AN UNINTENTIONAL ADVENTURE IN THE ABERDARE’S
17th March 2010
A few years ago my daughters and I were invited to stay with our friends at farmhouse in Naivasha, which was about a 4 hour drive from Nanyuki (where our farm was), that is if you took the right road.
We had an amazing time, horseback riding, motorcycle riding, great company and amazing food. It was just what the children and I needed, as life had been a bit rough that year. As we were hugging everyone and saying our good byes, my friends husband told me I should take the back road through the Aberdare’s, I explained I didn’t know that way and he told me it was straight forward. I asked him for the directions and he said, “I don’t know, I just know everyone takes the road to get here from upcountry. Hold on let me call my friend and ask him” now this should have been my first clue to take the long way home. He called his friend and then told me the directions. Seemed straightforward enough go down the road turn right at the end, follow that road till you see the sign to the Aberdare’s and follow it. Follow the roads that say Aberdare’s gate/ Nanyuki. When you get to the Aberdare’s gate take the road out to Nanyuki, there will be a sign. I could see it in my minds eye (my minds eye wasn’t working very well that day, but I didn’t know that at the time) and it would save me at least a hour driving time, as I didn’t want to be on the road at night with the children, I thought sure this sounds like a good plan, HA HA. I called my friend in Nanyuki to let her and her husband know we were leaving Naivasha and were on our way home, just a safety precaution I believe in.
I put extra bottles of water in the car and food for the road and we set off. The girls and I were singing silly songs and talking about our weekend and everything was going well, roads sign names were where I was told they would be. Beautiful scenery, wildlife along the sides of the road, which included cows, goats and shenzi dogs along with a few herders. Then I saw the Mountain ahead, no one told me about the Mountain, see the car we were in was not mine and I was given very strict instructions to stay on terra firma as it was not a completely healthy car being so old, god bless it, it had heart, thank god! On the other hand my heart skipped a few beats, the car was a 20-year-old Subaru. And I was given strict intrusions to handle it with care. As we started to climb the car started to cough, I sang a little louder. There were no side rails along this mountain and the drop was massive, I just kept point out things to the kids to keep them occupied, didn’t work for long. From the back seat I hear “Mum, look at the drop on this side, wow! You better be careful.” “Thank you sweetheart, I plan on it.” Just then, a car came barrelling around a corner and just missed us, thinking to myself some very strong words, then from the back I hear Rian “You bloody idiot!” Couldn’t argue with her on that one. About 5 minutes later Rian says “Mum?” “Yes Rian.” “Did you see the lorry down there? When do you think it crashed?” “Hmmm, not to long ago, hope everyone was ok” I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw Savanah passed out stretched across her sisters legs, had wondered why she was being so quiet. This commentary went on for another 15 minutes before we crawled on to the top of the massive Mountain, the children gave me a huge round of applause. I mimicked bows and we giggled. Another sign was ahead. Straight Aberdares/Nanyuki – Nyeri/Nairobi now my dilemma was I was told to go through the Aberdares if I wanted to save time, and if I turned right I had no idea which way I would be going through Nyeri and knew it would take me even longer per what I was told. So, I went straight to the Aberdares gate and was met by the guard, Savanah woke up wondering where we were, Tiva and Rian were filling her in while I spoke to the guard. I politely greeted him “Jambo, Habari ya leo (pronounced lay-o)” his response “poa” (translation: Hello, how is your day? – response Good” we went into English after that. As my Swahili is at best Kitchen Swahili and there was no need to embarrass myself, although I do it quite often. He politely asked me for an outrageous amount of money around 100usd, which I politely refused to give him, one I didn’t have that much, two I could give proof I was a resident and not a tourist. Please understand this is common practice and when done with a smile and polite tone there are no hurt feelings just pleasant bargaining. After about 10 minutes of talking with this man and answering all his questions about where I lived and who I knew, well it ended up I knew his cousin who worked on another farm in Nanyuki and we became good friends’ Huge smiles and long hand holding, and we came to a reasonable amount to pay (I think it was about 12usd) which I still didn’t have, so asked the girls to dig through their pockets and check the seats and floors, we found enough and had 5 shillings left over, oh goodie. I asked him which road I should take to get to Nanyuki from his gate. He politely went in to a very long explanation and my eyes started to cross, I asked him if it would be better to go the Nyeri way as my car was not so reliable, he assured me I would be fine. I asked him for a map as I had not been on the Aberdare’s for years. He frowned and apologized profusely saying they hadn’t had any for years! No funding at for their gate. He said his colleague was in the office and he could draw me a map. This probably was another obvious sign to not take that road, but my eyes must have been blinded by the obvious hints so I could get the girls and me, home faster. I was introduced to his colleague and he politely drew me a map. It looked so straight forward I sighed in relief. I was handed our ticket stubs and we were waved off with great enthusiasm.
