As I pensively stood over Wambua, who seemed rather taken by his craft, my thoughts drifted back to the precious Peugeot 404 under my care, standing by the side of the Naivasha - Nakuru highway. Would it be safe? Granted it was being manned by some rather unenthusiastic, if somewhat scatter-brained Ole so and so. This had to be the pits in more ways than one.
Here I was in Gilgil with six hundred shillings. One hundred and forty shillings of the six hundred was designated for Wambua, (once he completed stitching my tyre). I had resourcefully just acquired the six Hundred shillings by trading off my two un-used Yes! Phone Scratch Cards, each worth a thousand bob in value, to some rather unconvinced phone Sub-Dealer. I should point out that at this point in time, the early days of mobile telephony, Airtime dealers (more-so in Gilgil) were rather scant. As such finding any dealer who half-believed I actually worked in a position of influence in one of the Network providers, was indeed a tall order.
Just how I ended up in Gilgil town with the family Peugeot 404 by the roadside without a penny in my pocket was indeed stupefying.
I was returning from an upcountry weekend journey. I’d left my Dad back on the Soy/Kitale land to follow up late tenant payments. We had traveled upcountry with the very same French designed Peugeot 404, transporting building materials there from Nairobi. That in itself was an epic journey whose tale I’ll save for another day. As a result of the late tenant payments, I had left my Dad with what little I had for the journey back, for his upkeep. Luckily I had just enough for the Pick-up’s fuel to Nairobi.
Most of my Long journey’s had turned out fine so far. So naturally I had assumed this particular one would.….
I thought back on previous journeys: Weaving between rocks strategically placed upon the Londiani road stretch in the dead of night; Back to modifying a blown radiator somewhere in the heart of Timboroa; and even back to when I had waded through a raging storm one hand on the wheel and a cloth in the other hand to wipe my windshield after the Car wipers had been immobilized by the earlier hail somewhere in Kerio.
So why the two tyre blow outs all on one journey, I asked fate?
The first tyre blow was on the Nakuru State House Boulevard. This had brought a swift contingent of GSU men to verify I was indeed not armed and dangerous. They stood over me as I set a new record in tyre changing speed.
On resuming my journey, tyre changed, I had figured Nairobi would be another two hours away. Just as I climbed the escarpment before Gilgil I noticed a drag in progression. I wondered about this more-so when the rather tacky Japanese car I had by-passed a million miles ago overtook me. When seconds later the couple in the Nissan Saloon by-passed me all the while gesturing, it occurred to me their gesticulations didn’t imply disdain for me nor for my French machine. I slowed down and stepped out to confirm tyre blow number two…Back into the pick-up I got slowly trudging uphill, over the railroad track, and up to the Gilgil highway turn off.
As I ground to a halt, shredded back right tyre and all, a crowd of Onlookers, possibly friends and detractors converged in record time. Their theories on my big bang cum tyre blow, were phenomenal. I undid the tyre with the initial blow out from the back of my precious pick up. I frantically scanned around picking out Ole “so and so” with his Masai indoctrinated Kiswahili as the most trustworthy from the gathering Onlookers, supposed Friends and detractors. I somehow communicated to him that it would be great if he tended my pick-up with the sack of charcoal in the back. Wafula who stood out in the crowd with his beaming face and accompanying Black Mamba Bicycle was my next choice in terms of dilemma resolution. As he stepped forward I promptly jumped on Wafula’s bicycle carrier. I held the tyre as I sat upon the carrier, over enthusiastic Wafula pedaling at breakneck speed downhill onto Gilgil town for all he was worth. All the while we held what I thought a rather senseless conversation, Wafula trying to establish how people back home were doing? I had no idea how his people, let alone the animals on his peoples’ farm were doing. Come to think of it I hardly even knew where Wafula’s home was. We just happened to originate from the same part of the country.
So here I was standing over Wambua who nonchalantly whistled away as he occasionally threw in a jig or two while stitching up one of his acquired tubes and the first of my blown out tyres.
Oh yes! I made it back to the main road and found the 404 pick-up intact after which I further depleted by a hundred the money I had recently earned. Fifty for Wafula and another fifty for Ole so and so…Needless to say, tyre changed, I was glad to be on my way, seeing as evening was slowly dawning and another blow out on the Kinungi stretch of the journey at night would be suicidal.
Onward I ploughed with my journey muttering all the way, “Don’t Blow on me!”