Dressed in my new khaki trousers, safari boots, a Kudu Safaris T-shirt and armed with two mobile lines, latest version of google maps, Giga bundles, a car charging system, a power bank, Money in Cash and M-pesa... I set off at 6am for the airport …
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1: The guests landed at JKIA at 9am; my assignment this day was simple: to pick
them up and transfer them to South B; there were many airport procedures I
wasn’t familiar with especially the parking policies and payments but I held my
head high like a diehard veteran. I was picking 4 guests: Two elderly parents,
their son with a magical American height and his Kenya fiancée rocking a
beehive of Oprah hairstyle. With me at the airport was the Kenyan Family
members who came in two saloon cars; a grandma (Shosho), her two sons (brothers
to the lady being married), their wives, two aunts and a nursery of very
healthy kids. The two Sons were smartly dressed in suits and some of the kids
too making them look like rich Kenyan parliamentarians. The ladies except Shosho
had outstanding make up applied on their faces and were all in uniform African print
dresses. It was colorful! We waited for over an hour for the guests to appear
from the checkout customs area a thing that made Shosho over anxious and irritated.
She could not hide her disappointment for her visiting family coming out the
last. By the way, have you watched the video of the father slapping his son severally
for failing exams and coming last in class? What is your take on that?
entire area was filled with ululations, songs and dance as we spotted them coming
out of the customs area… I just started sweating for no reason. It was a big spectacle
as the guest were made to wear the shinning decorations necklace like the ones
used by the Kalenjins in graduation ceremonies.
guest’s attitude towards me at first wasn't all that good; as I showed them
towards the parking lot, I accidentally hit a pavement block and all the
suitcases on my trolley scattered everywhere. I scampered to collect them in a
big embarrassment helped by the sons. Shosho said a very long prayer in Kikuyu
many times asking God to bless and cover the driver against all evils and to
guide us through the safari. I felt born again and said a big Amen. I was
introduced to the guests and we kicked off the 10 days safari.
next day I was to take them to the Nairobi National Park, David Sheldricks,
Girraffe Centre, Bomas of Kenya and do a bit of the city tour the KICC and a
walk in town. It was the first time to drive guests in the National park. My
car safari radio was working but it was also the first time for me to use it...
I remember just after the park gates I called on the radio;
Nairobi Park Nani ananiskia?"
the reply and conversation "Haha huyu ni mgeni msaidieni jameni..."
the radio guides interacted on their findings but their coded language made it
so difficult for me to understand anything. Other guides seemed very rude and
had a lot of pride when I asked them the directions and they could not
understand how I didn’t know. They wore dark sunglasses and drove safari vans
with erect aerials on the front. I ended up being lucky most times; I drove round
and round the bushes seeing nothing until the point when I noticed guests
sleeping and I called it a day.
wamekula piriton” I learnt the code
going to skip a big part of this story so that I get to the last days and
getting lost in the Mara... The next couple of days we did Nyeri, Serena
Mountain lodge, proceeded to Nyahururu Thompsons falls, and then drove to
Nakuru and Naivasha. Google maps in urban areas helps a lot and it was not so
hard for me to move around. Whenever the guests requested for a toilet break, I
would rush to google, sweating in my hands to check the routes and if the
connection was slow I would speed dial my good friend veteran driver guide
Anthony Mulama for help... He was paid handsomely to be on standby. Haha.
Only use google maps for towns and urban areas… You will be 10 times lost using
google to tell u direction in the parks and the rural areas...
TO MASAI MARA.
8am at a gas station; I was introduced to another safari van carrying other
Kenyan family members joining the trip; The driver guide *John a middle aged
man with white hair and rocking khaki from head to toe had 3 Kenyan female adults
and the nursery of children in his Van. In my Van were the guests, the two
brothers and Shosho who sat at the front passenger seat with a woven basket
full of thermos flasks and snacks. You
should notice that I am carrying all VIPs.
excitement and the joy in everybody was unstoppable, as it was all their first
time to Masai Mara; Children were overjoyed, uncontrollable and could not stay
calm. John and I were the men of the day to make it happen and the expectation
on our shoulders was absolutely ridiculous.
Dere! Tutaona Simba ikiwinda?”
ya simba na Elephant gani iko na mbio?”
children threw at us the questions in high pitched voices.
we fuel, I went behind the vehicle to catch up with my other driver with a sigh
of relief and a charming spirit as I no longer needed Google! Hurray!! I
greeted him and after exchanging casual pleasantries he broke hell loose; Speaking
with a Kikuyu ascent he said,
Masai Mara siku ingine; mimi ni mgeni sijawai enda huko.. hata sijui ni wapi…
Msichana wangu ameninunulia hii gari ndio nimeanza tu juzi..."
was dump struck and as confused as … (finish this). I knew if I told him it was
also my first time, it will inflict fear in him and will bring arguments. How
do two blind men lead each other?