About 20 minutes in to the park, everything was going along as planned, then I saw it, mud and another hill, lots of hills. They assured me it was a straight road, and foolishly I believed them. Maybe it had been straight when they had last been on it, thirty odd years ago seems about right. I looked at the best side of the road to drive on and went for it, the car started to lose its momentum and hacked its way up. We made it, thank god! Ok that wasn’t bad, the car was ok. I asked Tiva to look at the map and tell me which way as we arrived at a crossroads. “Mum, it doesn’t say which way” “Tiva, are you sure? Please let me see it” I took the map and sure enough it just had a straight line no cross roads and no sign for us to decide. “Ok, girls which way do you think?” We all agreed right. Right it was. We carried on down this road for about 10 minutes slow and easy, as there were sporadic mud pits and potholes and big enough rocks to take out the bottom of the car. Then another hill, “here we go girls, need to speed up to make this one!” Slipping and sliding and back firing from the car as we made our accent, then we heard a huge BANG, I knew what had happened and just prayed for the car to keep going! A small victory as we made it up the hill, but I knew it was not good. We were in the middle of the park at least 12,000ft above sea level and there was no one to be seen. I thought for a moment and the girls sat there in silence, as they knew the dilemma we were in. I said “right, I think we just killed our exhaust pipe, I am just going to check it out, I looked for any wildlife before getting out the car and only saw some herbivores grazing, I got out and checked under the car and sure enough I bottomed out on a rock that had a taken a mighty bite out of the exhaust, poor thing was just hanging there begging to be put out of it misery. I didn’t have anything to tie it up with so dragging it for now was the only option. I am sure we can get it started, were just going to be really loud”. While giving the car a rest I told the girls to get out and stretch their legs. I checked for cell site, but there were no bars on my phone. The girls looked at me and Savanah with her sweet voice said, “Umm Mum, do you know where we are?” “Sure honey, we are in the Aberdare’s,” “Ha ha true, but not only are we in the Aberdare’s but we are lost in the Aberdare’s! And stuck.” “Thank you honey for pointing this out to me, but I see it as we are on an adventure and I love adventures, don’t you?” She rolled her eyes, as if to say here we go again. Tiva and Rian laughed. I said right everyone back in the car, lets see if she will start. It took a bit of coxing but she came through for us! Now where to find a rangers gate?
