I alighted at the rough-pebble shores of Nakwakolea and jumped on my bike to follow the general direction that the few fishermen and village people pointed. In my unwise haste I forgot to wear my padded cycling shorts in case the enthusiastic admiration shown by my new fans got worn by my reluctance. That was my first mistake.
“You’ll make it to Loiyangalani by 4 o’clock,” they hoped for their superman and off I went almost whistling.
What I did not know was that Loiyangalani could only be reached by a meandering general desert route (not even a road in most parts!) that was about 110km long! I had barely done 15 before my rear derailleur for some reason got into the spokes and screeched me into a halt.
You never mistake the feeling in knowing when you are in serious trouble, in which I was – and this before I even started. The derailleur was completely warped and it seemed the end of it. No problem, I thought. I’d just push it and hope I’ll get there by nightfall. It must be a few kilometers, I thought. So I coerced my tonne-heavy bike through sand and boulders ever hoping to see the shining rooftops of the town from a distance. I met just one person in hours- a beaten herdsman who asked for my water by pointing and reaching out for it from the bike. He didn’t even speak Swahili so in much difficulty managed to ask where Loiyangalani was. He only pointed.
After another hour, I met another person that spoke Swahili and who assured me that I could quite possibly be the most lost person on the planet.
“Loiyangalani, my friend, is a place you’ll reach when you’re my age if you go on walking and pushing that thing like that,” said his fifty-year face.
A better way, he coached, would be to turn and follow the very clear footpath that he pointed to up to where it joins car wheel tracks in the sand and head left. It would take me to a village called Soit where I’d hope to find a car to Loiyangalani in a day or two.
“A day or two!” my soul screamed in me. I’d already lost more days than I could afford. But I had little choice and so I did it reaching the car tracks with much difficulty. The village I was to go to was another 10km away on the shores of the lake. Weariness, my dear friend, is better feeling compared to what I continually went through. I grabbed a few opportunities to convince any curious, but rare, onlooker to help me push through the sand even for a few steps. That included blatant impropriety twice: on one occassion, two women carrying small babies and the second, a young pregnant woman herding goats.
By and by, I reached the village and in much difficulty asked one old fisherman who had picked some Swahili somewhere along the way about the car that was known to pass through here and if I could please set up camp in their village. The car, I gathered, wasn’t coming any time soon. It only came to pick sun-dried fish of which there was none and there wouldn’t be for a long time. He then proceeded to lament to me how the lake had been rough for almost two weeks and that was what drove the fish away from their reach.
“However, if you want you can have the number of the person and you can tell him to come for you. He’ll cost you about seven thousand shillings”, said he and promptly summoned a little boy and sent him to a village nearby to go and fetch the telephone number. (Nearby but out of sight, must have been a few kilometres away) It took me a moment to realize that this might just be the cost of retaining my sanity.
All this time, I sat in the sand surrounded by a crowd of village people, not unlike a criminal having been cornered. An innocent self-righteous person who chanced to come upon me at that moment would be forgiven for being tempted to cast the first stone and ask questions later.
After a little while in an act of transcendental kindness, my consultant offered me a half-built manyatta in which to lay my head. He was a very forthcoming man too. He asked me not to expect any food. Of course not, is what I thought and went to my lodging where I dropped to the warm sand at sunset.
Dear friends, no man, woman or beast has ever been as tired as I was and I slept like dead till the following morning.