"Ex Africa semper aliquid novi", quoth Pliny the Elder. There is some debate about what he really meant, but most likely he meant trouble. In this sense has the phrase been used most often since but I hope to reverse the trend and on these pages bring you the exciting, novel and curious out of Africa.

And wherever I am I hope to remain,
Ex Africa Semper Yours,

Friday, 4 September 2015

Loruk - Ruko

Day 2, Thursday 27th August

Start: 6:30
End: 18:00
Distance: 25km
Route: Loruk - Ruko

That night I did not sleep much. First there were the goats. For the few of you that have never slept in the midst of a goat herd, it must be made known that they make the most disconcerting noises; something between a sneeze and a fart. They also munch and rattle about, none of which is very conducive to a good night's rest. Secondly, there was the cold. I have opted to leave my jumper behind and while I was congratulating myself on this wise decision in the heat of the day, now I was bitterly regretting it. Finally, there was the uneasiness. Uneasiness of sleeping in the middle of a police camp and the anxiety over the commander's veiled threat that he will not allow me to continue my onward journey.

So when the first light broke, blue and pink over the lake, I decided to leg it. I packed slowly and deliberately so that it wouldn't seem like I'm legging it. Luckily, no one but one lone sweeper was yet up so I didn't have to answer any questions. I left a packet of cigarettes and a thank you note on the floor of the commander's hut verandah hoping that this would placate him and dissuade him from a chase of the unknown fugitive that fled in the night.

Loruk in the distance, my road in the shadow, bush in between.
This picture was my only reward for my
unnecessary uphill detour.
The road was leading conveniently north-east but I was worried about taking it. In my mind I saw the fierce commander waking up any minute and falling into righteous rage upon seeing my tent gone - and then ordering a hot pursuit along the route they knew I wanted to take. Leaving the main road was the only option to avoid that imaginary chase but that wasn't easy. The north side of the Lake is flanked by formidable hills, their ridges running north-south and their slopes rocky and covered with a thick bush, called locally ngoja kidogo, wait-a-while, for it catches your clothes in its little thorns and you have to stop if you want to let yourself free. The rock too, turned out to be sandy and brittle, breaking in my hands as I tried to scale it. After a needlessly tiring detour that left me scratched and sweaty, I returned to the road dejected.

I was not going to be captured that easily though. The road was steep and winding but that meant that I was not in full view most of the time. I had plenty of time to hide if I heard a vehicle approaching. So every 20 minutes or so I would abandon the road and with a trembling heart leap into the bushes on its side, crouching in the shade of some bush waiting for the vehicle to pass. In hindsight, that was ridiculous.

Despite this one-person version of hide and seek, the going was good. It was still cool and the road was comfortable. After a couple of hours I reached a shop. I did not expect a shop here. There were, or so it seemed to me, no people for miles around. But there it was, not only a shop but a bus stop too. This is where those from the surrounding bush who wished to travel out of the bush would gather to hitch a ride on one of the passing lorries or piki-pikis. There was a group of maybe five such hopefully passengers waiting already in the shade of a tree.

The unexpected shop
I stopped to chat. The men glanced uncertainly but the women and children surrounded me at once. I asked for water but they had none. There was soda though. I was led into the tin-shack shop and seated on a soda crate. I drank warm sprite and it felt divine. I bought some biscuits, for 5 cents a packet, and offered them to the kids who were swarming at the doorway. I talked to Magdalene Daniel.

Magdalene, mother of 9, to my right, random man to my left
Magdalene Daniel was the shop owner, she was 32 but looked 14 and had 9 children. In my current state I was also 32, looked 41 and had no children. Her oldest, 17 year old, was already holding a child of her own. At my age, she was a grandmother.

She asked me if I didn't have money for petrol for my vehicle.

Do you get many wazungus here, I asked? Not many. Not like you. In cars only.

I  paid for my soda and moved on, along the road that was now becoming hot and dusty and still was winding its way up the hills. I walked for another hour and by now was worried about water. I still had a litre but with the rate that I was now drinking, it would not last long. Plus the road has now reached what looked like the closest point to the lake and would now be slowly winding away from it, due east. I decided to make a descent from the hills onto the lake shore.

I don't know why I was convinced that there soon will be a downward pathway to my right but I was right. It was steep and stony but beautiful. It run under the canopy of tall thorn trees, a little zigzagging labyrinth, delightfully shaded. I had high hopes for that path.

In my mind it led to soft grassy banks overhanging a cool pool of fresh water. It didn't.

It was a flat beach of black mud, with razor-sharp white-washed stones strewn everywhere. Dead, ashen-white tree trunks stood in the water, a reminder of the lake expansion and now slow withdrawal. Fallen branches barred access to the shallow murky water, with suspect things slithering away into it with a plop.

It was oddly beautiful though. And it was water.

Three tiny and half-naked totos were on the beach collecting water into jerry cans almost their size. And when they saw me then screamed and run. It was a pathetic escape, as they stumbled in panic over branches and splashed water from their precious containers. I have never seen a child hysterically sob and run at the same time. I felt like an intruder.

There was nothing for it though, I had to get my water and boil the shit out of it. Literally probably. I found a shaded spot and tried to clear rocks from it with mixed success. I gathered firewood - at least there was plenty of that - and made a merry fire. Then I attempted to get myself water. On closer inspection it was also slimy and muddy but by that point I was committed.

I cooked it and added an iodine tablet. I took a massive swig, coughed and poured it out. It was disguising. Right, no iodine tablets from now on. They were past their sell-by-date anyway, I reasoned. I had them since my Mt Kenya ascent in 1996.

I also cooked some rice and added one of my onions and chillies and my boiled egg. That was yummy. By now it was high noon and everything was still and quiet. Soporific. I felt my eyes grow heavy and before I knew it I was sound asleep.

A frightening, yet oddly familiar sound, woke me...


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