A Trip to the Seaside by Lucinda E. Clarke
Looking back years later, I guess we were a little silly. No, we were a lot stupid. If the truth be told, we were downright irresponsible. As if our situation wasn’t precarious enough, we were about to make it a whole lot worse.
There were three of us, my (now ex) husband, me and our four month old baby daughter. We were in Kenya, unemployed and next to broke, when he suggested a weekend at the beach.
“We should see a bit more of the country,” he exclaimed. “Let’s forget our worries and go to the coast for the weekend.”
Now I could mention we were living north of Nairobi the capital, and the coast lay over 500 kilometres away.
“We don’t have transport,” I reminded him.
“No problem, I’ll hitch into town tomorrow and pick one up from Eboo’s car hire.”
He did. He also picked up Dave who came from somewhere around Toronto and he was off ‘up Africa’ or something. As far as I was concerned he was off the wall and drove me up it. He was hyper-excitable and kept shrieking about ‘pigs’ every time he saw a policeman or anyone in uniform.
My ex was not the slightest bit phased and we duly departed, along with Elizabeth the ayah, all squashed into an elderly Datsun 1200. So now we were five. Dave and Ex occupied the front seats in comfort, while Elizabeth and I sandwiched the baby in the back.
In the true spirit of utter naivety, we planned to buy food and drink on the way, and as we sped down the tarred road we flashed past the occasional tuck shop planning to stop at the next one. There wasn’t a next one and time was rushing on, it was taking a whole lot longer to get there than Ex had calculated. However to save time, the men at the front decided on a short cut through the game park. This was going to be such a thrill, they informed me, not only would I get to swim in the warm Indian Ocean, I could also rack up encounters with the big game. This was the real Africa.
At first all went well, as we drove through the imposing stone entrance gates and barreled along the wide dirt track which flowed alongside the river. True, we were thirsty, hot, uncomfortable and hungry, but this was the trip of a life time - wasn’t it?
We had gone maybe sixty kilometers when there was a loud bang and the steering went haywire. We ground to a halt, and after looking around for the odd passing elephant, lion or rhino, the boys climbed out to investigate.
Puncture, they announced. No problem, fix it in no time, if we would just hop out and keep watch. They did and we did, but as soon as the jack was removed, we all gazed in horror at the spare tyre. It was as flat as a pancake.
There was much discussion about what to do. No one was allowed to live in the game park; we had not seen one other car in the park and certainly no pedestrians.
The boys decided to drive on, flat tyre and all, maybe it would last until we hit the other side of the park and met the tarred road we ‘hoped’ to meet.
It didn’t. We did manage another couple of kilometres, but we were way outside the manufacturer’s recommendations for use, and it silently shredded to bits and gave up the ghost. The wheel buckled and we ploughed deep into the road surface for several metres.
Everyone hopped out and retrieved the original flat tyre, re-attached it to the car and off we went again. For another few kilometres we crawled along and then this too went to the big tyre heaven in the sky. And still we ploughed on, on the rim, until finally what remained of the inner tyre wrapped itself firmly around the drum brake. We were going nowhere. We were next to the river, dusk was falling, and we could hear ominous roars getting closer.
So, what do intrepid survivalists do? They build a fire to ward off the wild animals. Two problems with this, there were no trees and our only cutting implement was an ornamental penknife dangling off the key ring.
Dave had a panic attack.
I just knew my last hours had come. My life was flashing before my eyes.
Elizabeth had crawled back into the car and was praying fast and furiously and the baby was screaming its head off. She might just as well have been screeching “Come, eat me! I’m tasty!”
After a couple of tension-fraught hours, another car appeared, packed to the gunnels, and I flung myself at it hysterically, trying to post baby through the window. “Save my baby,” I sobbed out of control.
They refused, but kindly said they would inform the park ranger on their way out of the park, it was only about another forty-five kilometres. Before I could stop them, they’d driven off leaving us covered in dust.
Yes, we were rescued a couple of hours later, quite by chance. The ranger’s radio was out of order, but our good Samaritans had informed a local camp just outside the park and they sent out a minivan.
It took some haggling to agree a price (I was prepared to pay anything) before we were whisked away to the tented camp, bumping over a couple of snakes at the entrance.
Ex phoned Eboo’s from Mombasa, who were furious when we refused to go and collect the car for them.
Back in England, as I was describing this incident to a relative, she interrupted, exactly the same thing had happened to them! They had run out of petrol on their way to Torquay.
Not quite the same I thought, and changed the subject.
Visit Lucinda's author page to find out more about her and her books lucindaeclarkeauthor.com