Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The South Rift Valley, Bomet, Narok, Masai Mara, more.. and Naivasha (3)

An hour after leaving Narok we descended a hillside as the road wound its way steeply down into a broad valley. Down below in the valley ahead of us was the sprawl that was Bomet. I knew this because a few minutes previously, the young man seated next to me had in response to my query informed me that we didn't have much further to go. Approaching Bomet, we pulled up at a police checkpoint where a stern faced policeman clutching his rifle paced down the side of the vehicle peering through the windows, strangely staring down towards the feet of the passengers, probably searching with his eyes for some contraband that may be concealed underneath a seat. But this didn't interest me as much as the conversation that was taking place up front between the driver still seated in his cab and a policewoman who, also armed, had sidled up to him. I observed the driver hand to her for inspection a small bundle of documents which I presumed to contain his driving licence and other official documents for this commercial vehicle.

The policewoman shuffled through the documents, seeming to closely scrutinise one or two of the papers. Then a currency note suddenly slipped out from the bundle and dropped to the ground. It was clear to me that the driver had placed some money among the documents, to be discreetly extracted by whichever police officer it was who asked to inspect them. This policewoman seeing that her treasure had dropped, moved her foot gently to step on the currency note, moving her leg as little as possible. A fairly strong breeze was blowing so I understood why she would have been determined to keep the money firmly pinned down with her foot until we had driven off.

Seeing this, I chuckled involuntarily and I saw that some of the other passengers too had noticed what had happened, given that the man seated behind me had gone very quiet. He had since the commencement of this journey been shouting ceaselessly into his phone in a language that I thought was Kisii, but now with stretched neck, he too was silently peering through his window to see what this policewoman would do next. And then, as if to get us out of the way, the policewoman quickly handed the papers back to the driver and with a wave of her hand signalled that we were free to go.

So we drove on further into this valley, surrounded on all sides by hills splendidly covered with neat farm terraces that made for some breathtakingly beautiful scenery. I was somewhat annoyed that by this time the power of the battery on my smartphone, which had so far doubled faithfully as a camera, was so low that recording these lovely scenes in pictures was not possible.

Shortly afterwards, finally, we entered into the quaint little town of Bomet, the capital and largest town of Bomet County. This seemed a smaller town than Narok, but it exuded an aura that accords with its importance as an administrative capital. Just a few hundred metres down the one main road in the town and the bus turned left into the crowded bus station. We had arrived at last, this was where I would be getting off the bus before it continued on its journey to Litein and then onwards to Kericho. And Bernard would be here somewhere close by, awaiting my arrival.

Except that he wasn't.

It was only after a nervous 30 minute wait seated on a bench outside a cobbler's stall by the dusty roadside that I spotted Bernard in the distance approaching. He had seen me before I saw him, I could tell this from his intent stare in my direction. The battery on my phone was now completely flat and it had been impossible for me to inform him of my arrival and of my location. In truth, he had arrived at the bus station even before I did, but he had been waiting at the opposite end of the bus station from the end at which I was seated. He had been waiting at the exit, while I was seated by the entrance across the bus station from where he was.

Its not fair that the world does not permit people like us to run towards each other and jump into each others arms in public and in full view of everyone, because this is what my overwrought mind wished for. What happened though, was different. Bernard and I were meeting for the first time, but it felt more like meeting a long-lost old friend. The handshake was firm, the smiles were warm, the glint in the eyes was exciting and told of many exciting experiences ahead to be shared. But first things first.

I had omitted to make a certain payment at the hotel in Nairobi before I left and had received notification of this by text message during the journey. I was to make this payment by M-Pesa, the mobile-phone based money transfer service pioneered in Kenya with which I was unfamiliar. It fell to Bernard to put me through my paces, so the first thing we did together was to cross the road and enter into the Bomet branch of the Agricultural Finance Corporation, the government credit institution in Kenya that provides credit solely for the purpose of developing agriculture. They are also a M-Pesa agent. Having successfully carried out the transfer, there was the opportunity for me to have what turned out to be a very informative chat with the official who had attended to me. In our conversation he gave me some real insight into the work that they do financing local small-scale farmers. It was a predominantly agricultural community, he explained, and I left  his office with a greater understanding of the scenes that I had observed on my journey here.

When this was all sorted out it remained for Bernard and me to find a place to retire for the remainder of the day. The plan was for us to spend the next several hours exclusively in each others company, attempting as much as we could to make up for all that time that had not had together, which we felt that we ought to have had. Tomorrow, we would relocate to his home in Kaboson, a small community off the main road about  43 kilometres from Bomet, close to the Masai Mara Nature Reserve. So we checked into a guest house in town, but found to my mild annoyance that on arriving at the room that we had been allocated, the cleaning lady was still in the process of preparing the room. Proceedings, therefore, were to be postponed until later, so we put down my rucksack and set out to find lunch..

Saruni Camp Masai Mara

(To be continued)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying this.