We had to take Esther, the girl we re-homed from Maasailand to Kisii, to court in Kajiado to give evidence in the case against her former employer for employment of a minor. As the trip is almost 400 km and there is no direct transport, we hired a car.
We left Kisii at about 6am and made good time to Narok, where we stopped for breakfast.
We sailed through Nairobi, comparatively speaking, hitting only minor jams and soon we were at Athi River. This is where the trip got complicated. The main road had been slightly re-routed, but the road to Kajiado only joined the old road, so we missed it – several times.
Eventually we found a road and we were on our way again, but we were too late for the court case, when was adjourned. Not wanting the trip to be totally wasted, we visited the Kajiado Children’s Home, where Esther had stayed for her time in Maasailand. It is a wonderful establishment, but all the children are Maasai and of course, Esther is Gusii.
I learned something during our visit, when greeting a Maasai child; you place your hand on their head. They even bow their heads forward so accept this greeting – cute.
Before leaving Kajiado town, we called in at a bank to pick up the money I had arranged to be sent to me from the UK to fund the trip and other things.
Outside Athi River, we found a good eating house and ate excellent nyama choma, chips and a coke. It was superb. Vincent was especially pleased as they played Kenny Rogers CDs while we were there.
On the road again and we hit Nairobi at rush hour – and got lost. WE went round and round and eventually found the Uhuru Highway that would lead us to the junction we wanted for Narok. As we climbed the escarpment, we ran into mist and rain, and we missed the turning we needed to go to Narok.
After a quick discussion, we decided to continue on to Nakuru, through Kericho and then to Kisii. It is a good road for most of the way and with the weather threatening to close in, it seemed a good option.
As it happened, as we descended into the Rift Valley, the weather cleared and we made good progress and soon reached Nakuru.
But about 30 km outside Nakuru, in a small village, as we approached the brow of a hill, two sets of headlights appeared in front of us two vehicles side by side.
There was nowhere to go to the left, just a steep embankment, nowhere to go straight ahead other than a head-on collision, so I veered to the right, hoping to find a way past the two oncoming vehicles. I didn’t.
When I came round, we were stationery, the windscreen was a mess and the airbags had deployed. But Vincent was not in the car next to me. There was a lot of shouting in Swahili and I saw that there were twenty or thirty men gathered round, some trying to get me out of the car. I could feel hands in my pockets. They were not my hands. When I stood up, my legs were not my own, I could barely think, but I was aware that my pockets were empty, my recently drawn money, passport, wallet, cell phone, even the loose change. But I wanted to find Vincent, and I remembered that there had been someone else in the car, but who?
Vincent was on the ground next to the car. He had a nasty gash on his forehead and he told me that his leg was broken – this was an understatement. Esther was, of course the other passenger and I found her being comforted by two women.
I went back to the car and borrowed a torch as mine was missing. The briefcase was not in the car, but this was of little consequence. The satnav was also missing. I looked for anything that belonged to any of us, but there was nothing as far as I could see.
We had been cleaned out.
A man who stated that he was a policeman kept telling me that this was a bad community, in other words, don’t make a fuss. He then handed me my video camera bag. I looked in it and the camera was still there, with all the DVDs. I was thankful for that.
A coach stopped and the three of us were bundled aboard and not too long after, we were at Nakuru hospital.
We were taken to casualty and Vincent was whisked off to x-ray. Esther was examined as was I. I was so lucky. I had nothing but cuts. Bruises and sprains as far as they could tell. I refused x-rays for my shoulder. I knew it wasn’t broken. It was painful but not painful enough, so I was discharged. ‘Where was I going to stay?’ I was asked. I explained that we were destitute, so they offered me a bed in an ante room, for which I was grateful.
I managed to borrow a phone and called Abigael, Vincent’s wife and she told me that she would come to Nakuru but the credit ran out before we could say more.
I slept and had nightmares. When I awoke, I went over and over the accident in my mind, but it did not become any clearer.
I must have slept some more because I was woken up by a member of staff, possibly a junior doctor. I was taken to see Vincent and then Esther. I went back to Vincent when Abigael walked into the ward. I was so relieved to see an able-bodied friendly face.
It is difficult to blog when the power keeps cutting off, or the Internet connection fails ... or both.
This visit seems to have been blighted with more than the usual number of power cuts and in the last two days, we have had no power at all during the day.
On both days, the power came on at about 6pm, but yesterday, it went off again within 30 minutes and it took an age for the standby generator to kick in.
This evening, we have been lucky. The power came on and, apart from a slight glitch, has stayed on, meaning that I have been able to receive the 100 or so junk emails that have been waiting to fill my in box.
We at Twiga have been told that one of our children has to attend court in Kajiado tomorrow. This town is about 450 km from Kisii and there is no direct bus route, so we have been forced to hire a car, which means that both Vincent and I have to go as Vincent does not drive. Vincent has spent most of the afternoon haggling for the best price for a car and I think he has got a good deal, especially as I have had to send an email to the UK for funds to be sent out and with the lack of power (and therefore emails), this has been difficult. We should receive the funds tomorrow while we are en route.
Surprisingly, my Garmin satnav found Kajiado with no problem and even plotted a route although I know it is not the quickest or shortest. Still, it is quite something for a bottom-of-the-range satnav with no added maps to be able to plot anything in Kenya. I am impressed. We shall see just how good it is tomorrow!
