Sometimes, your plans just don't work out...
A few weekends ago Layne and I decided we just needed to GET OUT of Nairobi. There's a lot we like about the city, but it is also very noisy, polluted, and crowded and after a stressful week we were FEELING it. Layne had heard of this very intriguing concept - a lazy man's safari.
Basically, they build these hotels in the game reserves on watering holes, so you can sit around and have the animals come to you. Brilliant idea, and it seemed like just the relaxing weekend we wanted. This was our first time leaving the city not on a tour, our first time driving in Nairobi, and our first time driving on the other side of the road. We rented a car, packed our bags, made a reservation, and got out of the city!
Almost immediately, things did not go right. We woke up late, hungry, and grumpy. Navigating the crowded streets, many without clear street signs, while learning to drive on the other side of the road proved challenging. We were bickering a little, both of us hangry and stressed. We had just gotten on the highway, and I couldn't have been happier that Layne was driving. We had settled into silence, letting the muffins we had scarfed down do their work, when Kenya road rules got the best of us.
Kenya road rule #1: There are no rules. These cars are CRAZY! Almost all of the roads are just two lanes, and outside the city the road widens and narrows every few feet, with a ditch 2 to the 3 foot deep. But none of that stops cars from driving recklessly fast, swerving into oncoming traffic in order to pass others, even if it is a blind turn. Such is the story of what happened to us. We were not speeding, just getting comfortable with the road, when suddenly a car headed in the other direction decided they wanted to pass the car in front of them. Unfortunately for us, there was not quite enough space for that to happen. As they continued to drive straight toward us, the space between us quickly diminished, and Layne was forced to jerk his wheel and get out of the way.
The next thing I remember, I saw something fly by my window and felt a jolting thud as the car's front passenger tire dropped off the uneven pavement. Then, as Layne corrected, we went flying back across the road into oncoming traffic. The shoddy breaks on our rental car locked up as we swung back into our own lane. With hearts pounding, we pulled over and shakily got out of the car.
I could not be more grateful that there was no oncoming traffic as we careened around the road. What could have been a major accident ended up being just a major scare due to the masterful driving skills of Layne. Within moments of pulling over, a guy on a motorcycle drove up carrying our hubcap. He had seen the whole thing. In fact, he said he had seen the driver that ran us off the road before, and that he was always a crazy driver. He made sure we were ok, and then helped us put our hubcap back on. Because of the angle of the road, we needed a jack, which our rental car did not have. He took off on his motorbike and went to a gas station a few kilometers down the road, then circled back to us. He told Layne and I to sit tight while he personally kneeled in the sand and jacked up the car, put the hubcap back on, and then gave us his number so we could text him when we arrived at our destination safely. An hour later, and we were back on the road, driving even more slowly and cautiously than before. Thank heavens for angels like this man.
Three hours later, a monkey decided to attack my face. With my cheek throbbing and our stress levels off the charts, we embarked on the last leg of our journey. That consisted of an hour on a muddy road so impassable that there were a few moments we seriously doubted we were going to make it. Even with two years in Bolivia behind him, Layne said this was the worst road he had ever been on. It looked more like a long stretch of construction that we were attempting to drive through. At one point, we stopped and asked a pedestrian if we were actually on a road, positive that Google Maps had made a mistake, only to be told to keep going.
When we finally arrived at the Aberdare Country Club, tired and exhausted, we found out we had not even reached our final destination. We still had to be transported by jeep to the Ark Lodge over an hour away. But, before we could even do that, we were told we had to pay a $75 park entrance fee. Not something the Lodge had told us about, and after the day we had already had, neither of us was quick to say "Hakuna Matata." Eventually, we made it to the lodge with our wallets lighter and our moods darker, only to find that we would be kicked out of the lodge and taken back to the country club at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. Plus it was raining, which never helps. But in this situation, it significantly added to our frustration, because it made it so animals will stop and drink from the puddles, instead of traveling to the watering hole for our viewing pleasure.
We spent the whole night watching a single buffalo.
Yet for some reason, as we sat in the dark lodge looking out at that buffalo, our moods turned around. We were cuddling on a comfortable couch, wrapped in Masai blankets. The comforting smells and sounds of burning wood encircled us, coming from the fire in the next room. We were whispering to each other and laughing quietly (the hotel has a strict no loud speaking policy so as to not disturb the animals,) enjoying our tea, the rain, and the feeling of being holed up in the middle of nowhere. Though we'd had an extremely stressful and frightening day, we decided to not let it ruin the experience. And it ended up being one of my favorite trips so far.
We woke up the next day and headed back to the Country Club. The weather, though still cool from the rain, had turned around. The scenery was unbelievably gorgeous, something we had missed the day before because of the setting sun and our stressed out state.
As we were in no hurry to hop back in the car (back country roads with suicidal drivers and whatnot), we decided to explore the grounds and relax for a few hours.
We had some more tea and enjoyed sharing the grounds with the animals. Zebras frolicking on the golf course, stunning peacocks wandering the courtyard, antelope munching on the greenery, and an adorable family of wart hogs grazing on the grasses.
While the weekend started off as a disaster, we persevered. And besides those first few hours, it ended up being exactly what we wanted it to be. Relaxing and restorative, and when the time came to drive back to Nairobi, we were ready. I played DJ and we rocked out to some of our favorite songs the whole way home.