I followed the road until another cross roads and went left. About another 30 minutes and the gas gage running down and the car now sounding like a rally car I saw what looked like a small house! I ask the girls what they see and huge smiles came across all their faces, “it looks like a rangers post mum.” I couldn’t agree more. When we arrived at the gate, the ranger came out with a very perplexed look on his face. “What are you doing here madam?” I proceeded to tell him what the other men had told me and showed him the map, he shook his head and said you are on the other side of the mountain you are meant to be over there! “Great, I said, so what do I do now as I don’t think the car will make it” “he laughed and said, we heard you coming 20 minutes ago!” I laughed with him. I asked him where the road goes that was on the other side of his gate, he said the back road to Thomson Falls and eventually Nanyuki, but the road wasn’t very good. I asked if there were any hills and he said No, I knew the road that he was talking about and I also knew we would definitely be driving home in the dark. I asked every question I could think of, road conditions, Would they radio ahead and tell the last gate to expect us, if we didn’t show up in an hour would they come for us. I gave them my cell number and my friends cell number and took his, just in case there were any problems. He took everything down and agreed to everything and of course said everything would be fine, at this point I had no other choices. I asked him where I could get signal and he said up the rock, the rock was 15 feet up! I climbed up it and stood on my tiptoes and found my signal. I called my friend again and told her which gate I was at, and which road I should end up on and what time I should be home! If I wasn’t send HELP. She laughed and said I was crazy, I made her promise to tell her husband, she promised. For those of you wondering why I didn’t speak to her husband, I asked but he was busy watching sports and in Nanyuki that is very serious business. By the time we left the gate where we were, we should have been home by then, some short cut! I was already planning on a slow death for my friends’ friend and pain lots of pain, not that I would, but boy was I thinking it.
The girls and I got back in the car and started down the mountain, sliding down a bit as it was muddy, we took it slow and easy and the girls had broken in to the crisps (potato chips) and the bottle water, they were talking amongst themselves. We finally were coming around the last corner and about 30 minutes later is when I saw it. Let me just remind you that the Aberdares is lush with forest and thick bush, especially where we were, which gave a tropical forest appearance nearly, well especially in the eyes of ten year old, Savanah. The tall grass had obviously come with the rainy season and with rain comes mud. Puddles of mud with a twenty year old Subaru. You can imagine what the outcome was if you can’t well, lets just say they don’t mix well. I just stopped the car and stared. There was thick bush on each side of us a massive stretch of at least 1 foot thick of mud road running about 30 meters ahead of us. I was cursing in my head and laughing out-loud at the same time! The girls stopped talking to see what I was looking at, they had grown up here and knew the situation straight off. Rian asked “Mum, are we going to be able to get through that with this car?” “ Well Ri, it is going to be interesting to say the least! I honestly don’t know, but they will come for us if we get stuck” I said. I started to laugh again and then they did, what else to do. We are firm believers that seeing the funny side of situations always makes it more fun and panicking never gets you anywhere but 6 feet under.
I observed the road carefully and I knew we were in trouble. There was no going back as the mountain was to steep and this was buffalo country so forward was the only option. The four-wheel drive didn’t work, and I could see the way the terrain was this road had been used by 4×4’s by the size of the tracks! I new if I went to slow we would only get 10 feet, I told the girls to hold on and I floored it to get through the patch ahead of us, sliding was fine with me as I was good in mud, my concern was the clearance as the car was very low. There were two ways I could go and neither was ideal. We started to move faster and we hit the mud, kept it straight, steered through it fine and then all of a sudden a horrific THUG sound and we were at a complete stand still. More cursing, not so much in my head this time! The girls were cracking up at me! I looked at them and started to laugh too. Well let’s see if you girls can dig us out! All three at once said “haha. What?” “Sure, it will be fun, think of how dirty you will get!” It wasn’t till a few years later they caught on that when I said it would be fun, it meant hard work. All I knew is that we were not in a good place, as I couldn’t see through the bush very well. I told the girls to stay in the car while I had a look. Of course first thing I see are Buffalo tracks, I took a long look and realized they weren’t too fresh, slightly fresh maybe? I stood still and listened carefully I walked a bit up the road and back the other side and came to the conclusion there were no buff and the girls could get out. I got some sticks from the side of the road and found as many rocks as I could, un-luckily there were few.
