There is a saying in my mother language that says, “Old age does not knock when it comes”. You only discover you are old when things you used to do so easily become hard tasks. Or when whatever you see reminds you of something similar that happened ages ago. You realise you are old when there are no more problems that come your way that you cannot identify and have an answer to. When you find that you have been there, seen that and done that and are still living, you are old. You also realise you are living within the bonus years of your life when your sight begins failing you. Not seeing clearly, but seeing the wrong things. This is the category that yours truly finds himself in.
After a long period of inactivity as far as tourism is concerned, I got an opportunity to travel to Maasai Mara with one of my local Japanese friends. He works for a Japanese NGO that promotes trade between the Kenyan government and the Japanese one. Time to time he gets visitors from his extended family and uses his Kenyan connections, which includes myself, to organise a short tour in our Kenyan parks. Before we set out to the park, I overheard my friend telling his visitors how lucky they were to be driven to the park by the director of the company, and one of the best guides we have in Kenya. One of the attributes he was stressing on, was the fact that, as he put it, I possess a rare sight capabilities seen nowhere within the wildlife safari world. That I can be able to identify a bird in flight, by just watching the silhouette. As I listened to him heaping praises to my guiding abilities, I kept wondering whether I truly possess the qualities he was describing. Granted, my bush life has sharpened some of my senses to an acute edge, but the years are having a toll as well.
We arrived in Mara in good time for lunch. Everyone was happy but I wasn’t. I thought the Narok-Sekenani road was worse than I had ever seen it. But when I complained to my friends about it, they just smiled away and told me to have a good rest. “The road is the same,” they said, “It is you who is not the same.” That statement caught me off-guard. No one had told me before this, that I had changed. I had to partly accept the observation because for once, I had never felt tired from driving from Nairobi to Mara, in an old Toyota shark with worn-out shocks. Now I was driving a brand new Land Cruiser fitted with eight shocks. And yet I was too tired to even walk to the dinning for lunch. Before, I used to skip lunch in order to save some money, and lose weight along that route. Now I was ready to skip lunch because the room was closer to the parking lot than the dining. Age had finally knocked on my door. But I still did not want to answer to the door. I was going to prove to myself and to the clients that I still possess my good sighting of rare animals in the bush. By the time we were to go on our first game drive, which was 4pm, I would have rested enough to entertain my clients. I dozed off while still planning the sequence of the game drive in my head.
I woke up 10 minutes before time. That was bad. I did not have time to even freshen my breath. I had to literally run to the parking yard in order to beat the clients. They were already there. For the first time, I felt embarrassed to have my clients waiting for me. I could feel that my body was not yet at tip-top shape. I humbly apologised to my clients for the lateness and quickly lifted up the roof and opened the door for them to get in. That simple process which ordinarily would take me less than a minute, took five minutes flat, and left me breathless with tiny drops of sweat running down my face. As I walked round the cruiser to the driver’s side, my heart skipped a beat and I felt very weak at the knees. The front wheel of the mighty Land Cruiser, was flat on the ground.
To be continued.