Day 352: Finding a Buyer for Rafiki
A week or so ago, I put Rafiki up for sale. Photos: 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.
I'VE entered a time warp. It was only a couple nights ago that I realized my watch was running 17 minutes late.
“What's 17 minutes?” I thought. “Nothing. I'm on no tight schedule. I can run 17 minutes late.”
The next morning, I thought I had ten minutes to get ready to head to Malindi with Chris and his colleague John. I did, if my phone was one time – but it was 17 minutes late.
It refused to sync up with the rest of the world.
But a funky Chinese phone mixing things up isn't that big of a deal. These things happen.
Today, I'm working at a large table carved from a single piece of wood in the common area of Distant Relatives. The computer says it's 4am and still May 1. Certainly it's not still May 1; they're already beginning to open the kitchen for breakfast, so it can't be 4am.
Worse yet, the countdown clock on Dice Travels says I have 21 days left. Didn't I have 20 days left only yesterday?
But maybe it's me. Maybe I'm remembering things wrong.
That seems more likely than the Dice Travels countdown clock pulling me into a time warp. But then again, it seems like I remember thinking there was a glitch in the hourly countdown only a couple days ago, as if I'd already watched that particular hour peel off the trip and fall to the ground.
I check the date and time on Google. Faithful Google, who claims to do no harm. My browser confirms my hunch. It is not May 1. It is the morning of May 2, which is a relief, to be honest.
I make a mental note to keep an eye on the time and the date and the countdown clock. A Ground Hogs Day sort of ending – or lack of ending – to Dice Travels would break me for sure.
The die is given three options for the day: two fun, one responsible. I've been responsible and productive for several hours now, so a little play time would be a healthy change of pace.
The options: 1) Walk the beach in search of Dorsey II, the drone lost at sea 2) Take the Rafiki out for some trail riding and local exploration 3) Take Rafiki into the shop to get a few things repaired before showing her to a potential buyer later today.
It's a one.
Finding Dorsey II we go, though the likelihood that she's washed up on shore two weeks after she made her final, watery landing, seems improbable. If she found her way to land even a day or two earlier, I'm pretty sure some local fisherman or beachcomber would have picked her up. If she's still at the bottom of the sea, well, I don't think I'll find her.
However, I'm filled with a childlike curiosity as Rafiki and I skip across the Kilifi bridge to the side Dorsey II would have washed up on. The cable tie holding my clutch handle in place breaks as I approach a police checkpoint. Then, she dies.
Why Rafiki? Why?
The die chose not to fix this yet. I groan; I better not end up having to pay a bribe for something silly.
The officers wave me up onto the sidewalk, out of the way of traffic, as I try to get her fixed and started. A portly man in military fatigue walks over to see if I'm out of gas. We chat for a moment, my hands tying the plastic strap as best as I can in order to hold the handle in place.
Once Rafiki's running again, they wave me through.
Down a long dirt road, I pass gate after gate leading to stylish, waterfront mansions. Most of the buildings are obscured by large yards filled with tropical plants and bushes: bougainvillea, bananas, papayas, and palms.
The dirt road splits. I follow it down to a small defunct building sitting above the beach, a couple local women lounge in the shade on one side of the concrete structure. The tide is out. A young boy with a net wades through the channel of water at the back end of the river, which is quaintly called “the creek”.
Leaving my helmet and jacket behind, I begin to walk the beach, searching for the gleaming white plastic of Dorsey II.
Thick bands of dark brown and green seaweed are piled halfway up the beach. The sand runs among the occasional bare patch of coral rag before smacking against a four-meter wall of the uplifted ancient coral bedrock. The rock face is gnarly, pocketed and sharp, sections more like a hundred blades, in just as many sizes, all held together by the pressure of the world.
I pick my way through a pile of boulders at the mouth of a deep sea cave, it's floor is soft sand with a few bits of rubbish left behind in the back. Stripped down to black cargo pants and my heavy-duty motorcycle boots – the only shoes I own at the moment – it's as if I've walked off the set of a Rambo movie as I scout the coastline.
My imagination is on fire, like a young boy who's found a particularly good stick in the woods and is now pressing his back against the trunk of a wet tree.
I can see Dorsey II lodged between the rocks, her shell battered, a propeller missing, the SD card intact. All the stunning footage I shot of the Musafir as her sail caught the wind. Then, I see only bits of her, signs that she's washed up on shore.
An elderly beachcomber invisible to the rest of the world appears and asks me what I'm looking for.
“A drone that I crashed into the sea about a week and a half ago,” I tell him.
“Oh, I think I might have found that. Want to come up and see?” he asks.
Then again, maybe the Die hasn't brought me to the beach to find the drone at all. Maybe I'll find a huge stack of wet 1,000 Shilling notes in a paper bag washed into one of the sea caves. It's amazing to think that I'm 31 years old and I'm still toting around childhood fantasies like these.
Basically, I'm still a big child, every part of me except what's between my legs, and whoever is in charge of that seems to have hardly made it past puberty.
The beach narrows as I pass out of the mouth of the river and the ocean starts to lap at its shore. A few meters up on a ledge there is a tunnel blasted into the bedrock. A corrugated metal door sits in a wooden frame, as if blocking an entrance to an abandoned coal mine in West Virginia. I hesitate before carefully scrambling up the vertical rock face.
The door is locked.
The earth around it is a light brown, the new rock face yet cleaned and weathered with time. Peeking between the cracks, my eyes adjust to the dim light inside. There's a stairway carved into the rocks descending from above. On the outside, next to the door, there is a shower head and facet. Imagine a mansion where you descend stone steps at the base of a sacred baobab tree, for a brief moment enclosed in darkness before a door swings open and the ocean is splashing only a few feet below a balcony carved by nature.