The girls started to dig and were making a game out of it. One would dig while the other threw the rock or stick under the wheel. This went on for about an hour and to tell you the truth it made no difference! There wasn’t a stone big enough to even put the jack on to in order to get rocks right under the tyre. By this point the girls looked like natives and it was getting dark. I didn’t know how far we were from the gate so I told the girls I appreciated their hard work, but it was getting cold and I wanted them to get out of their muddy clothes and get their clothes out of their bags from the weekend and layer up! I said I would be right back, which made them slightly nervous and Rian said, “Where are you going mum?” I will be back soon. I just want to walk up the road and see if I can see the gate. They all said, “be careful” and they were right as this was thick bush and anything could jump out! I stayed in the middle of the road and started walking. I kept calling out “hear kitty kitty” more to amuse myself and also give any game a heads up, one human approaching and not edible. I walked untill I arrived to the first corner; I couldn’t see any sign of human existence. No gate, and no one to be seen. Just a lot of nature and me. I didn’t want to go any further as it was dusk and that’s when it becomes dangerous. I got back to the car and announced to the girls that it looked like we were going to be here for awhile and not to worry as the rangers know we are here and should come for us soon. One hour went by, nothing. Two hours went by, nothing, three hours and still nothing, at this point I was now imagining the man who gave my friend these directions and the KWS rangers hanging next to each other in high flames (more for my own amusement to pass the time).
It was pitch black and the stars and moon were our only source of light, luckily nature was on our side and they were in full glory. We could hear all the nocturnal animals around us and it was beautiful, freezing, yet beautiful. I couldn’t believe the rangers didn’t send anyone! I had resolved in my head, that we were spending the night and I would have to walk up in the morning! It had to of been around 11pm, at least 8 hours later to when we had first started our “adventure”, when I was looking outside and praying to god for some one to come, because the idea of walking up that mountain in the morning wasn’t the most pleasant of ideas, and that is when I saw them, head lights! Girls wake up! They shot straight up, obviously they weren’t asleep. They saw the headlights and I told them to pray that it was Tim, my friends’ husband. The lights were approaching, and I jumped out of the car. As I stood there I saw two vehicles approaching and with such ease, again I thought to myself ‘ok two? So maybe not friend maybe poachers? No worries, I can talk my way through this’ and it was obvious they were 4×4 vehicles. They pulled to stop in front of me with lights still on, I heard the car doors open and heard a rough voice, “You, bloody woman! What the #%$! Were you thinking coming down this road, it hasn’t been used by anyone since the Mau Mau, and the only people who drive it are the rangers!” He continued on ranting, “I had to wake up the poor chaps at the gate, they wanted a bribe to let me in the park because its after hours and no one is allowed in!” This went on for another 5 minutes to which I then finally just jumped forward and hugged my friend with all my might. “You came for us, we love you!”. I then saw that Dave was there too and hugged him! I then proceeded to hug Tim’s little boy Eddie who was about 9. All the girls got out and yelled, “THANK YOU!!” I couldn’t argue with him as he had just saved us, so we hooked up the cars to pull us out and when I got in, I softly explained to him why we took that road to which he understood but was furious with the rangers for letting me go down.
I asked how he had found us to which he replied, “Well you were smart when you gave Jane the rangers numbers and them mine! They called me when you didn’t come through the other side!” “Really, wow didn’t expect that. Why didn’t they come for us?” “Tana, not one of them even owns a vehicle except the warden who drives through then goes home.” I then said, “Why did they say they would come for me, jeeze!” We all talked about the sport we missed and who had won, what the scores were and of course our “little adventure” to which everyone was laughing at by the time we got home. We arrived home safely within the hour. The girls and I were knackered and couldn’t even bother with baths, so we just flopped into bed and passed out! But we all agreed it was definitely one great adventure!
Hope you enjoyed, leave me message and tell me one of your adventures! xxx
*Friends names have been changed.
A MOMENT ON THE NGONG RD
After an evening out at Casablanca Restaurant, enjoying the company of our friends over a tedious dinner experience (two hours to get served mashed potatoes and mixed veggies!), our friends jointly decided to carry on back in Karen (our home territory), at the Horseman’s Bedouin bar, which is 30 minutes away. Now with the increase of car-jacking’s in Kenya, which only adds to the adventure of late night travel on the roads, we are extremely careful on which roads we travel and careful of all cars that tailgate us or pass us.
