Traveller's tales

"Getting by with a little help from our friends" - Sara Partington

To be fair, no one had suggested that the C57 from Nakuru to Narok (and onwards to the Masai Mara) was Kenya's best road or even in half-decent condition. The views were splendid but frequent lumps, endless pot-holes and general absence of any semblance of tarmac-covering had Himself gripping the steering wheel for dear life and me bracing myself.

We'd got used to bumping slowly along in the Nakuru National Park but there we were busily watching flamingos or spotting Rift Valley wildlife.

And we had after all expected to hit 30 miles an hour on the tourist route so, for the first hour, we weren't even convinced that we could possibly be on a main right road southwards. Ready to turn back, an approaching truck slowed up and the driver smilingly confirmed that yes we were bound for Narok. He pursed his lips. "Road bad ahead" he warned (compared to what?! we wondered) "but 4 wheel drive OK" - and he sped off in a cloud of dust suggesting that his car was treated with less respect than our hired van enjoyed.

On we stuttered, in first (sometimes reaching the heady heights of second) gear, enjoying the countryside with its little conical-straw-roofed mud huts and waving to occasional children or colourfully-dressed women bearing babies strapped to their backs. Our snail progress at least meant we could thoroughly savour our surroundings.

And then it happened - the bog. Options - left lane : 30 foot length of watery mud; or right lane : shiningly muddy but with reassuringly grassy patches; slim verges studded with thorns to scratch the paintwork. Himself and I voted unanimously.

Answer : the wrong (right-hand) side. Almost immediately, the grassy patches revealed their true squelchy colours - wheels span, mud spattered, the front-end lurched...and subsided into hidden murky depths. The right-hand tyre was half-way embedded, and nothing helped. 
A little face appeared from nowhere, rested his bike and silently surveyed the scene. Without more, he disappeared down the road.

Pretty soon, he was back with reinforcements. They looked under the car, pointing and exclaiming - we agreed the chief's conclusion that it was indeed a problem and explained that the car was sunk too deeply for us to dislodge. Boisterous strategy discussions ensued : chins were pulled, heads shaken, opinions voiced, dimensions roughly measured. More men arrived and stood in the hot sun until the consultancy party was a dozen strong

One venerable gentleman, sporting makeshift trousers and flip-flops, undertook an intrepid investigation of how deep the mud was, coating himself to mid-shin. To loud approval, Himself showed exploratory spirit as well; suffice to say, those socks and trainers will never be the same. 
The planning committee's conclusion was for the local driver to reverse out the car, the rest of us jiggle and heave. I was despatched with assorted children into the thicket to collect leaves and sticks. Scratched but triumphant, we laid our path and took position to push push push (or rather : push, slither, push).

The sun beat down, the paintwork burnt our hands, the revving fumes choked...the car didn't move. We regrouped. "Poooosssh". 
And suddenly, squelchily, filthily, the car was out. Amid spontaneous cheering (by now, word had spread and we were the afternoon's village entertainment) came a shrug and belated advice : "Drive THROUGH the water, not ON the mud". With shillings gratefully accepted by the chief to thank the "troops" (perhaps with cooling beers after their exertions), they waved farewell and we were off...via the left-hand side.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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