Back down on the beach, I continue my hunt for Dorsey II.
There's less and less beach as I push farther along. Tide pools appear. Inside the larger pools are small tropical fish, nothing too flashy. Several species of crab scuttle along the wet rocks or burrow into the sand. Dozens of finger-length skinks, looking more like salamanders than lizards, scramble away from me. These puddles don't have the overwhelming diversity that made me fall in love with tide pools as a young teenager on the shores of Capri.
I was thirteen – it was after my first solo flight overseas. Family friends were there to meet me at the airport in Munich. We made our way down to Italy and across a stretch of water to Capri. Not far from the port, there were tide pools. My oldest friend, Michael, and I poked around the microcosm. There were white-eyed eels, crabs, anemone, clown fish, and crabs – so much life, so much diversity happily trapped until the tide returned. That moment is so vivid, as is the late night TV in Naples, where full-breasted women promoted sex hotlines and the tip of my dick grew wet and I wasn't sure what to make of it all.
Before that, Michael and I had been satisfied sneaking peaks at women in their underwear from Target shopping fliers that he'd sneak from the Sunday Herald Times newspaper. It was a lot different being 13 years old before the internet went viral.
Time moves more quickly as I walk back. I stomp through thick mounds of seaweed, thinking perhaps I'll hear the crunching sound of Dorsey II below my feet.
Rafiki and I take a dirt road farther down the coast, parking near an empty lot between two sandy colored castles. They're small castles, more like a couple square watchtowers decorating a Mediterranean villa. Though the lot is vacant, it doesn't feel abandoned. A small dirt trail winds its way through some low-lying bougainvillea toward the sea. A thick stone wall separates the plot from the castle next door. A stone and cement bench is perched at the edge of the cliff, overlooking the water.
It's a gray day with a gray sea throbbing beneath it. There aren't the mesmerizing colors in the waters that come to life in Zanzibar. Nonetheless, I sit down on the bench, trying to lose myself in the moment. Eyes closed, I listen to the waves crash against the shore. They are regular and steady.
Ten months ago, I was spending eight hours a day in a meditation center in Myanmar. Now, I can't keep my mind calm for more than 30 seconds.
I move on.
Back in town, I take Rafiki to a mechanic to have the clutch oiled, adjusted and a new screw put in, as well as a little welding taken care of. Once she's sorted out, we take a trot farther down the road to an empty plot where a couple young men lounge beneath a tree, a power water sprayer sitting in a bucket nearby.
Rafiki is sparkling when he's done scrubbing her. I pay the 100 Shillings for the service and carefully pick my way back to Distant Relatives, to see if Percy, my potential buyer is in town yet.
“Do you want a drink or to look at the bike right now,” I ask Percy when he arrives. Percy is a very tall guy about my age with curly light brown locks. He's wearing shorts and a subdued Hawaiian-style button down.
“I've got a couple other things to take care of, so...” he says.
“Fair enough. Let's take a look at her.”
Rafiki is looking as good as she can. She's not the most beautiful bike, but she's a solid machine.
“So, like you were saying, the advantage of buying from a friend of a friend is that I'll at least tell you everything that's wrong with her. Mechanically, she's solid right now. The engine was replaced, as was the piston by a mechanic that I trust in Nairobi. I also had the carburetor cleaned recently. So, that's running well also. Now, none of this up here,” I say, indicating the dash, “works except for the oil light, which is what is essential.”
Percy recently bought a piece of shit bike for 30,000 Shilling and it's been a disaster ever since. The entire frame was askew and had to be fixed – it was a black hole for cash.
It's nice to be able to chat so candidly with someone, talking about the electrical issues, explaining that the battery was replaced but that there's got to be a drain in the system somewhere because it still isn't strong enough to keep the headlight running bright.
“That's not a problem, I can get that fixed,” he says.
I pause for a moment, racking my brain for any other little issues with Rafiki, anything I might have forgotten about.
“Well, that's everything I can think of. Do you want to give her a run?”
Percy jumps on. He gives her a kick start, but she's being stubborn. It takes a few more tries, before I mention that he should put her in neutral.
“She doesn't like starting in gear?”
“Not really. Give her a little gas.”
Rafiki fires up with a two-stroke roar.
Percy drives out the gate of Distant Relatives and onto the dirt and sand road beyond.
He returns. He likes here. Rafiki made a good impression. And, to be fair, Yamaha DT175s are strong bikes.
“I like to know what I'm buying, so I did a bit of research. So you paid 122,000 Shilling for it,” he says.
“120, actually,” I correct him, though in retrospect it might have actually been 122.
“Okay, so what do you think justifies the extra 18,000 Shilling.”
“To be honest, that was just the starting price. I did get the engine replaced, but I was able to strong arm the guy who I bought it off to replace that. Other than that, I did put some more money into the bike. But that price also wasn't set for friends of friends,” I say.
Clearly, I've not improved at bargaining. However, I feel like part of what's nice about selling to a friend of a friend is that if they're decent, they're not going to nickel and dime you when it comes to a reasonable price.
Percy explains that there's a new Yamaha 250R motorcycle for sell up in Lamu for 170,000 Shilling, which we both agree is simply too good to be true. In Europe, the bike would be selling for 6-7,000 Euro – in Africa, it would be going for piles more. But, he'd be a fool not to check it out.
Percy is driving up on Thursday. He'll let me know then.
“It sounds a bit strange, but I hope that bike works out. Not for me, but it's such a sick deal,” I say.
If it doesn't, I have my perfect buyer. He doesn't need the bike until 15-20 of May, which means Rafiki and I can continue our adventures up until nearly the very last moments of Dice Travels. Then, I could either drop my dear friend back off in Kilifi or he could ship it down.
We shake hands and I wave him off.
We never did settle on a price.