Of course, it is always an added benefit to have Rian with us, which is like traveling with the “Terminator”. We never really know what kind of weapon she has strapped to her inner thigh or hidden in the pockets of the car seat! As comforting as that may be, it is a still a countdown to get from point A to point B.
It is eleven o’clock at night and the roads are dark with the exception of the odd kerosene lanterns hanging in the accessional kiosks along the roadside and the random car lights passing along with our own lights leading the way. With every 200 feet, our lights uncover the excitement of being that much closer to home! We had a car load of teenagers: Tiva, Rian, Savanah, Amanda, Josy, (my business partner who had just arrived that day from the UK), Charles the driver and myself.
We had the music blasting and the young ladies singing along to the music all sounding like one of those teen girl bands! All of a sudden we were surprised by a white Toyota speeding past us, Charles and I were irritated by the driver and thinking to ourselves, “what a jerk,” when the most horrible moment happened. We were all now looking at this car when our lights saw what was ahead – two stray dogs crossing the road.
The girls were now seeing what we saw, so I called out “cover your eyes, except Charles!” I heard Rian yell out “Oh Shit!” Rian never covers her eyes, and I knew the worst thing had just occurred – one or both of the dogs were just hit! I looked up, and the Toyota tail lights were almost a faint red dot. The idiot didn’t stop for the dog he had just hit! I screamed at Charles to pull over, and he said “No, the dog is dead!” I screamed again “Charles pull the damn car over NOW!” He looked at me with a strange look of complete confusion! One, we are on a dangerous road for us to stop in the middle of night and two, to him it was just a dog!
As we pulled over I heard the painful yelping of the dog! I looked at him, and said “do you hear that? The dog isn’t dead!”
The Ngong road has many kiosks lined along side it; small shops which are full of butcheries, handcrafted furniture, bars, pots etc… but being this late at night most of them were closed and had the remnants of a few men sitting by a fire outside of them. Usually it is the drunks from one of the bars trying to walk in and out in a weaved pattern and always the stray dogs feeding off the leftovers from the people walking and tossing their leftovers from the day onto the ground!
Then there is always the thief, who are looking for one of the drunks to pass out and steel what ever little pocket change they may have on them, or of course, the car-jackers waiting for the best opportunity to attack! Now, strangely enough, none of these things accord to us at the moment! All we knew was that a stray dog was yelping in pain in the darkness, and we had to get to it!
As I jumped out of the Land Cruiser, Rian did the same. Charles yelled out “what are you doing?” I said, “finding the dog!” I went to cross the road with Rian, while the other girls stayed in the car with Charles waiting at the door. As Rian and I approached the dog, from out of the darkness the dog’s friend that was crossing the road with her started to run up towards her, and then another and another dog showed up.
Now any other time, this would have been a daunting moment being surrounded by now 7 wild stray dogs! But all them were just concerned about their friend, sniffing her and looking up at us! Then a real BIG grey male dog approached – obviously the Alfa Male of the pack – and stood there looking at her. He slowly approached her, sniffed her, and looked straight in to my eyes.
Normally this would be the time I would think to myself, “I’m going to die – ex-animal behaviorist mauled by rabid dog.” But instead I looked back at him and said “don’t worry!” and thought, “damn this is a BIG dog.” I yelled to Tiva to get something to wrap the hurt dog in, and I heard Savanah yelling, “not my sweater!” With Tiva yelling back, “give it me, Mum needs it!”
Rian went to collect the sweater and then crossed the road while I was looking at her to make sure she crossed safely. I turned back around to look at the dog. Again, from out of the darkness, came two very big black African men. Now this could mean a few things! One, they were the local thieves and we were their target – oh joy! Or two, they were thinking, “what in the heck are all these white people doing on this road at night? They must have hit someone!”
They looked at me, and with that, Charles crossed the road and walked over to us. As I took the sweater from Rian, I slowly caressed the dog’s head and tried to assimilate her wounds. She could not get up and there was a lot of blood on her head and leg.
