(Posted 11th March 2022)
Stepping into Part Two like a brown ninja, I commandeer my friend’s young boyfriend and his car that he uses as an uber, and we hit Mombasa Road heading for Amboseli National Park, in a little red Mazda Demio. The plan was ambitious, but after a few phone calls at the pizza and water refuelling point, we were confident of victory, if not, at least making it to the first stop in the second gigantic national park. We had covered less than half of the 5000km race.
Amboseli, in my humble opinion, is the Queen of National Parks. Lapping around the skirts of Africa’s tallest snow-capped mountain, The Kilimanjaro, this park is near bursting with wildlife, especially elephants, guinea fowl, gazelles and the occasional pair of hyenas running lazily by the side of the car as you crawl at 10kph on the ridged crushed stone road. The road also curves in a slight dome to encourage the run-off of rainwater into the ditches and therefore overturning when speeding is a very real obstacle to Park Fermé, which this time was at Kilima Lodge, Kimana Gate on the Southern-most side of Amboseli, right next to the town of Moshi in Tanzania. In fact, that is what the location pin noted when posting selfies on IG after breakfast, and getting lost on the way back to camp.
Ok- so the full story is: upon leaving Kilima Lodge, the rickety motorcycle boda that was supposed to take me round the corner to Kimana Camp instead went the opposite direction towards Kimana town and then promptly broke down in the middle of the park. I was picked up by a Kenya Wildlife Services Landcruiser full of authentic Masaai village women crossing the park to the safety of the main road. The broken boda motorcycle guy had already jogged off to look for fuel from the road construction company, so I clambered aboard hastily before any hyenas could get me, and was greeted by friendly giggles of women recognising their jewellery in my ears. They beamed with pride. This black woman with muzungu ways was wearing their culture! We giggled as they shielded their bald bejewelled heads from the rushing dust, so much so that I missed my stop and ended up on the main tarmac road by the curio shop, halfway down to civilization. I jumped off and bade them farewell, before jumping into an airconditioned government double cabin pickup heading back where we come from, and being deposited at Kimana Gate in the arms of my now anxious camp host Benson. My “driver’ was still recovering from the night before.
It was Day 7, and when he woke up, we consulted our rally day book and made our way to CS 17- Start (Car Start point 17), GPS coordinates S2.88646 E37.62582, which if you google will find it is on Tsavo Road, leading to Tsavo River. A great big rock-strewn dried riverbed provided a good test for the drivers and their cars, with the inexperienced reversing and finding ways round it, a couple of experienced Tuthill Porsche drivers showing how it is done, and the plain reckless who drove their sky-blue Porsche 911 over the boulder, leaving pieces of blue metal behind. Exciting stuff!
We chased them through the Sisal Estate in Taita Taveta before settling in for the night at Salt Lick Lodge Taita Hills, where I pitched my tent at the back of the imposing building, between the small football pitch and the wild bush beyond.
I woke up from a refreshing sleep with the hotel guards asking me if I was ok in the head. We were after all in TSAVO, home of the man-eating lion. The full harvest moon last night had lulled me to a glorious slumber where I apparently failed to hear a herd of elephants gently traipsing round my one-man tent. The guards shooed them away with bursts of their flashlights apparently. I didn’t hear a thing. They asked me if I was military, as I seemed not to be afraid of sleeping in the wild. I merely smiled and shrugged, packed up my tent and went for a wash in the pool changing room. Shower over, I went to wake my driver curled up in the back seat of the Mazda to cajole him into doing the same (in vain) and we went to stock up on a Full English breakfast that would have made any East London chav proud.
From then on was a race to the finish, Mazda and all, through Sala Gate with it’s crazy wiggling rally officials ensuring that the cars slow down enough not to kill any wildlife but still have a good time. Babies drooled and waved, and even park officials levied the fees with a smile, in-between filming the approaching cars with their phones. And before we knew it, the soil changed to sand and we saw men in sarongs, a tell-tale sign that you have entered coastal province. We hit Watamu with a puncture in ours and various other accidents of varying natures in various cars, that involved a lot of cursing, blood sweat and tears, with some being towed into the Park Fermé at Ocean Sports Watamu, wet with sweat, caked with dirt, and rushing for the ice-cold champagne and beer awaiting those who made it.
Closing ceremony was a blur, and the less said about that the better.
Oh, and reigning champion Baldev Chager in Car No3 Porsche 911 sponsored by Kabras Sugar took the win. And the owners of Car No27, the gun-metal grey Datsun 240Z I had been ogling for the last 10 days refused to sell me their car.
I will try again and persuade them to at least let me sit in it in the next race.
For more information on the next races:
To stay at Kimana Camp ($10 per single cottage room and $2 to camp):
Benson: +254 701 193 034
To buy genuine Masaai jewellery from the Masaai women in Amboseli Park:
Pilanoi Keraya: +254 759 283 447 (MAKTAU GATE)
To watch THE FOMO TRAVEL SHOW EP83 CHASING RALLY PART DEUX:
Experience rating: 10/10
Link to part 1: