Well, I don’t really know where to start with this offering; perhaps let’s get the more boring part pout of the way first. Allan went off for his morning walk and I went over to school to work with Class 2 and Florence. She spent some time talking to me about the funeral she had attended the day before. Apparently it was of a young woman who had a couple of young children, one of whom is particularly distressed, and Florence was asking me about the best way to help them.
The lessons went well; I took in some containers from the kitchen in order to demonstrate volume and we used the scales that the A team took out a couple of years ago, when we did practical science projects with the children in the school. Incidentally, it is really good to see how the members of staff are now using the various bits of equipment they have. They are also reproducing some of the material that I used last year and are filing away the current worksheets that we are using. In science we completed the work of animals; water is the next topic. Allan did some work in the clinic and dealt with various issues that come up during the morning and I arrived home at a quarter to one.
We then packed up as quickly as possible ready for our adventure into the unknown. Allan has booked us into a hotel near the bus (matatu) station in Machakos and Patrick, our driver, is to take us there. Allan has invited Chris to join us as he was so helpful at Samburu and it seems a shame to have Patrick’s room – a double – with only single occupancy. The purpose of the visit is to see Patricia once more and to take her a couple of items Allan has got for her in Nyeri. Silas and his wife are also to join us for lunch and it should be a very jolly occasion.
Patrick arrived, Solomon came to see us off and we left at quarter past two. The journey to Machakos was estimated by Patrick to be between four and four and half hours so we expected to be there before dark. As soon as we reached Karatina the traffic became very heavy and the journey extremely slow. Of course, this is Friday afternoon and everybody is anxious to get away or to get home. The route around Nairobi is beset with large trucks and we stopped at Thika to have a break and to go to the bank. A mango juice set us up well for the rest of the journey which proved to be no better than the earlier part and we averaged only about 20 miles per hour along the Mombasa Road. Finally we turned off on the last 20 km to Machakos and it was well after seven and completely dark. This was a bit of a blow as we had no idea where in the town was either the bus station or our hotel. Patrick drove to the town centre and made enquiries only to be told we had passed it but was given directions as to how to get there. The road did not look very promising and Allan and I, somewhat fainthearted, suggested that we turn back but Patrick was made of sterner stuff and ploughed on. He was rewarded by signs to the hotel and we finally arrived. In the dark we looked at the hotel in dismay. It looked like one of those Spanish hotels that have been booked but not yet finished and the area seemed like a building site. In from on us loomed a stark building which resembled a prison rather than a hotel. Allan and Chris left Patrick and me in the car and went to investigate. He returned very soon, extremely excited and beckoned us in. While I followed the manager of the Khaka (pronounced Chaka, rather confusingly) Hotel up a flight of stairs, through an alarmingly secure door with a huge padlock and into one of the most beautifully appointed hotel rooms we have ever been in. True, some of the finish was lacking, and the gas cooker had not yet been attached to the cylinder but this is Kenya, and the rooms, two bedrooms, a living area, a kitchen, shower and toilet were a welcome reprieve from what we had originally feared.
By the time we had got downstairs to Allan he was organising a meal which we ordered immediately. It took a very long time to prepare but when it arrived it was clear that the whole thing had been prepared fro scratch and although there was one moment when Allan nearly dozed off, he stayed awake until quarter past nine when we finally started to eat. The food was beautifully cooked and would have graced any restaurant, especially when the meals averaged four pounds each! After we had eaten it was off to bed, as we were pretty exhausted after the long drive; I don’t know how Patrick did it.
In the morning we were up reasonably early and I prepared a light breakfast in our room and invited the boys (Chris and Patrick) in to share it. Rather suspiciously they accepted a Weetabix and then went downstairs for a cup of Kenyan tea, which was to be prepared for them. We followed and they sat down to a couple of pancakes, bread and jam, and I joined them in a single pancake. We had a lovely chat to the very attractive waitress cum receptionist and then we all went out for a walk around Machakos. Patricia was expected at nine but had texted to say she might be late as the matatu was taking a very long route and Silas had originally said he would be with us at ten and had later altered to this to be half past. We had to order our meal before we went out, presumably so that food could be purchased and prepared for our stated time of half past twelve for eating. We phoned Silas, who ordered for himself and his wife over the phone and as we could not contact Patricia I ordered for her. Machakos is an interesting town with business people in evidence as we walked around. Patrick is proud of this town as he is in his home county and now surrounded by his Kamba tribe compatriots. We walked round the market, which Allan had visited earlier with John and John. We realised that time was passing and rushed back to the hotel. There was no sign of Silas and Patricia again texted to simply say she was still on her way. By half past eleven there was still no sign of any of them and we started to wonder if we would have to eat seven meals between the four of us.
However, just before twelve there was action. Firstly, Patricia phoned to say she was at the bus station and Allan and Patrick set out to collect her and bring her to the hotel. When they arrived back here they were accompanied by not only Patricia but Ron Kohler, her American neighbour, who joined us for a while. Allan ordered him a meal as well and then Silas and his wife, Joyce, joined us. The air was filled with talk and shouts of Kenyan laughter as we shared reminiscences and jokes. The meal was excellent – as it had been the night before. Unfortunately Ron could not join us as he had business to attend to in the town but we managed to share his meal between us so nothing was wasted. The time flashed by and at two, after we had completed our meal with a cup of tea – black with lemon for us and Kenyan for the rest of them – it was time for us to leave. Silas was giving Patricia a lift so the four of us set off on our return journey. This was much speedier than the day before, and in barely than two hours we were at Tusky’s in Thika, where we had stopped yesterday. After another mango juice we continued on our way and were making excellent progress when we suddenly found ourselves in a long queue. Evidently there had been an incident of some kind. The driving in Kenya is a very undisciplined affair so we were not too surprised to discover that there had been an accident but the behaviour of the drivers now was startling to say the least. Those behind us started to overtake, the consequence being that the two lane road was now completely blocked to all oncoming traffic. To add to this, several drivers drove past us on the nearside verge so the two lane road had turned into three, all of which were virtually stationary. After some considerable time the police appeared on the scene and some sort of order prevailed. It was soon after this that we passed the incident which appeared to have involved a matatu, a private car and a coach, all of which looked sorry for themselves on the side of the road. There did not seem to be any serious injuries, and we were glad of this as we finally got on our way having lost about three-quarters of an hour. Not long afterwards we were held up by a broken down heavy vehicle and continued until we came to a police check point. My heart sank as the officer directed Patrick towards him; I wondered if he was thinking that he might be able to get some money out of a couple of “rich white people” (what Silas called “the skin tax”). However, the officer simply asked to see Patrick’s licence, perused it and handed it to me, waving us forward. Hooray!
We drove on without any further delay and arrived back home around half past seven. What a weekend; full of excitement and interest. We would not have missed it for the world.