I looked at the big Alfa male dog to get his permission before kneeling down, which entailed a look to him with a mental plea, “oh please don’t bite me!” while Rian stood beside me watching my back! Trust me, this is a good thing! The men just stared at me like Charles had! They couldn’t believe we had stopped for a dog!
I looked at them and Charles and asked them to help me lift the dog carefully! I said it with no question in my voice, it just came out naturally, and un-naturally, they did the unimaginable – they helped! Most black Africans don’t like dogs, especially strays as they are afraid of them, but in this moment, they jumped right in. Rian went to pick up her front-end, and I said with a smile, “No, we have to save that model face!”
She looked at me and laughed and let the man pick the dog up under her front legs. The other man was holding her middle and hind area while I also had her back-end. The stray dogs kept looking at us, again, not with any malice, but with understanding and thankfulness! Never once did they growl or show any intention of aggression. We walked to the Land Cruiser, and I asked Charles to open my door and lay her on the floor of the front seat.
The men gently laid the wounded dog down and I stroked her head. I turned around to thank the men who were angles in the moment and saw the BIG Alfa male dog right next to my side with all the other dogs behind him. He looked at me and then at his injured friend in the car, and I stepped aside. He walked up to edge of the open door and leaned in and licked her side, and stared at her as if saying, “goodbye and don’t worry – you are in good hands.”
He looked back up to me and walked away. I got a warm chill throughout my body and tears came running down my cheek. I looked at the men and thanked them and told the girls to get back in the car.
As I got in to the car, I carefully placed my feet on the each side of the dog and placed my hand on her body to try to put her at ease.
Charles just looked at me and said, “I have NEVER seen anyone do this before!” I said, “what?” He said, “Stop for an injured animal and help!
Just never, I mean why would you stop for a dog that some one has hit?
This is wonderful! None will believe me when I tell them!” I said, “Charles, all animals and people have the right to be helped! Now let’s go find a vet!” I asked him to drive slow as it is a very bumpy road, and I knew she was already in pain and didn’t want to hurt her further!
The task of finding a Vet in the middle of the night would be difficult – who would come out to help a stray dog? I tried calling my vet, but there was no answer! I called my friend, Dawn, and asked for her vet’s number, and again, no answer! In the meantime, all the girls are talking about the idiot who hit her and just kept driving, and Charles is talking to them about how he has never witnessed anything like this night before in his life!
We finally got to Karen, and I asked Charles to pull over at the petrol station, when all of a sudden a Land Rover pulled up right next to us! I thought, “great, now we get to deal with car jackers!” And again, to our surprise, it was a very handsome white African and his girlfriend who had been following us and wanted to make sure we were ok! Once again, Charles says, “Oh my God, that never happens either! What is going on? All these miracles!” I looked at him and smiled. We explained to the friendly couple what had happened and we were looking for a vet.
We said thank you and they carried on. I was getting frustrated and took a deep breath and said a prayer and tried calling my vet again! Five rings later, I hear a sleepy, low voice answer, “Halo?” I explained what has happened, and the man was hesitant. When he asked who I was, I told him, “It’s Tana, the mother of Bear (Bear is our 115 pound Rhodesian Ridge Back)! “Oh!” he said, “Tana, good to hear from you. Of course, bring the dog by, I will call the vet.” I thanked him and then called our friends to tell them why we were so late and we would have to catch up with them soon!
We drove to the vet, and this wonderful man came out to greet us! He looked the dog over and went back in for a blanket. He returned with the blanket and reached in and picked her up! Again, I am astonished at the this wonderful dog’s disposition. Through all this, she never once snarled in pain or showed any aggression. She trusted us and just looked at us with the biggest brown eyes. We followed them in to the room, and as he laid her down on the table, Charles looked at her and fell in love with her!
