What: An innocent trip to Lake Nakuru National Park yields a flat tire in Lion’s Gate
Where: Nakuru, Kenya. Rift Valley Province
When: June 2010
How: A 4-Wheel-Drive belongs on safari.
Result: Brotherly love.
Karibu to Lake Nakuru National Park
Lonely Planet Guide describes, “Just a couple of kilometers from the hustle of central Nakuru an army of flamingos turn a sky-blue lake bright pink and pre-historic looking horned mammals crash through a landscape of euphoric trees and acacia forests”
But what really happened on this weekend in June?
Two Africans, a Kenyan and an Egyptian truly bonded over a tire. Yes, a flat tire.
So I told Edwin, my co-worker (a native of Nakuru) and one of the smiling faces in my last blog post, that I had a friend coming into town and we wanted to check out Lake Nakuru and I needed a driver. The words safe and 4-wheel drive didn’t come to my head. I am Jewish and on a budget—a good price, please! Okay, so he made some calls and it ends up his childhood friend Daniel would take us around the park.
So sure enough, 7am rolls around and we are ready for SAFARI. A regular, small Toyota sedan rolls up …okay, great…yalla! Let’s go!
So we drive around, checking out the animals…the usual thing. I do realize immediately, starting with my curiosity a few hours before seeing the prompt 6:30AM 4-Wheel Drive picking up the chain-smoking Italians staying at our guesthouse, that EVERY other car on the road is these super safari trucks where you can peak outside the top.
Okay, I am on a budget here! I can’t afford these fancy trips. And I am not a tourist…I live here in Kenya now!
Though, already peeking my camera through the window that doesn’t roll down all the way was posing a humorous annoyance.
First animal we see, b’h a lion! SCORE! One of the big five mammals of Kenya! What luck!
Ahmed (the Egyptian in our story) is immediately about to get out of the car to take photos and Daniel says NO! “What are you doing, my brother, you can not leave the car!” Ahmed, very disappointed, retracts.
It must be a thrill for men to get an extra foot closer to a predator and confront death?
Anyway, we enjoy the day, wandering around the park, and we see this and that. A Baboon here, a Warthog there. Good times. Good times. We can’t seem to find the only leopard in the park, but that is okay…we saw a lion!
We leave the park, head up to see another important site in Nakuru, the Menengai Crater. (Lonely Planet describes: While lush vegetation is now proliferating on the harsh crater floor, some 480 km below the violent and dramatic volcanic history is easily seen; a cauldron of convoluted black lava flows. )
Ascending to the summit, we stall a few times. Oops! But hey this is Africa. No worries.
After a lovely lunch on the top of the crater, we start to head down the road and Boom! Flat Tire #1. If you know me, when it comes to car mechanics, I am confused. I do not know what a flat tire sounds like. I would have probably kept driving. Ahmed and Daniel seem to know what is going on, so they fix it together.
Meanwhile Ahmed is secretly wishing we had the flat tire in the park near the lions. He wanted to be next to the lions, g-d dammit it! If a flat tire is the only way….SO BE IT! And after seeing all those spare tires on back of the fancy safari trucks…it was rubbing it in his face.
So we make it on our way back to the park. First a pit stop in Nakuru proper—to get the tire fixed. We buy some African sugar cane, I give high fives to all the kids hanging around with nothing to do, and we are on our way. Its already 4pm and I am so sleepy. Maybe it was from the malaria pills, but I needed a NAP.
We enter the park, driving towards the guest house, and sure enough booom! I actually didn’t hear it, but even before Daniel could say, Can you check outside? Ahmed eyes light up like a little kid….this can’t be, this can’t be!
”Amy”, Daniel says, trying to hide his worry already, “Can you check the tire?” (It was on my side)…I look out ,but because we don’t have a fancy safari truck I can’t see anything!… Ahmed quickly looks over me and checks. Yes, Yes it is!
He asks Daniel, smirking, ”Aren’t we in the same spot where we saw the lion this morning? Muffling under his breath, Daniel says, “umm yes”.
Keep in mind its 4pm. Lion hunting time. A 60% chance they are right near us. Hungry. Hidden in the bush.
Daniel calls the park warden and they don’t care. Fix the tire they say.
Ain’t no Triple A service here.
Now another thing—drivers are NEVER supposed to let their guests out of the car. Drivers are supposed take care of their guests before themselves, and their safety is their main concern.
Before I could realize what is happening, as I am so sleepy… and again, confused! Didn’t we just get the tire fixed? Ahmed jumps out of the car to help Daniel, ignoring the rules of no guests leaving the car. Amy, they both say, you are on LION Watch Duty. Me? I can’t take this responsibility! But I guess I have no choice? And those dam windows, don’t roll down all the way, I can’t see! I look left and look right….
Within 15 minutes, including texts to all Ahmed’s friends of this infamous tire and the situation we were in, its fixed! We made it!! RELIEF! We aren’t game meat. I will make it back to Nairobi, let alone New York. B’h! Good Team work.
My old boss at the Financial Times, after an email to him explaining what happened noted… “A flat tire in Lion territory. That’s right up there with running out of gas in Newark.”
The hangover and excitement wore off. Ahmed relived the moment many times in his head. We are ready for day 2.
Daniel picks us up at 9 AM.
This was not an ordinary day in Nakuru. After the solidarity in tire repairs, we were truly his African brother and sister.
Day 2, Nakuru. Things are getting serious. We are meeting the family. We are no longer guests, but friends.
Here are Daniel’s lovely wife Elizabeth, his two sons, sister, mother and auntie.
One minute a flat tire, the next minute we are part of the family.
This is Africa:)
Thanks to Daniel for welcoming us into his home. Our experience in Nakuru would never have been so delightful.
And Daniel himself…If you ever decide on a Safari in Kenya we can put you in touch…