This is gonna be a long one, but interesting all the same. As told by my guest writer – James ithee wa Gathoni. Grab your popcorns!
So we decided to visit Meru National Park and camp over night since the last time we headed there it took us all day to get to the KWS gate. On this recent visit we planned to leave Nairobi as early as 8 am but as usual Brian is not good in planning so he messed us, we started our journey an hour later. That was mistake no 1.
Mistake no 2 is we decided to use the Embu route which seemed short but between Embu and Meru via Nithi we had to manoeuvre endless bridges and meandering steep roads. My heart almost skipped when we got to Nithi bridge. We get to Meru town, had lunch and bought take-away. These guys had by now gulped the four litres of beverage I had bought without mercy.
Fast forward, we got to Maua, asked a bodaboda guy for directions. He directed us but being ‘vimenyis’ we decided to use google maps. We took the wrong route which led us to the worst road I have seen in decades. We head back to where we had inquired from the bodaboda guy and use the route he advised us. It’s almost 5 pm and the gates close at 6 pm. Google map tells us we have at least 72 kilometers to Murera gate, our confident and excellent driver got us to the KWS gates a few minutes to 6 pm. We paid and we were shown our camp site on a map drawn on a huge flat rock which was marked as no 12.
We enter the majestic Meru National Park. We were in an animal paradise. Elephants, giraffes, antelopes and even ostriches lined up to welcome us, I bet this was to soothe us in readiness for what was ahead.
We are driving slow then we realize the sun is setting and according to the numbers we are following we have a long way to go so we decide to drive a bit fast to get to the campsite before dusk. We had rolled the windows down, tsetse flies decides to enjoy the warmth of inside the vehicle and of course a free ride in the wilderness. These things are big and annoying to say the least, we had to wrestle them down as Shiro and Juliet panicking and we couldn’t watch them go through such a trauma. Trishnar was sort of enjoying this because she didn’t want to roll her co driver window up. What an awesome co driver!
Finally, we get to point no 12 and take the only turn that was there, assuming it was the last run to the campsite. This is where hell broke loose. It’s already dark and all we can hear are crickets and funny animal sounds we drove looking for our campsite and ended up at point no 34, kilometres away. Lost, tired, drained and worried. The vehicle stops, we try calling KWS numbers. They are toll free but no one to pick on the other end. Juliet contacts a friend in Nairobi who works or has connections with guy at KWS. At first, he wasn’t of much help. At this point we are lost with no idea of where to go so we turn back and the guy Juliet was contacting sends a KWS Meru National Park warden’s number.
Just when we thought we were out of danger the worst happens. Our driver and colleague stops the car, switches his phone flash light on and peeps outside and boom! He says “guys, we have a flat tire” this is where I said “we told you not to drive fast in this rough terrain” but it is what it is. We are doomed! KWS rules are clear. Do not drive at night, we broke that rule, do not exit your vehicles at night whatsoever. What to do? The driver says ‘we can change the tire fast” as I imagined how in the movies wild animals pounce on prey especially at night, there was no way I was getting out of the car. We frantically contact the number of the Meru park warden and he says he will contact his fellow wardens on patrol. We wait for like twenty minutes, “which felt like eternity”, to get a positive response from our only human savior. We get a call from the wardens on patrol and the positively identify our location, the say they will be there in ten minutes. After waiting we see car beam lights and we start yelling and honking. They arrive and guard us as we change the tire and jokingly tell us we are less than 500 metres away from our campsite. We finished changing and dusted our hand, we feel so safe we even have time to clean our hands.
Alas! We thought we were good to go but the car ignition won’t start. They help us jump start and lead us to the campsite. We are received by the guy in charge of the campsite. He smiles as he narrates how lions came to his door, ate one of his rubber boots and slept in his compound till morning. We are to sleep in a tent and he narrates on how lions roam this part of the wilderness as the kings that they are. There was no way we were sleeping in a tent. Worse still, the power generator wasn’t functioning and the technician would only manage to fix it the next day. It’s 10 pm, we have not settled down, we have heard scary real time stories of the dangers of the jungle. We are shown our campsite, which is dark as a hell hole, we choose to sleep next to a swimming pool which feels safe though not really safe. As we turn to go to the swimming pool area, the car ignition is at it again, they help us jump start and we finally get a banda to sleep in instead of a tent. We lock ourselves in and joke about the day’s escapades, play a few games and at 1 am we sleep our worries away. I will let Trishnar talk about #15 some other day.
Part 2 coming.