“Tana,” he said, “she is beautiful. Please can I have her? Please?” I looked at Charles and said he would have to fight over her with Amanda, as they both wanted her. He smiled and said he would ask her. We took turns stroking her and wished her well, I wrote a letter to the vet, Derek, who was on his way, and said I would pay for all cost and to please do what ever he had to do to help this beautiful dog! And we quietly left.
In the car we were silent at first I was thinking and just taking everything in that had just occurred! The silence was broken when I leaned over the seat and looked at everyone and said thank you and thanked Charles. I added, do any of you realize how many miracles occurred in our brief adventure? They all pitched in, “yes, Mum, we do.”
Charles agreed! Then he said, “I was scared when those men walked over to us. I think they thought you must have hit someone, and then did you see their faces? They couldn’t believe it was a dog and that you had stopped for her! And then they helped us. Oh my, this was a miracle night! You have taught me so much about kindness to animals, Tana.
Why, even the other day I was driving with Savanah and we saw a chameleon crossing the road! She yelled at me to stop and pull over and she jumped out of the car and picked it up! I couldn’t believe this, but then she wanted to bring it in the car and I told her “No way” (black Kenyans are terrified of chameleons; they think they are the devil). She kindly put it in the bushes for me and got back in. I told my children that none of you kill spiders and showed them how you catch them in glass and put them outside and now they all do it, even my wife, which reminds me, Tana, my wife wanted me to ask you what she should do about the cockroaches?”
I just burst out in laughter and a huge smile of appreciation! “Well Charles,” I said, “do the same for the cockroaches as you do with the spiders!” Then Amanda said “please, Tana, can I have the dog if she lives?” I said “well, you will have to talk to Charles about that!” Charles smiled. We drove to the Horseman and ordered our drinks. Savanah and Amanda danced. Our friends turned up and asked about the dog. We said she was in surgery now, and we are just waiting for the phone call!
At about 1am, the call came in. It was Derek, our vet! “Tana, it is Derek. The dog will be fine.” I yelled out to everyone “she will be fine!” Everyone cheered. I thanked Derek and gave a silent prayer to God thanking him too!
Charles now has “Lucky” at home. We all thought that an appropriate name for our stray friend who changed our lives that night in a moment on the Ngong road.
By Tana Herbert
10th March 2010
All in a day in Africa. You learn to just get on with it.
When you raise your children in East Africa and you are in the safari business, the most important lessons your children will learn are learned while out in the bush.
There is no better way for them to learn except from good old first hand experience. True, these experience can test a parents nerves, but most of us parents in Kenya believe firmly in the sayings; ‘Pull up you socks’, ‘Man up’. good for boys and girls, and of course, the universal saying ‘Get on with it.’
Please know we love our children with all our hearts and souls. We also know that if they are going to be in the bush the first thing they have to learn is not to panic, to think and to use their natural instincts.
Using our instincts here in Africa has saved all us at one time or another.
One early morning, I was sleeping peacefully as one can when my natural instincts kicked in. I was sharing my bed with my Rhodesian Ridge Back dog, Bear, my huge domestic cat, Cally and our two Jack Russells, Kong and Jema.
I was awoken by the obnoxious ring of my mobile phone. I reached for it knowing it had to be important. Why else would anyone be calling? My heart kicked in to gear as I said ‘hello.’
It was my daughter. “Mum, it’s Ri. I just want you to know I am ok. I had to climb up a huge hill to get signal so I am exhausted. I know how fast Nairobi gossip travels. I just wanted to just let you know I am ok. We were charged by an elephant in the bush. Only one person got slightly hurt. No one is dead.”
She continued, “I will call you later when I have a chance. Ok, I love you mum with all my heart. Talk soon!” The phone went dead. Deep breath in, hold and exhale.
I thought to myself she is fine. Go back to sleep. Just as I was fading in to dream land the phone rings again. This time I am curious as what more could there really be, I pick up the phone. It’s my other daughter “Hello mum? It’s Tiva.” She was calling from the University in South Africa. “Hi Tiva, what’s up?” I ask. “I don’t want to scare you, but I have just been diagnosed with Swine Flu. I think it is a mild case and I am on medication. I will be fine. How are you mum? At this point I had to start laughing which perplexed her a bit. “Mum, you alright?”
