A trip to the Mara….

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Over the last few weeks we have had the pleasure of showing our great friends, Jason and Renee Crowgey, around Kenya.  We took them to visit our projects, on our favorite hikes, to eat at our favorite restaurants, camping, shopping and on safari in Masai Mara.  For the most part their time here ran smoothly, but on the way back from the Mara they had a truly Kenyan experience.  It started on the way into the Mara when we noticed that our shocks were hitting pretty hard, and the back right one was scrubbing the tire (to say the roads to and in the Mara are rough would be a understatment).  We had the shock adjusted as much as we could be a roadside fundi, but 30 minutes later the tire busted….I have never heard or seen air leak from a tire so quickly.  No worries, that’s why we have a spare.  We changed the tire and had to drive the next 25km with a little more caution, since we were on a spare, but we made it to the lodge successfully.  I spent the next morning, in between game drives, negotiating to get the tire repaired, but found out that it could only be repaired at the gate.  Again, no worries, I planned to just have it fixed the following day when we depart as opposed to driving to the gate and back an additional time.  So we enjoyed the remainder of our time at the Ashnil Mara Lodge (amazing by the way, highly recommend it) and left the tire for the following day.  The next morning we packed our bags, loaded the car, and left for the gate around 9:00.  At around 9:30 (only 15km into our trip) I saw little pieces of black rubber flying around me.  We stopped to see that in the matter of seconds the road has shredded yet another tire to pieces.  Now we were left with 1 good tire, 1 goodish tire that had a repaired puncture (earlier trip with Crowgeys to Suswa…starting to notice a trend with the Crowgeys and our tires failing), a spare, 1 busted tire, and 1 shredded tire.  For time’s sake just know that the next 6 hours were spent negotiating for a tire to be brought from Narok (nearest town about 2 1/2 hours away), heading back to the lodge (where we were given a comp. lunch…told you, awesome place), and negotiating for the first busted tire to be taken to the gate to be repaired so that we would have a spare.  Around 3pm we were back on the road with the first tire sealed and a new tire (but that tire still needed to be put on the rim so we would have to stop at the gate anyway).  Around 5:00 we arrived at the gate and had the new tire put on the rim, but soon realized that even though the new tire meet the specs I gave the man that brought it from Narok, he purchased a rally tire….so it would fit but was a bit wider than the other 3.  So….uughhh….no worries….we decided to keep going on the spare and we would have the new tired as a back up if needed.  We pulled away from the gate around 5:30pm with a 4 hour drive ahead of us feeling pretty good to have that ordeal behind us…..until around 6:oo when after 30km of beautiful, though bumpy, progress the transmission in the car refused to engage.  The gas pedal was pressed, the engine was throttling, but our speed was steadily dropping.  We came to a complete stop in the middle of nowhere on the edge of a Masai settlement, still 1 1/2 hours from Narok and good (paved) roads, and the sun was dropping quickly.  The one thing we wanted to avoid was navigating these roads in the dark especially with Sophie in the car.  We soon realized that we were leaking transmission fluid and assumed that we had damaged it on a rock though we couldn’t remember hitting one particularly hard.  So, as is the case anywhere in Kenya, within moments several people had gathered around to help assess the situation.  One of these men agreed to tow us to the next settlement 1 km away to see if a mechanic there could do anything for us.  You should know that when we say “tow” we mean tie the cars together with a rope and when we say “mechanic” we mean a guy that spray painted “mechanic” on the side of his tin-walled duka.  It took all of 5 minutes for us to realize we could get no help here and we really wanted to at least get as far as Narok for the night….mainly because we were in the middle of nowhere and we had Sophie…..so we negotiated with 2 men to tow us the remaining 52km to Narok.  Now 52km isn’t all that far, but imagine a road that was once paved but now has more holes of dirt than remaining pavement.  Even in a Land Rover you can’t exactly fly on this road.  Also consider that we were being pulled with a rope by a 1993 Toyota hatchback, and unless we wanted slam into the back of this lead car, we had to steer and brake at the same time and pace that the it did.  That 52km now seems like an incredibly long distance.  Oh, we forgot to mention that the rope that was pulling us was more of a thick twine so it broke every 5-10 minutes, just as the front car was pulling out of a large pothole and we were dipping into it.  We were amazed by the commitment of the men we hired though.  With each snap of the rope (and there were dozens) they would jump out, tie the rope again and we would move on.  When the rope had broken so many times that we had only 2 feet separating us, they cut out their seatbelts like pros and tied us off with those (yes…..their seatbelts).  When the seatbelts shredded and no longer provided the needed length, they raided  a nearby field for barbed wire as if they had stored it there for such a time as this.  That is commitment.  Throughout this long process of stop and go we decided to call Paul, the mechanic at Rosslyn, to see if he could come to Narok to tow us home the following day.  He gladly agreed, but preferred to do it that night so we agreed to meet in Narok….well we thought we would.  Instead we only made it 45km in 4 hours so Paul ended up coming through Narok and meeting us on the other side.  We could not have been happier to see Paul, his metal tow bar, and his associate, James, who wished to steer our car the remaining 129km to Nairobi since I had been at it so long.  Since the road is much better (and we weren’t being pulled by a weak rope/seatbelt/barned wire) the last 129km passed  much faster than the previous 45km had and we limped into Nairobi at 2am.  We were blessed that we all stayed safe, that we were accompanied by the Crowgeys who are as laid back as we are in such situations, and that we have such an amazingly chill daughter that takes everything in stride.  The next day we had the car looked at and turns out we didn’t hit a rock….the roads had vibrated the car so badly that the cap had rattled of the gearbox and the fluid was leaking out.  All we had to do was have another cap fitted (something that could have easily been done had there been a decent mechanic open between us and Nairobi!) and that was that.  Fairly inexpensive fix….well, the shocks, springs, and tire was a different story, but that’s part of driving in Kenya. 

Oh, and we did see some incredible animals and have an amazing time at the Mara.  It was a phenomenal 3 weeks with the Crowgeys, and other than the above story, everything went incredibly smoothly….except for the couch Jason and I broke in a wild game of Cranium, but what would you think of if you had to act out “Tom Cruise” for a teammate without saying proper nouns?  Exactly, the same thing we did just before we jumped on and crashed through our couch.  But anyway, here are some photos from the more enjoyable parts of the Mara safari.

One thought on “A trip to the Mara….

  1. Oh my WORD. That is one crazy story. I love the part about the seatbelts- now that’s dedication to the cause. Wow. Glad you’re all such relaxed people :). Love the pictures of little Sophie. She’s already looking way older than when we left. I’m pretty sure Penelope misses her like crazy.
    How are the new staff??? Have you already forged so many deep and wonderful relationships that you’ve committed to a 5 year term at Rosslyn?? I hope so :). Hope you’re all doing well. Love from all of us… k for the krys.

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