3/8/05. Burnt Forest, Western Kenya.
The day starts oh so fabulously well when I'm stopped in Nairobi and asked to produce insurance which I just plain don't have.
"In that case we must take you to court sir" says the copper, resplendent in his Met cast-offs.
This also happened five days ago; on that occasion I smarmed my way out of it by blathering on about my pan-African odyssey and all that cobblers. It doesn't work this time. I am asked to step behind a police vehicle.
"You are a good fellow. Tall, like me" says the undeniably lanky rozzer. I begin to sense the choking, sickly fug of corruption in the air. Good news!
"Maybe you have some pounds or dollars..." comes the hint. My brain crunches through the lower gears into top. It so happens that I have in my wallet about $100 worth of Central African CFA from Chad. I've been to several banks and forex bureaux in Ethiopia and Kenya trying to change them and it doesn't work.
Outside Chad, it's useless paper, badly printed and childishly designed.
I offer it to Constable Badapple, emphasising its theoretical dollar value and skirting round the issue of its utter uselessness. He accepts - I run away quickly.
(Later in the day I actually buy some insurance. I don't think this scam will work twice.)
Heading for Eldoret near the Uganda border, the road climbs to around 3000 metres (nearly a third of Everest) and things get very wet and cold. The road deteriorates into potholed rubble. It's a bloody disgrace. 170 miles in it turns to rutted tarmac - a normal road with deep, wet wheel ruts. This is a new experience for me, so I fall off. I land on my right hand and begin swearing.
The crowd of 30 which has gathered by the time I get up alternates between expressions of concern for my welfare and distaste at my salty, Anglo-Saxon exclamations.
Eventually I'm on my way and shortly I begin to experience the chugging drag that means water in the fuel tank.
It's raining hard, it's freezing, my bike is hard pressed to do more than 15mph, the road is crap, I haven't had any lunch, I've just fallen on my hand, and there's no civilization for 70 miles. CRAP.
And yet, later in the day, after three Tuskers and half a kilo of barbecued lamb chops (65 pence) things seem a little better...
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at August 13, 2005 02:35 PM GMT