill out the rest of it.
Looking back on my handiwork, it's clear that the top part was filled out with a different pen and possibly by a different person. It's a poor forgery, but hopefully, it will be enough to get me back into Kenya. While in the privacy of the office, I also slip the 6,000 Shilling I have out of my wallet and into my pocket, so I can pay these guys with dollars.
After several more rounds of filling and dumping the petrol from the carb, the mechanic gets it to fill up to a small line scratched into the inside of the box.
With everything back together, he and the other guys try to kick-start Rafiki. They get nothing. Nothing at all.
They attempt a few pushing starts, but still, her engine isn't firing.
“New spark plug,” one of the guys says.
“Okay, how much is that?”
It doesn't matter how much, as one of them has already driven off to buy a spark plug.
I could be panicking about not having enough money at this point. However, the beautiful thing about only having “20 dollars” is that nothing can cost more than 20 dollars.
I know the problem isn't the spark plug, as she's been starting fine.
The new spark plug, which is only a few thousand shilling, doesn't make a difference.
“Bad fuel,” one of the guys says.
“No, this fuel,” I say pointing to the pumps. “This is the fuel in the tank.”
If I paused for a minute to think about it, I'd realize that it can't be this fuel, as Rafiki died before I even made it to the pump.
The mechanic crouches down next to Rafiki and pulls it all apart again. This time, he starts taking pieces off the engine block.
I open up Google to see when the border closes. There are no clear answers.
I send a message to Grace – an adventure rider based in Nairobi.
“I think it's open 24/7, but let me check,” she writes back.
That would be good. Not that I want to cross the border at night, but it would be great if I could make it across tonight. In fact, it's essential.
The quality of the sunlight begins to change, the first steps of its dance from early afternoon to late afternoon.
Rafiki finally fires up. Her engine sounds strong. After a quick test ride, the guys leave her running outside of the lorry garage.
“So how much?” I ask one of the guys, the one who speaks more English than the mechanic.
“He says 70,000 Shilling.”
That's roughly 35 dollars.
“I'm sorry. I don't have that much.”
I make a show of opening up my wallet to reveal four five dollar bills.
“This is all I have,” I say, taking the money out and handing it to the mechanic.
Walking back to Rafiki, I'm glad that I have everything packed back up and ready to roll.
The guy who'd originally helped me and found the mechanic, approaches, rubbing his fingers together as if wanting a tip.
“I don't have any more money,” I say.
“Phone, phone,” he says, pulling out his mobile.
We spend the next five minutes trying to figure out what my Tanzanian number is. All three of them are crowding around to exchange contacts. For what purpose down the line, I couldn't say.
All smiles, they hop on their bike and head toward Arusha. I follow closely behind, then pass them with a wave.
Going on gut instincts and a faint memory of Arusha, I stick to the main road and skirt around the edge of the city, finally seeing a couple buildings that I remember from my ride through last time. On the far side of town, Rafiki runs out of gas, again.
I push her into a petrol station.
In addition to the three crumpled 2,000 Shilling notes I have in my pocket, I find two singles and 1,000 Shilling in coins.
The attendant puts 9,000 Shillings worth of gas in Rafiki's tank.
That's it. That's got to last me to Namanga.
This would be an especially good time to know exactly what Rafiki's fuel consumption is. Also, if I was a smart man – something I've never claimed to be – I'd exchange that magic 20 dollar bill for 40,000 Tanzanian Shilling and let my heart rest easy.
Instead, I smile at the risk and take off.
This – Maasai Land – would be an unfortunate place for your tank to hit empty.
Taking in the barren, landscape, devoid of human settlement, I realize that this is exactly the kind of place one pictures when they picture a bad place to run out of gas.
“At least it's not off-road in the bush,” I think, trying to comfort myself.
Exactly! Running out of fuel somewhere out there – my eyes drift across the endless stretches of acacia scrub and dust – would be worse than running out right here on the road.
There are lions out there. There are predators. However, more worrisome would be the elements.
The last permanent settlement, a string of wooden houses, their boards backed an ashen white, was several kilometers ago.
I am already burning my reserve tank.
I think I can go for awhile on a reserve tank.
Namanga is 46 kilometers away. Longido, a proper town in the shadow of a mountain peak that carries the same name, is about twenty kilometers away.
The road is a beautiful stretch of black assault that cuts across the desert-like world around me, only inhabited by the herding Maasai people.
Somewhere out in front of me, I can make out the faint imprint of Longido.
Rafiki is rocking.
Please, baby, let's get to Longido. If we get there, then I can at least exchange my twenty dollars for Shilling and fill you up.
Rafiki rocks and bucks and rocks and rolls. And then, after a kilometer of this nonsense, she becomes silent.
There isn't a vehicle on the long stretch of road in front of me or behind me.
