Friday, 20 April 2012

Enroute to Nairobi

It is seven O’clock in the morning; the air is crisp and moist in Bungoma.  It had rained during the night, and having fallen into a deep slumber, I had known nothing of it.  What an unholy way to sleep!  It had surprised me that if someone had stolen Scorpion, I would have woken up to a grave crisis.  And moreover, the unimaginable might have happened.  Needless to say, I was so tired that when I hit the sack, I had simply passed out.  But, the good news was that I was so refreshed and in a great spirits, which was good for riding.   I had a long day ahead of me.
Ready to Go

Scorpion was laden, refuelled and ready to go.  I decided as it had become my custom to find Simone who was the night duty attendant at the petrol station to bid him farewell.  We exchanged email addresses.  I also begged him to accept a token of appreciation from me, which he did reluctantly.  He said he would keep me in prayers.   With the last farewells, I departed. 

This was going to be a hard ride, but I gently eased myself into it.  This route towards Nairobi forms part of the great North Road; it is a very busy road.  It has also another reputation, vehicle carnage.  It was the more reason that I rode with all my guards on.   My preference would have been to ride through to Arusha (Tanzania), but that was easier said than done.  I decided to take a mile at a time.
The Virgin Bride On the Day I Collected Her

As I rode, I thought about Scorpion.  She was a good bike with a solid bulletproof 650 cc motor.  She had come more than 5500kms, she had tumbled over 15 times, but apart from a shattered wind screen, and a broken handguard, she was rock solid and still going strong.  I couldn’t but love her.  The more I rode her, the more I fell in love with her.  In areas of sand and mud she was deemed heavy, but in on a paved road, she cruised effortlessly.  In South Africa, if you rode a BMW, a KTM or a Ducati, you had “the” bike.  If you rode the DL 650, no one gave you as much as a glance.   In other words, the DL was an underrated bike.  I had spent a year researching on a suitable bike to undertake this adventure.  I had read and reread all kinds of reviews on the DL.   The facts spoke for themselves. The DL 650 was undoubtedly the most suitable bike.  Even the yellow colour was a matter that was weighed carefully.  My reasoning was that it was more visible and it was chosen specifically for reasons of conspicuity.  With these thoughts, I covered many miles.

Meanwhile, I stopped once to stretch and again at Nakuru for Lunch and to replenish my water stock.   As I rode on toward Nairobi, I mused over the first time I had come to this city in 1981 to visit my uncle.  In those days, Nairobi was the most sophisticated metropolitan city in East Africa: A city of culture: fashion and music; business, very tall modern shinning buildings, the best paved roads.  The entire city exuded glamour and refinement.  Coming from rural Uganda, all these things were breath taking and a source of great wonderment.  For a naive youngster like me, it came as a shock when I greeted a man standing on a Nairobi street who responded aggressively by asking me: “why are you greeting me; are you a thief?”  This profoundly perturbed me and offended my cultural sensibility.  Where I come from, my people will greet you even if they don’t know you; more so youngsters are expected to greet those who are older.  What wrong had I done!  Even though I was a kid I also had my pride.  I still shake my head at the thought of this event and feel the chill run down my spine.   Every time I have thought of this experience in my adult life, I have attributed it to the proliferation of individualism in its most corrupt and extreme form.   It is a cancer that is eroding “Ubuntu”.  It is has been reduced to a shell or a mere theoretical construct. An instrument used to control the African mind.
First Stop Enroute to Nairobi

Well, I reached Nairobi around 2pm.  My deepest desire was to continue to Namanga and into Tanzania, but I decided to catch up with my Jesuit friend, Fr. Josephat Kabutta who was my host for the remainder of the day.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Family Reunion

A family reunion is always an exciting affair as the comedy Madea’s Family Reunion has shown.  In our case, among other things, it was even more thrilling since a member of the family had arrived on a massive dual purpose bike never seen in this part of the world.  For most of my village folks who have never travel more than 100kms away from home in their lifetime, it was hard to work out that I had travelled 5500kms from South Africa on a bike.  This state of affair was understandable given that none one was willing to believe that a bike was capable of travelling such great distances.  This belief was compounded by the Indian made Bajajs they ride, which is not only air cooled, but is of such low power that it was obvious a trip on a bike was not possible.  This said the commonest mode of transport is the bicycle; it is a way of life. 
Bicycles used for Common Transport In Africa

To return to the main story of family reunion, it was the first time we had gathered as a clan.  Naturally my arrival had created a buzz and drawn members of the family from far and wide.  Well, it has always done so.  I have been living out of the country for the last fifteen years, so my return home has always generated excitement not only within the family circles but also among the neighbours, I believe also because I am the only clan member who lives abroad on a permanent basis.   So returning to my rural home is quite an event.

My rural village has neither electricity nor running water as well as most of the modern amenities.  Yet it is home in the most intimate way.  Coming from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Johannesburg, Abwanget ― for this is the name of my village ― is heaven.  The serenity I find in this remote, quiet wooded land is of its kind.  Such is the peace that you rarely hear the roar of a car engine.  My folks genuinely love.  They will roast their last chicken for you, if you are their visitor.  It is another world where humanity in its total description is without pretence.  It is in this ambience that Christmas descended on us.  We remained in this festive stupor well after the New Year, during which many family businesses took place: meetings, importantly baptisms of three members of the family at Toroma Catholic Church.  Much of the time however was spent on delights of feasting: drinking “ajono” our local brew, braaing and dancing to the local tunes.  In this way the days passed quickly.
Toroma Catholic Church Where the Baptism Took Place

One day, after the last family photo, many hugs, farewells and tears, I set off on a return journey to Johannesburg on the 2nd of January at eleven o’clock.  I had two weeks of rest.  Indeed, my mind, body and soul were adjusted to tackle the long ride to Johannesburg. 

It was a clear hot day with an azure sky.  Fred, my brother, and his wife accompanied me for the first leg of the trip to Soroti where I refuelled, lubricated my chain and headed for the Kenyan border about 160kms South East.    I rode decidedly hard wanting to cover as much rode as I could.  At Malaba, the boarder, it was raining hard.  There was a bit of delay crossing the Ugandan boarder because there was only one custom officer to clear my bike who was busy.  Cleared, I rolled through the no-man’s land into Kenya.  I immediately faced two problems in Kenya: I had to pay for third party insurance of about 35$; I had to persuade the custom officials that I was in transit and did not require a carnet du passage.  I can assure you based on the experiences of riders around the world; it pays to be able to speak the language of the host country.  After much haggling with the custom officials they let me go, but only after paying for the third party insurance. 
Just Me

I wish to recall that when I lived in Dar es Salaam some year back, I distinctly disliking to sojourn in Kenya.  When travelling from Dar es Salaam, I always ensured I spent the night at Arusha, the following day I would drive through Kenya to Uganda.  So, as I rode towards Bungoma the sun was setting on the Western horizon, I wished there was some more day light left so that I could ride further than Bungoma.  I felt uneasy especially since this road was used by transport hauliers and long distance buses; I rode with much caution.

I arrived at Bungoma and went to look for a place to pitch my tent.  The first place I asked was some sort of inland resort, they were hostile to the idea of pitching a tent.  So I went back to the main road to Nairobi and drove some distance towards Kakamega where I found a Total petrol station. They allowed me to pitch my tent.  After some food and a bottle of beer, I passed out thinking that the following day was going to be an exciting day and thanking my dear Lord for an eventless day.

An End to a Beginning.

How the End Begun Although I have never finished my story, there is an end to every beginning.  One such end came many moons ago, when a...