Perhaps the only thing that could give me an upbeat mood like the one that I had that morning as I left Marsabit town is a thing that shall not be mentioned here for propriety reasons. It was the knowing that, even when I dreaded journey on a truck, I was definitely going to be leaving this town towards the border town of Moyale. To add to that, I was happy on account of the bike being given a thorough service by a very knowledgable mechanic and it rode so smoothly as not to be believed to be the same bike that had given me strange depressions only days ago.
Not even the blatant rip-off played on me by the touts and the driver could spoil this. I paid the tourist rate for this trip. That is to say I might have negotiated with the driver to pay a friendlier rate but he responded in his language, I think Borana, that sounded vulgar even though I did not understand a word of it. The touts, all young men, laughed. I guessed he might have said something about my freedom to negotiate with him if and only if I also intended to perform immoral favours on the him. Or something. The touts would never laugh at something that was not extremely vulgar.
We left at eleven in the morning. It wasn’t hot. Marsabit is a town on top of desert mountain ranges. It has a higher rainfall amount than the surrounding areas, which is not to say much, but it can get quite cold. It is usually foggy in the mornings and then a mid-morning wind, like today’s, blows and drives out the fog and in its place, whips up a red dust. It requires superhuman patience and insight to become tolerant, let alone fond of a town whose stubborn dust keeps getting into your eyes and throat. I was happy to leave.
In the lorry full of middle-aged people conversing noisily in a strange language. Sweet-sounding strangeness. Conversing about important things, I think. Or boring. No one laughed or frowned. The dusty journey was now beginning and with it the same complete denial of usual comforts usually experienced travelling in a vehicle. And an extra worry.
The driver of was a young man who had coaxed a most miserable goatie from the bottom of his face and a foul mouth to go with it. That combo came with a topping of a recklessness that we were made aware of when he started driving.
Our journey took us past the infamous Chalbi desert. There’s no place I have been or imagined that’s nearly as desolate as Chalbi. Sandy deserts with their dunes start develop a comforting appeal once you compare them with this place. A disturbing sight without any thing in all directions made more surreal by the distant mirages and aberrations of the horizon by the hellish heat.
Do they ever wish each other a good day in the desert? What would that mean when you lived in places like this? Perhaps that was why peoples living in places like this have elaborate greetings. Greetings that seek to know the latest status of everyone and every living thing owned; as if sure that one of the people or animals related to the person being confronted with the greetings has succumbed to the harsh indifferences of the desert. Typical greetings are as follows. “How is you father? How is your mother? How are your wives? How are your sons? How are your daughters? How are your cattle? How about your donkeys? The plague carried away our sheep. How are yours?” And it may go on like that for minutes.
The few diminuative thorn trees the started appearing as we came towards the end of total barrenness were a welcome sight. As was the report that we were near a small town. If I had known that we were to spend a night there on account of a sharp repetitive sound like a fast siren coming from on of the front wheels, I should have chosen other more improbable things to excite my future hopes. That is to say, we never got to Moyale that day.
I saw Moyale town the following day in the hot afternoon.