A few passenger vans appear, honk their horns, and then disappear.
I begin to push Rafiki.
It's flat ground; it's easy pushing.
Up ahead two young Maasai boys swaddled in checkered cloth watch me slowly approaching them.
I take off my helmet, realizing the chances of someone helping me will probably increase if they can see that I'm white.
A trucker hurls a mostly empty bottle of water out of his window at the boys. They rush to it. The faster of the two gulps down the water.
So that's what the Maasai are begging for when I see them on the side of the road. No matter what their age, their hands are always asking for something as they stand near the road, one eye on their herd, another on passing cars. I'd assumed they were hitchhiking, though that idea had never completely made sense – where would they be going?
They're begging for water.
The young boys wave to me to throw them water when I pass.
I hesitate for a moment. There are only a few big gulps of water left my bottle. Given how far I'm going to need to push Rafiki, I probably need it.
I toss the bottle of water to them.
No gas. No money. And now, no water.
To compound issues, the sun's glow is taking on more and more orange vibrations as it loses its intensity.
A Maasai man appears next to me.
“No fuel,” I say tapping the tank.
He walks next to me in his car tire sandals. He has giant gaping holes in his ears from heavy, ornate earrings that he's not wearing at the moment. He carries a walking stick and club smoothed by millions of touches from a human hand.
He mimics calling someone.
He wants to call a contact in town and have them bring petrol out to me. I nod. I give him the okay, but he's hesitant. He's not sure if I've understood him. He asks again.
Of course, what I'd pay the person – I'm not sure. But one problem at a time.
A lorry has stopped up ahead. It's hazard lights are flashing.
“Let's see what he says first,” I say as the Maasai man is too hesitant to immediately make the call.
Before we make it to the lorry, a small white sedan from the other direction makes a U-turn.
The driver parks the car in front of us and gets out.
“Yeah, so I just ran out of petrol,” I explain.
Solomon, the man in the sedan, is a round-faced Tanzanian headed to Namanga.
“Do you want to put it in the back of the car? There's more room if we set the seats down,” he offers.
Several pairs of nice shoes, including a light-blue pair made of crocodile skin, are moved to the side to make room for Rafiki. With no gas in the tank, I don't have to worry about dripping fuel inside the car.
However, Solomon isn't the slightest bit concerned about the possibility of having oil smeared into the carpet of the car.
“I drove past you a few minutes ago,” he says. “Then I turned around. I couldn't leave you out here.”
“Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.”
With the bags off Rafiki, we manage to get her wedged into the back of the car with the help of the Maasai man. Only her handlebars and front tire hang out the back.
This certainly isn't how I planned on getting Rafiki to the border. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
“If we go slowly, that should be fine,” he says.
“Pole, pole,” I concur.
With everything in the car, I climb into the passenger seat. Unconsciously my fingers play with the air conditioner vent, unaccustomed to the loveliness of the cold.
“You don't want to get left out here. This is Maasai Land. It's all nature reserve,” Solomon explains.
“I agree. It was a less than ideal situation, but I'd also run completely out of money. What kind of work do you do?”
“I'm a government official,” Solomon explains. “You do have all your paperwork, right?”
“Of course,” I say, hoping that I do in fact have all the right paperwork.
“There are a couple police checkpoints up here where they might want to see your documents.”
Solomon offers to drop me off at a gas station on the edge of town.
“Is it okay if I just go all the way to Namanga with you?” I ask.
At the first police stop, Solomon gets out. He and an old officer, his face pocketed with scars, talk. They are only visible from the shoulders down. The officer in a strikingly white uniform talks and talks, his pudgy ring finer is wrapped in a piece of gold.
Solomon's watch, which looks like an iWatch, but is a knockoff, bounces around on his wrist.
The police officer seems to not understand why Solomon is giving me and a motorbike a ride.
There is an eruption of laughter. The two men slap hands. The talking continues – why is there always so much chatter when it comes to police officers in East Africa?
Everything seems settled.
We move on.
As we approach Namanga, thick clouds appear on the horizon, rays of sunlight slice through them like heavenly blades striking the earth below.
A policewoman at an immigration checkpoint is sitting under a tree, chatting. She doesn't stop us. Solomon watches her in his rear-view mirror to ensure that she's not going to change her mind.
We drive to the top of the hill in no-man's land between Tanzania and Kenya.
The Kenya immigration compound, like a giant boulder splitting a river, divides the road, while Tanzanian immigration and customs is a cluster of shabby white cement buildings clinging to the side of the road.
Solomon is greeting numerous people as we unload the Rafiki and my bags.
At this point, he's committed to seeing me across the border.
We cut a huge queue of Saudi Arabian tourists, the men all wearing white taqiyah with gold embroidery. Solomon knows the officer behind the desk.
“Mr. Simonelli, how are you today?” the immigration officer asks.