"Yeah yeah Masai Mara mimi ni nyumbani.." - I
Mai Mahiu John was a visitor like the rest. I was the car in front. To Narok it
is pretty straight forward as I had gone on safari before; I knew upto Sekenani
my passenger seat sat a shosho with her basket full of breakfast and thermos
flasks. She is a staunch Christian and a strict follower of Prophet Awor
ministries. Today she was dressed in their usual long trench-coat like dress
and a headscarf.
carried tea and porridge in the flasks, Nduma, bananas, biscuits and slices of
brown bread nicely spread with blue band. This I understand was to save cost of
buying from hotels which she believes prepare food with ‘bad oil’. After every
hour she will turn to me with bright smiling face and ask;
niukunywa uchoro munini?" (Kikuyu for 'driver will you take some little
her first two attempts I said no until at one point she was getting really
concerned and insisted that I should eat something; she had not seen me taking
breakfast the whole morning and I was driving which was dangerous… I finally
agreed to avoid being seen rude. We parked on the roadside, had some porridge
with bread and proceeded with the safari. She treated me so special and with a
lot of respect as I held the key to the hospital, heaven or hell at all the
to Sekenani took Years!!! The road was horrible!! Veteran drivers will overtake
us at a very high speed leaving a cloud of dust on our face; Shosho would however
always encourage me to go at my own pace and not compete with them. She was
lovely and I really liked her.
bado mbali?” a question will come from behind.
hapa dakika kidogo tu tuko karibu...” I will give them hope. After more than an
hour potholes drive, the same question will pop again and again… my heart was
beating so fast and I could not stop sweating… At one point I thought maybe I
was on a wrong route but I kept on driving… John at some point couldn’t keep up
with my pace as he drove slowly not to spoil his new car.
GATE 12 NOON; we checked in got our receipts and we were allowed to proceed.
From here I was also a guest. Anthony (I hope you still remember him) had
directed that at the first junction to the right with a sign Sarova 4KM I take
the road towards Talek gate then proceed on towards Olkiombo Airstrip to
Interpids... but because we were early and were to check-in in the evening, he
had advised we do a game drive before we exit. I told myself to well mark the
roads and not to be far from the main road at all times and also to look out
for landmarks. All this time, John followed very closely.
be a driver guide is really not an easy task; you need to be informed about so
many things. A guest can shoot a question out of now where like "Why is
this park called Masai Mara… which is that animal… what tree is this… what is
the altitude here… how big is this park… has there been a case where a lion ate
a tourist…?” And many others… I was however a pro in these theoretical information.
took the right turn towards Talek gate from Sekenani gate. After a short drive,
I decided to take a left off the main road keeping in mind that the road is on
my right just to show the guests we are now on a game drive. I drove for about
30minutes through the bushes without seeing any other van... I was lucky to
find a tower of giraffes in a valley on my way and the guests were really
happy. I proceeded on with John on my tail; another
30minutes elapsed and I came up a hill that I could now see to the horizon...
There were many similar other hills all over without sight of anything
anywhere. I couldn't show my fear coz the guests knew am a veteran. I drove round
and round for like 2 hours in cycles spotting zebras and antelopes… at some
point we got on dead ends as we could not cross the little rivers… There was
nothing on sight anywhere and I kept on driving at a slow speed pretending to
be keenly looking out for animals laying in the bush. Whenever I slowed down,
the guests would quickly follow the direction I was looking hoping that I have
spotted something; many times I was just trying to figure out my way around. I avoided
the radio like a plague as I couldn’t tell where I was and absolutely didn’t know
anywhere; to add salt to the injury, the guides spoke in coded language. I
hapa kwa miti ya kuinama ukielekea Ashnil vichwa wako maridaa… Asubuhi kulikuwa
na waiguru kwa sausage tatu sahizi nalenga mto kubwa…”
THE HELL WAS THAT ABOUT?!!!
Suddenly came up to a main road on my right and I remembered I was on a similar
same road. This is now on number 24. I proceeded with high hopes of seeing
Talek gate. The time was now 2.30pm. Number 24 with the direction I was heading
is like you are at Nyayo stadium heading to Athi River while you are supposed
to go to Limuru. I proceeded towards Keekorok airstrip. Along the way were more
zebras and antelopes... I met another safari van and he informed me “Maskio”
(Elephants) are a few minute ahead. At the T junction on number 24 to Sarova
and Keekorok, we met a herd of elephants the biggest I had ever seen… I was
scared to the bone by how big these creatures were; they were so close to the
road and I could hear my heart beat… It is advised you switch off your engines when
close to wildlife but that was a bad joke and even at gun point I could not be
convinced; I had my gear engaged and my right feet was ready for takeoff in case they decided to play
guests are now very happy seeing me as a hero to master all the bush tracks. I
took right towards Keekorok and drove for about 30 minutes. I was feeling so
lost… everything seemed new to me and I didn’t want to show am lost. I drove on.
My fear to ask another van for the direction will water down my 3 years of experience
I had earlier lied to the guests…more so, the 3 Kenyans understands Swahili and
English perfectly. Shosho was really impressed with my skills and could not
believe her eyes...
had our lunch snack while on the road: Driving on for another 30 minutes I came
to a sign Ashnil 18Kms. The time is now 3.15pm. I signaled a van coming our way
to stop and the driver told me there is nothing much to see on those sides. He
was particularly concerned we were going to “the river” at that time as
everybody else was now going back to their lodges… I was like “Umm nafika tu hapa
shock on his face was obvious. I was in Kitengela when am supposed to be in
Limuru. When we were young, we would signal somebody to lie by putting out our tongue
sideways on the cheeks. I quickly signaled him to lie as the two brothers were
now all ears. He asked me out of the car and we went behind his vehicle.
where are you going?”
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