Submitted by Steph Dawes on 18 August, 2010
**Please note: This story is a true story. Nothing has been fabricated and no names were changed. It is real from start to finish and as honest as possible with slight positive twists. Be prepared for this brilliant next installment of "it's just life in the Mara." Please enjoy:**
So, we drive up to Narok (the last main town before the Mara.. its three hours away from camp, just about…pending road quality and car problems along the way) and spend the whole day shopping. “Three hours?” you scoff… “That’s Nothing!” Well, you might have considered it a simple drive, but then you would have needed to know that not only was I driving Marc, Kenna and Siri, but we also had three Kenyans in the bed of the truck: Joseph O, who has been doing small labor for us (used to work for Kay.... he is mentioned in a Primates Memoir as the Kenyan who rolled in white dirt a long while back and sort of went crazy working for white women. Interesting character), going back home in Narok, James ( he worked here until he got fired because he was cheating us in Talek...had a whole scam running...well, he seems to keep coming back to camp- and even asked Kay for a rec letter- which she wrote... but insisted people call her for more details. Yikes. would not come back and stay at a place that didnt want me around.)and Benson, one of our amazing current team members who is getting married next month!, who was going home to visit his family. And the road condition (picture American rocky, dirt road on steroids plus HUGE pot holes that not only you but the entire CAR would fall into and NEVER be seen again. Yeah. No exaggeration there.). Bahhaaaa. Long drive. Dusty. Bumpy. Normal. ::Sigh:: So, we make it to Narok around noon, having dropped James at one of the gates on the way out...and we have some food at the Kenol.
Note on the Kenol: It is a gas station…but behind it is this very secret and beautiful oasis that has pretty decent food. Fisi camp reveres it for its Samosas… but they have basic 9very basic, like mall basic) Chinese food and other snacks which are good to eat… picnic benches, grass, trees, flowers… idyllic hide-away in the midst of the dusty, dirty, trash ridden Narok, that we all have come to love.
So, we then start our epic shopping trip. First to market day to get fresh, cheap fruits and veggies... check... in large large amounts... double check... plus paw-paw…yes, I finally found papaya! Mmmm... check. Then to Naivas (grocery store) for everything else. Check. Then back to the Kenol to pick up samosas cause thats what Kay wants for dinner (30 of them.. .haha…half veg and half meat) check! I am doing that while the crew is getting diesel from a cheaper gas station (up the hill). They pick me up. Marc at the wheel. Clutch starts sticking. He can't easily up or down shift. Pull over to side of road. Steph (that’s me!) gets in driver seat. Drives. Hard to up or down shift-- getting to impossible (starts of easy and just gets worse and worse). Pull over. Kenna tries. Nope. Ok, we've broken down in Narok. Call Kay.
No panic but unhappiness- we need a mechanic and we need a mechanic now. Get back to Kenol and explain prob. Their mechanics get to work. Call Chris and Amanda (water researchers who stay at Serena Camp when in the Mara. Awesome people. Starting grad school at Yale in the fall but totally not the stereotype. Have a house in Narok, where they base) and find out they are just getting back into town and are heading to the Kenol now. (THANKS FOR SAVING US). Kenol mechanics look at car and decide that the gear box oil has been leaking (probably true. There is evidence of that. ) They fill up oil and explain issue. Say "we are sure we fixed the problem. We take great care of our customers." Kenna and Steph test drive car around Kenol. No good.. Can’t shift. KEnol guys make excuse that they would have found the problem if they had more time and try to way over charge us. We refuse and pay them reasonably for their labor. Don’t lie to us. We may be women and American, but we are not stupid!
At this point. Chris and Amanda have brought their mechanic. Kay has also called our NBO mechanic. It is around 6pm. We are able to make it to Chris and Amanda's house where we can safely leave our car for the night as we figure out what to do next. Maina (their mechanic) thinks it has to be a gear box problem and/or clutch or pressure plate issue. So does our NBO mechanic, Ian. Maina gamely agrees to look it over on Tuesday (it was late in the day…sun setting is not a good time to investigate car problems outside…) Chris and Amanda offer us a place to stay for the night... mattresses in their front room. Totally perfect...
We eat dinner at an AMAZING NEW INDIAN RESTAURANT IN NAROK
Side note: It is amazing. The golden spoon. They have a veg kitchen and a non veg kitchen and it was some of the best Indian food in Narok (not saying much, but it was impressive… not the best in Kenya by any means, but it held its own. ) Now, Side note 2: We stopped at the Golden Spoon on our way up to NBO to do the Kay and Pat epic switch, and apparently the non- veg food was less than desirable. New news. Apparently knowing the owner and chef (and him being there) is VERY important (he was there the first night with Chris and Amanda and I think was putting on a bit of a show for us…). I stopped there with Pat on the way down to the Mara and though no longer the best ever… it is still very delicious. If you ever eat there, go veg!
Crash back at Chris and Amanda’s place. Next morning...feel like sh** due to lack of medicine for any of my special conditions and cold. But,optimistic. Not much happens during the morning, but the afternoon was great. ** Maina discovers that the pressure plate was completely cracked and the clutch plate was worn down. We were able to order parts and get them from our connections in NBO, so the car was fixed, test drove, and humming by 5pm. Too late to head back to the Mara, but early enough to feel good and have a fun night in.
**During the day we basically explored Narok and did some shopping basics. It was pretty fun. Taught Marc and Siri how to bargain... had a great show down with a lady making some beautiful Maasai jewelry (It was about time to start looking into Maasai handicrafts, given that I am living in the Mara this year. Perhaps someone will get lucky J ) It was epic : (as is everything, apparently. Best adjective EVER)… Then got back to Chris and Amanda’s and made homemade pizza. We even found Amarenth flour (which is perfect because I am now eating gluten free… and feeling a million times better!).... go pizza and hangout night!
The next morning, anti climatically (thank goodness)...we left and made it back safe and sound to the Mara... to find out that the green cruiser was leaking oil though a tire and the white cruiser's alternator was going. Yikes. Fun car week that week. Seriously. When it rains, it pours out here, or so I am learning. Thursday then, we had the opportunity to take both the HILUX (yes, the same car that we had taken to Narok and had fixed just a day before)...and the green cruiser into our mechanic at Sarova (a nearby lodge. He is our Mara mechanic.) What an insane couple of days!
Luckily now, months later… all of our cars seem to be holding up ::knock on wood::. I am ever thankful for that. Yes, we have plenty of minor set backs, but I am thankful for the opportunity to learn about cars this year, our weekly car checks, our nearby mechanics and everyone else who plays support to our vehicles and project :) And of course, our friends in Narok and around Kenya who consistently come to our rescue. And for adventures with memories to last a life time!Over and out—