“Great since your friend saved me today,” I say.
“I'm glad you had a good stay. I hope you'll visit us again,” he says.
After a finger scan and a picture, there is the thump of my passport being stamped out.
“It's not much, but is it okay if I give you a little money,” I ask Solomon as we walk back to Rafiki.
I hand him 1,000 Kenyan Shilling – ten dollars.
He's pleased. I'm pleased. We're all pleased.
Rafiki and I roll down the hill, looping around to the entrance for Kenya's immigration – why this isn't an integrated flow system is beyond me. It would be easier to drive into Kenya without going through immigration than to be officially stamped in.
A couple men offer to run get me gas as they watch me push Rafiki into the parking lot. However, Solomon said the station isn't too far off. So, I'll take care of it when I'm done getting a visa.
The Kenyan immigration line snakes out of the building and around the corner. In the small lobby, a big, grumpy man checks everyone's yellow cards.
Once I make it inside, he starts to run down the line, checking all members of a Saudi Arabia group ahead of me. A young boy, the only one not traditionally dressed, tries to show the man his passport.
“No, the yellow,” I whisper to him, helping him produce the right card.
The faintest hint of a smile flickers across the grumpy man's face before he then asks to see my yellow card. I flash it. He doesn't open it or check it.
“Thank you,” the boy says.
The first lady I speak to at immigration peppers me with questions before giving me the visa form.
Under occupation, I write “Editor”.
“Are you doing any documentaries or any writing here?” the next officer wants to know.
“Nothing at all?”
“No, I'm just here on holiday.”
She produces a thick book of visa stickers. Once it's filled in, she carefully peels off a sticker and places it into my passport.
The next hurdle – the one I've been fretting about since my documents were stolen in Zanzibar – is getting Rafiki's registration book back from customs.
A fat woman with small glasses sits behind the marble counter as I approach.
“I have this,” I say, putting down a copy of the registration book. “The import-export document was stolen.”
“Okay, can you make a copy of the police report for me?”
“Yes, I have one here.”
“What day did you leave?”
After checking my Tanzanian visa, we're able to figure out the right day. She produces a fat, heavily-worn logbook. Between the tattered covers are pages and pages of names and numbers. She finds Rafiki, then digs through a filing cabinet for the registration book.
“Okay, can I keep these copies?” she asks.
And just like that I've signed for the registration book and have everything I need to move forward with this most excellent trip.
It's dark outside by the time I'm pushing Rafiki toward the gas station. There are two pumps painted green like the buildings around them. They are all branded with Safaricom – the dominant mobile phone service provider in Kenya.
“No gas,” someone says.
“Where is there gas?”
Up the road farther. Someone says it's two kilometers, much farther than Solomon guessed.
Fuck. Okay, I'll get fuel later.
I push Rafiki off the main road onto a wide sand and gravel street. The hotel I stayed at last time was somewhere up here – at least I think it was.
My whole body strains as Rafiki struggles up the incline of the rough road. The darkness of night is pushing in on us. I can't see the hotel. It was a loud building with too many lights that was also a club and a restaurant and who knows what else.
However, I don't see it. It's mostly darkness up ahead. Maybe it was a different road.
Exhaustion strikes me down.
It's been a long day and it's as if the levees have broken and my composure was swept away in the floods.
I just want to be at the hotel. I want to share a beer with a good friend and review the day; review the success. Instead, I'm battling with Rafiki, pushing her into the darkness.
The building appears. With a final effort I push Rafiki up the ramp.
They have a room available.
Someone offers to take me to the gas station to get a little petrol once my bags are in the room.
Afraid of letting the carburetor sit dry all night, I agree.
We pick up a couple liters for 200 Shillings
“Because you like Kenyans, I only ask 100 Shilling,” the guy who offered me a ride says.
I give him 50.
After sipping on a soda while unpacking. I order dinner and then wander upstairs to the bar to order a beer.
It's a cold Tusker – Kenya's national beer.
The towel in the room is huge and white and soft. It's all so lovely.
The water, which doesn't get hot despite the electric heater burns my eyes as I wash gas from my hair. I've been soaking in gas all day. I reek of fuel.
It doesn't help that the soap smells unpleasant and strange.
It's a short shower, but at least I'm scrubbed.
I take a few long pulls of beer.
I step out of my room only to be intercepted by someone.
“I think your bike is leaking gas,” he says.
Sure enough, Rafiki, sitting in the dusty lobby of the partially finished establishment, is standing in a pool of gas. The tiles of the floor are obscured by the gas gushing out of the overflow valve.
I put my beer down.
“I'll just rip apart the carb and rebuild it in the morning,” I mumble to myself, with the confidence of a man whose done such things his whole life.
Back in my room, I find a screwdriver.
With the screwdriver jammed into the fuel tube, I pick my beer up and take a long sip.