I proceeded to tell Tiva about my first phone call that day from her sister, Ri. I couldn’t imagine what was going to happen next. Maybe I just wouldn’t pick up the phone if it rang again.
Tiva and I talked for about 15 minutes more asking and answering each others questions and saying our normal good byes. We ended our conversation with our usual I love you so much and always and forever, talk soon.
I got out of bed as there was no way for me to go back to sleep. I walked down stairs and opened the back door of my house to let our house lady, Joyce, come in at the same time to let the dogs out. I sat at my computer and while waiting for it to turn on, I turned to Joyce and asked her how her morning was then she asked me! We laughed together and then she brought me my tea as I started to look at my emails which were rushing in. I was pleasantly reading through them, when I heard an all mighty scream from Joyce. I jumped up and ran to the back where she was collecting the bucket and mop. “What is wrong Joyce?” I asked. “Tana, Nyoka, Nyoka.” That means snake in Swahili. Her words were trembling. I asked, where? “Under the bucket.” I asked Joyce to go inside so I could have a look. Joyce ran inside and closed me outside with the snake.
Now, although there are many poisons snakes in Kenya there are more then double those that are not venomous at all. When she said it was under the bucket I knew it couldn’t be a big snake so I care fully lifted the handle of the bucket only to see a beautiful brown house snake. I moved the bucket to one side and was just starring at the this snake when it started to uncoil itself. I was mesmerized by its movement, snapped out of my trance and was about to reach for it when I realized half of the snake had crawl back in the hole on the side of the house. I giggled to myself, because the thought of poor Joyce, knowing I didn’t catch it and remove it from the property, would most likely send her in to a minor stroke.
I put the bucket back down once the snake was tucked back in under the house safely and walked to the side of the house mimicking throwing the snake in the neighbors yard. I knocked on my back door and asked her to please let me in, she looked at me through the closed door and asked me, ‘is the snake gone?’ ‘Yes, Joyce it is gone, it was a good snake not a bad one.’ ‘Oh, Tana I don’t know how you touch those things, you must be so brave’ ‘I never touch the ones I cant identify or know to be poisons Joyce, I just think they are beautiful. As I walked back in the house and back to my email. Joyce went back outside, not 2 minutes later, I hear an almighty scream again ‘TANA,’ I first think, shoot darn snake came back out. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a sweet chameleon walking across the laundry line. In Kenya many black Kenyans and some White Kenyans are terrified of chameleons, depending on how they were raised. It is a believe that they are evil spirits; they surmise this because the chameleons eyes protrude out and they can see 360 degrees, plus they change colours. She said ‘I think someone is trying to kill me today! Get it please’ I reached for the innocent creature, who literally could only hurt a fly and moved him to a hedge on the other side of the garden. When I returned to the house, I looked in the kitchen to see if Joyce was recovering all right. I was met with her words ‘So how do you feel about toads?’ Another innocent creature so many are terrified of them too. I just burst out laughing and told her I liked them; she shook her head, laughed and walked away. All this, in just the first 2 hours of being awake.
Rian was fine, Tiva recovered in just a few weeks, Joyce still looks for snakes and chameleons before going outside and Savanah my youngest happily goes off to school each morning and brings back her own stories.
Hi Kristen, Rian was upcountry leading 15 youth on a camel safari with her boyfriend Matthew. So, happy you are reading my Blog, tell all your friends! Love ya! xxx
OMG, you have a ‘house lady’, she brings you tea?… I’m moving to Kenya
Glad all are ok, what a way to start a day…
She is a wonderful lady and I am sure I would be half starved if it were not for her feeding me, She is one very good reason I would not want to leave Kenya, lol. She has 5 children, 3 of which live with us and a new grandson. I love her and her family dearly! xxx
And I am not surprised that she and her children are an extension to your family, that is soo great!!