Reasons to Celebrate # 2: Friends part 2


click here for part 1 Scott didn’t seem overly pleased to see us.  The reason was probably that he’d spun such an enormous web of lies back in the UK that he knew he was going to be caught out when we arrived.  We stayed in the Granny flat attached to his house so we had our own space and we were in heaven.  Sleep, food, not sitting in an airline seat and the holiday ahead of us.

A couple of things set off alarm bells early on but we chose to ignore them thinking we were over sensitive.  He’d told us the weather was warm, the cost of living cheap and that he would take us on safari, up to the lakes to see flamingoes, we would be his guest.  All lies.  In reality after I spurned his advances on the first day his mood became considerably cold towards us.  He told us Nairobi was too dangerous for us to go out alone and therefore he had to chaperone us everywhere; to the mall, to his friend’s house to watch them play football,to his other friends house to watch Indian movies.  Not on safari by a long shot.  When he went out and he didn’t want us cramping his style he locked us in our Granny annex, literally.  They lived in a gated community with a locked gate at the front of the house so we were in fact prisoners.  We considered going to the embassy but we had in the back of our minds that maybe it wasn’t that bad, after all it was just Scott from university, his parents were somewhere in the background, how bad could it get?  We just needed to get away from him, problem was he wouldn’t let us.  He reluctantly took us out with him in the evening and we spoke with his friends about the situation.  They didn’t believe us, except one who suggested we go to Mombasa where the weather was better (it was raining in Nairobi).

We wanted to get to Mombasa as soon as possible.  Not as easy as you may think.  When he got wind of our plans he hijacked them and arranged for his Aunt and Uncle to be our chaperones in Mombasa. We had other plans but we accepted their offer gratefully and figured we’d only call them in an emergency. We decided to travel on the overnight train but it was pricey and we were skint, so we bought tickets for the overnight bus.  Scott and his friends told us we were making a mistake, that it was dangerous, but they told us that everything in Kenya was dangerous and we were beginning to think it was a ruse to keep us locked up.  For what end who knows.

Just before we left he graciously took us on the promised safari. He brought a girlfriend with him.  If a safari is speeding and skidding along dirt roads, whizzing past a couple of zebras then we went on safari.  The phrase bitter disappointment was made for times like this.  Youthful optimism and our  ability to laugh in the face of adversity stood us well.

We arrived in  Mombasa in the early hours before the sun was up and made our way to the beach to find a place to stay.   By this stage a feeling of fear had been instilled into us.  We had been locked in our prison until now and it took us a few days to realise that everyone wasn’t out to rob us, rape us or kidnap us.   We had a few days of freedom and exploring but I am not sure our hearts were in it by then.

Soon it was time to head back to Nairobi to fly home. We went to Scott’s friendly cousin on the last evening as she had offered to take us to the bus stop at midnight.  The Aunt and Uncle on the other hand had heard from Scott that we were ungratefull, terrible people and not to be trusted (?), so we had a frosty reception to say the least.  What a surprise, the bus was cancelled. We went back to the open arms of the cousin’s family and stayed the night.  Hiding in the room and 30 Mills and Boons books later (his Aunt’s only English books) we caught the bus the following night.

The holiday had been a wash out; in Kenya but no safari, in an exotic new country but locked away, there seemed to be a conspiracy between the people we had met and we were throughly disliked by all.  We sat on the bus and sang ‘Take Me Home Country Road’ and laughed about the flight home, would we  even make it?  Then out of nowhere we hit something, the bus started to roll over,  it was pitch black, people were screaming. The bus was on its side hurtling through the dust and rocks.  As we hit I shouted ‘get down’ to Rachel and we both went into the brace position.  Luckily we had already adopted the brace position a couple of times on our flight over so we were old hands at it.  I was sitting by the window and I was braced on top of Rachel, my back being scraped along the rocks as the window had magically disappeared.  Eventually it was quiet.  The bus had stopped moving; eery silence after the terrifying noise of the bus, just the sound of crying.  Within seconds people were climbing over each other to get out, pushing and shoving.  The front of the bus was on fire, I don’t know what happened to the driver.   I felt my back was hot and wet but was too scared to get Rachel to look, everything was red anyway from the dust and it was pitch black bar the fire on the bus.  Did I say, ‘move back its going to blow’, or that’s just how I remember it?  Once out, Rachel  was first to gather her senses and decided that we had to go back onto the  bus to get our passports and money.  What a hero, Rachel climbed back onto the burning bus and recovered both our bags with all our belongings.

A bus crash on that road was commonplace.  No ambulances, no fire engines, no-one knew and there were no phones.  We were miles from civilization.  We found another passenger who spoke some English and she told us that we should all walk back to the road and wait for other buses and trucks to drive past.   When we finally reached the road, we saw the cause of our accident, a baby elephant. heartbreakingly gigantic, laying silent on the road. This was the only elephant we saw on our trip and we had killed it.  We followed the crowd and stood together waiting for the first truck or bus to pass.  The first driver took 2 people, he told us to stick together and if we were still there towards dawn to light a fire as it was lion country.  Lion country?  Are we in an episode of candid camera?  2 down 48 to go including 2 incredulous Brits, not known for their pushy nature.  No doubt we were going to get the last ride.  Eventually a bus stopped and the driver let us sit in the aisles. For the pleasure of being rescued we had to bribe him.

We finally made it back to Nairobi to be met by a very unhappy Scott, ‘ You’re late’.  Picture if you will how we looked.  Rachel had bright orange hair from the dust, we were both covered in dirt, our clothes were ripped and I was bleeding.  ‘You’re late’????  That was the final straw.

Our return flight was, thank god, uneventful.  We kissed the ground when we got off the plane in the UK. I had a couple of cracked ribs and suffered for many months from the trauma of the crash mixed with the side effects of the antimalaria drugs we’d taken.  A week after returning home I received a parcel in the mail.  It was some photographs of Rachel in a safari suit hiding in the bushes in her Dad’s vegetable garden. Dotted around were cuddly toy lions and monkeys.  The note attached said that, instead of the real thing she had mocked up some safari pics for us to remember our Kenyan holiday.  You can’t get a better friend than that.


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