A Travellerspoint blog

Drama in Nairobi National Park

It's the Kenyan way.

Sunday, September 11th:

A story from a few weekends ago. Enjoy!

“Today’s visit is going to swift and efficient.” It was like I had jinxed us before we even entered the park. My wish, while making our turn into the entrance, was immediately met with a line of at least 20 jambo wagons. Great.

We pulled over in line, grabbed our “swift” passes for Kenyan Parks and made our way, Bailey’s and coffee in thermos to the guard station.

The first car in line, no surprise, is the elementary principal, curriculum coordinator and guest. “We’ve been here for 30 minutes, prepare yourselves. Oh, and since my work visa is in the process of getting renewed, they tried to make me pay $65 dollars. Good luck!” Jodi says with a smile.

Option 1: work our charm and feminine ways with the guard (also female, so that won’t get us very far). Neither Jen nor I know exactly how much money is on our debit card. Imagine that; since the system only works half of the time, we don’t bother loading a lot of money on it. However, if either, or both of us happen to have enough for us and the car, we can bypass the line full of tourists and their drivers, that has to be at least 30 people deep and moving at the pace of a snail. Fingers crossed.

I managed to beat Jen. She had zero, I had100 shillings loaded. No luck. We head towards the line, deciding that, based on our previous visits, the one that veers to the left will be the one we actually need to use and will help us get into the park sometime before noon. We check our watches, 6:45.

We try to entertain and explain the situation to the people grumbling besides us. “It’s the Kenyan way,” doesn’t seem to be of much comfort. But at this point, all we can do is wait and make jokes.

45 minutes later, we’ve loaded money onto our cards, made our way through the maze of tourist vehicles vying for a position at the gate, and hop in the car. This time, amazingly, my pin works (see a previous story for that event) and we’re off!
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About an hour later we find ourselves spotting, not an animal in the distance, but a collection of jambo wagon, aka, something good! We weave our way towards their spot on a hillside. We aren’t the only ones with this plan, and find ourselves with about 5 other cars looking at a herd of buffalo and 4 rhinos. We stake our spot and start taking photos.
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Only one dilemma, Jen realizes that the brakes, which had been working, are no longer. Uh oh. Nothing like being stuck on a hill of big animals with even bigger horns, blocked in by other vehicles with no brakes. An opening finally occurs and we push our way through, looking for an empty hill/plains for Jen to reload the brake fluid that will help us also avoid any other animals.

Jen hops out, grabs the brake fluid from the back and reloads the valve under the hood. Major catastrophe avoided! However, after much searching, we decide to call it an end to the day, and make our ways towards the exit.
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Just as the gate comes into view, Jen realizes, again, that the brakes are out! How is that possible?! She uses the emergency break at the exit and asks for suggestions on a nearby garage. The closest one is a few kilometers down the road, Limuru road, a four lane path of death. We’ve got matatus and people crossing, stopping, pulling out in front of us as we coast at a cool 20 km. Nevermind that our hazards are on, so are everyone else’s it seems.

We pull into a gas station, coasting to a stop, and get to know the attendant quite well. Between the discussion of the problem, the unreasonable cost of the brake fluid, and Jen saying she’ll get her boyfriend to come help us if we’re ripped off, we finally are informed that the line connecting the brake fluid to the rest of the car has a leak. Great. 11 am on a Sunday morning in an area of town neither of us have ever spent much time in.

Luckily, a friendly mechanic, Nick, pops up out of nowhere. For a reasonable fee he will accompany us to the garage he works at, just down the street. Yeah, another adventure! He jumps in the back seat and directs us to an unmarked hill/driveway. At the top of this is a crowd of about 10 Kenyan men, which gradually multiples over the next hour of our visit.

After much debating and haggling, we’ve decided on a reasonable price for parts and labor. After all, it is Sunday. I wait patiently in the car as three men worked to get the wheel off, remove the leaky pipe, and wait for the new part to arrive. Once that’s taken care of, Nick gets behind the wheel, and with no warning, reverses, BRAKES. Forward, BRAKE! Back and forth while Jen, and the dozens of Kenyans laugh as I grab for something to brace myself on as my hair goes flying and I start screaming. After the first round, I’m just playing along until Nick decides he’s tested the brakes thoroughly.

Just another typical morning in Nairobi.

Posted by BlakeSims 06:25

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