It will be an early start tomorrow - 6am - and of course, the younger kids here are playing up and refusing to go to sleep tonight, which is keeping yours truly up.
Before my arrival, the rains were particularly hard and the bridge across the little river that separates the house from the road was washed away, apart from the two trunks that everything was attached to. So we have to use the alternative path, the path to the road is less steep, but it is a long trip to get to the road. Still, at least we can get to the road.
I am quite proud of myself, I have managed to get up the hill every time without stopping for breath. It is a very small victory and no one else has noticed, but that doesn't matter, I know my achievement.
I don't know if it was due to the heavy rains, but there seem to be more mosquitoes around and they seem to be fiercer than usual. I have been bitten many times before but the bites never itched much. This time around, I am feeling the need to scratch all day long.
Matatus seem to be more crowded these days. They are licenced to carry 14 passengers, but I was on one yesterday that was carrying 22, plus the tout. It was a bit crowded but I didn't have far to go so it wasn't too bad. It is all part of the African experience!
Back in the bedroom, I have some novel room mates - apart from the mosquitoes. I was woken up last night by a cockroach crossing the floor. It sounded like it was wearing hobnailed boots. A gecko had also heard it but he (or she) was up by the ceiling and was not about to crawl all the way down to the floor. Lucky cockroach!
All in all, so far, the weather has not been too bad, although we have had a couple of really bad days. When it rains here, there is no doubting it. And to make things worse, the electricity invariably goes off.
We have been suffering a spate of power and broadband failures, making blogging, emailing and just about anything else technical very difficult - but, I say again, this is Kenya.
The journey was thankfully very uneventful, although Vincent and I managed to miss each other at the airport terminal, maybe because I was desperate to get out to my "private corner" to have a cigarette. It had been too long since my last one.
We soon met up and had a bite to eat before haggling with various taxi drivers and touts to get a good deal for the city centre.
Having sorted out a bit of business we were free to get the shuttle. We had reasonably good seats and a clear road once we cleared the city. Our first and only stop was at Narok, where we got food and drink and stretched our legs.
Not many wazungu pass through Narok so I was a bit of a curiosity, especially as I now speak a few words of Kiswahili.
A few hours later and we were at the bus station, swarming with passengers, touts, hawkers, just the way I remember it - noisy, chaotic, dusty, Kenya. I was home.
A short car journey and we arrived at my Nemesis, the dirt track down the hill that separates the road from the little houses perched on the other side of the valley. Simon, the deaf boy arrived at the top of the track at the same time as us, and his face split into his wide, open smile as I got out of the car. Little did he know what I had brought for him.
I negotiated muddy hill rather better than usual and I was soon in the living room with Vincent, Abigael and all the kids, including the latest addition, Esther, a poor girl who had been displaced after the post-election violence.
How things have changed in six months
The plot next to the house was rapier grass and cow pasture, where a little boy, Brian, would attempt to control the family cattle and be dragged along on his belly for his efforts, much to my amusement, if not his. But he would not give up and he would always manage to tether these beasts that weighed so much more than he did.
Now the plot has been turned over to maize, over six feet tall and waving gently in the breeze.
Brian is still around, of course. He is a friend of Simon, our deaf child, and he can sign and almost speak English.
How beautiful is the night when there is no light pollution (because there is a power cut). With a half moon, the whole valley is lit up. The insect life is in full voice and fire flies are darting around everywhere.
The rains were rather heavier than usual this year as I could see from the debris that had been washed onto what has returned to be the path used by us residents to get to town. And the rain is still heavy. I had just getting provisions at the local supermarket when the heavens opened - and stayed open. Not only that, but I would have said it was a bit chilly. I have never felt chilly here before.
Vincent was in the town centre and asked to procure a car and meet us at the shop, but this being market day, and with the torrential rain, finding a car with three empty places was not easy, but he succeeded eventually.
It had almost stopped raining by the time we got home.
Simon is becoming a permanent fixture at the house. He pops in on his way home from school (he goes to school every day now), just to tell us that he is going home to change but will soon be back. Cute kid. I am also learning Kenyan Sign Language and we can almost hold a conversation.
I have brought a selection of hearing aids and a small amplifier with ear pieces like an MP3 player. At first, Simon refused to try any of them, but after a lot of persuasion he tried the amplifier last Saturday. It was also his first visit to the Twiga Centre.
As soon as he saw the swing (now well worn), he was on it with a smile splitting his face, giving off grunts of satisfaction.
The other kids took to him and got used to his unorthodox ways very quickly.
They also got used to playing cricket with the set I had brought with me. OK, so their rules are not what you would see at Lords, but they were enjoying themselves. The girls joined in eventually and even Simon got off the swing to have a go. As it turned out, he makes a very good batsman, his hand-eye coordination being well developed.
Another big hit was the game of Connect Four, to the point that I think we will have to organise a league table!
Some of the girls are taught crochet at school, so when Abigael handed out crochet hooks and balls of thread, a variety of little works of art were being produced.
Abigael tried to show Rister how to crochet, but her deformed left hand was too much of a disability. It looks like we will have to get her a sewing machine as her only chance of earning an income when she leaves school.
On the Saturday, Rister had an epileptic fit. Apparently they are becoming more frequent as she does not have the drugs to control them. She really needs a sponsor to provide her with money for this much needed medication.