Home' Travel News : August-September 2018 Contents 26 travel news august/september 2018
august/september 2018 travel news 27
Nevertheless we optimistically heated the soldering iron in a cooking pot, fuelled by
charcoal and tried to run solder into the cracks, cheered on by the assembled community,
now debating our chances of success. A lot of solder fell through the cracks and for
some time the project didn’t look at all hopeful but with persistence, spluttering and
swearing the job eventually seemed to be finished. There was extreme tension when
we put water into the tank. We all held our breaths. There was no leak. Encouraged and
by now semi-expert, we re-soldered back the bit we’d cut out of the top of the tank, no
easy job as it kept falling in, and then sat back and contemplated the achievement. The
community, by now somewhat slurred in speech, cheered the success.
Fine, I now had a petrol tank. Unfortunately a petrol tank without petrol isn’t a particularly
useful possession. Maybe I could borrow some from a passing motorist. If there was
one. We all went back to the car. I re-fitted the tank and tried to borrow some petrol.
Time went by. No car passed. No borrowing achieved. But then out of the blue, came
sudden salvation, the cavalry galloping up. A man walked along the road carrying a
bow, arrows and a guinea fowl. He stopped for a chat. He’d been hunting and had
passed the camp of a professional hunter some way back. He bet his guinea fowl
there’d be plenty of petrol at the camp.
I borrowed a bicycle, which had no brakes and a chain that missed a beat once in every
revolution. I was able to cycle along the road, brakes or no brakes, but had to push the
bike up a watercourse, struggling round enormous boulders, over sheets of shingle and
up little dry waterfalls. I abandoned the cycle and climbed on. I found the professional
hunter and his clientele all dressed up and ready to go out on a shoot. I told my story.
They said I looked a bit dishevelled and gave me a couple of strong whiskies, a four-
gallon drum of petrol and a hand back to the bicycle. Then I was on my own.
Have you ever tried riding a cycle with no brakes down a rocky watercourse with four
gallons of petrol balanced on the handlebars after a tumblerful of whiskey? Progress
was exhausting and very erratic and I kept falling off.
Back at the car I tried to pour the petrol in to the tank. It wasn’t easy, the can gurgled and
the hole wouldn’t stay still. However, eventually much was in and at last I was ready for
departure. I cycled back to Makindu where the community, still gathered in discussion
and reminiscence, welcomed me with acclamation and something sobering to eat and
drink. At last, bidding fond farewells to a now raucous assembly fully convinced of its
inventive engineering expertise, I trudged back to the car and set off gingerly, for Sultan
Hamud, fifty miles away, where I could get more petrol.
By now it was dark, but moonlit. I purposely ignored my decapitated schedule. No more
speeding. I was far too terrified my petrol tank might spring a leak and I’d have to start
repairs all over again. I had a headache and tried not to sleep.
Some time and twenty or so miles later I was approaching a hazardous point on the road
where in the past I had learned to be careful. Between high banks the road suddenly
dipped steeply, then turned sharply through a right angle to cross a dry streambed.
There was a sharp ascent and sharp turn on the other side. I was watching for it in the
full headlamp beam and saw it in good time. But there was a tree across the road. I
slowed to walking pace to inspect the situation. Sure enough the tree was between the
high banks and although completely blocking the road there was just enough space on
the verge to squeeze between it and the bank on the left. Trouble I’d have to leave the
hard road surface and run on soft sand. I didn’t much like that idea, there’s not much grip
on sand, especially going slowly, but it was steeply downhill, which would be helpful,
so I started to turn on to the sand. While I hesitated I had a sudden thought – why was
the tree down, there hadn’t been a storm. I looked to my right. There on the bank above
me was the biggest elephant ever built, its tusks the size of Cleopatra’s Needle. He’d
obviously just pushed the tree over for his evening meal and it disappeared down the
bank. Then I turned up, a couple of bright eyes, quite outside his experience, looking at
his dinner. He was probably the most perplexed elephant in Africa.
Cattle crossing - Kiu
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