- Flat tires: 1 (Steve's bad carma re-asserts
Petty bureaucratic forms: 2
The day starts at 6 o'clock and therefore poorly, going only downhill. Elephant-inspired euphoria apparently has a 24-hour timespan at best.
On our way back to Arusha, our LandCruiser blows out a tire at 80 kph, causing some minor panic. The downside to asphalt and speed is thus amply demonstrated. Our fellow LandCruiser, being in the lead, doesn't see the mishap and continues gaily on. We are left by the side of the road.
For the next hour or so, Swai, our driver, changes the tire. This is not an easy job, as the tire finally came completely off the wheel and we were riding on the rim. We were left with bits of rubber strewn across the road and a rim dug deeply into the dirt. After several jack mishaps, the fetching of half-a-dozen rocks of differing sizes, and a visit by a passing Maasai tribesman, Swai is finally able to change to an undamaged tire. In the meantime, we were on the road fetching rocks and watching cows and avoiding greedy young boys who very much like watches and free food. We were not, unfortunately, inside the car listening to the radio. Our fellow travelers finally noticed that we were not behind them and began desperately calling for us while they drove back. They were no doubt expecting to find our car flipped over and a lion munching on our partially-exposed bodies.
After a very happy (and lion-free) reunion, we continue our journey. Our group decides that our tire mishaps are obviously Steve's fault -- he has been sitting directly over both flat tires. To prove the point, we are blocked from leaving our parking space in Arusha due to a bus that broke an axle directly behind us. The person sitting closest to the broken axle was, of course, Steve. Fortunately this gives us more time to buy Saudi Arabian cookies, local bottled water, and South African wine in a box. All the comforts of home.
We extricate ourselves from behind the broken bus and head on to the Kenyan border down a curious road. Curious because it would be straight, flat and perfect for kilometers, allowing travel at 80 kph or greater, and then suddenly a huge six-inch wide gap would stretch across, forcing you to a complete stop. As we get closer to the border, these odd sections of broken pavement become more common. The result is a journey resembling the staging of NASA launches -- intense acceleration, smooth high-speed travel, and intense deceleration. I gain a deep impression of an ashtray on my torso. (There's a lack of seatbelts in safari vehicles.) You can only hold onto whatever isn't bouncing and enjoy the ride.
Please don't think that no one is working to repair these odd stretches of non-road. Enterprising young boys have filled in some bits with dirt, and stand by the side of the road posing with shovels to ask for handouts. There's no way to tell if they actually did the work or merely found shovels to wave, but it certainly isn't an efficient system.
The border crossing at Namanga takes a while, as all of our belongings must travel (by hand) across the border from Tanzanian vehicles to Kenyan ones. I'm sure there is a reason for this, but it does seem a bit odd to move all of our things from one set of dirty green LandCruisers to another. We also switch drivers, presumably for similar political reasons. After applying stamps to passports (twice) and refusing to buy souveniers (innumerable times), we are on to Kenya.
At first sight, Kenya is much like Tanzania. There's a bit more English on the signs, and the national beer is different, but that's about all that is immediately apparent. More significant is the ecological difference seen when we enter Amboseli. This area is practically a desert, as it is in the rain shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Fine grey dust pervades every pore. The Swahili translation of Amboseli is "place of no breath", we are told -- I'm not sure that it is true, but it sounds suitably dire. We learn the value of handkerchiefs.
We arrive at camp close to 4pm, after a full day of travel and no animals (other than cows, which I refuse to count). Dinner and a shower, a view of a stunning sunset, and then it's off to bed. Hopefully the clouds will lift from Kilimanjaro tomorrow.