This was one of those “what now?” situations that you need to anticipate and plan for while traveling in northern Kenya. I always have a Plan B and Plan C but had mistakenly not anticipated this turn of events.
I tried to call Kura on the satellite phone even though I knew he was almost out of power. I then called the BOMA office in Nanyuki.
“Call everyone you know in Marsabit and tell them to send someone to get us, or send someone to wait with us until I hear from Hodgson,” I said. Within minutes, she called back.
“I tried to find Hassan or Hakim, but I don’t think they are in town. Jennifer gave me her friend Stella’s number; she works at a local health clinic in town. She’s sending a taxi.”
The two men were getting closer and I pantomimed another phone call. “Oh, he is on his way? Great – I should see the car any minute? Thanks!” I practically yelled into the phone. I had no way of knowing the men’s intent, nor whether they understood English, but I continued my pantomime.
“Oh, yes, I see a cloud of dust coming over the hill!” Which I didn’t, but I was trying to will a car to come up over the rise.
I stepped forward and spoke to the men: “Jambo, gina langu ni Mama Rungu. Habari!”
Extending my hand, the men had to shake it, even though I could tell they were reluctant. One man wore a kaffiyeh and was fingering his prayer beads. The other had a large Christian cross around his neck. I tried to keep a conversation going while watching for the car. The men introduced themselves as Mohammed and David but that was all they were willing to say. I picked up my phone and texted Nanyuki: The men are here – please hurry.
At last a white car with darkened windows drove up along the airstrip. The car stopped in a cloud of dust with the motor running. The men stepped back. The window rolled down. “Stella sent me,” the driver said. Sarah jumped in and I loaded the bags into the front seat. The driver dropped us at a medical clinic and dispensary on a side street of Marsabit town.
“We will need a ride back to the airstrip,” I told the driver. “I’ll pay you now. Give me your number and I will call you.” Keeping up the farce of optimism that we would somehow get to Nairobi helped me keep the frustration at bay.
Once we were settled in the waiting room I called Hodgson again. “We’re working on it,” he told me. “Give me a few more minutes.”
It was hot. Every time a vehicle came by, it spewed up a cloud of brown choking dust. A motorcycle pulled up, blaring Ethiopian music. Hodgson called again. I could barely hear him but the news was good. “We are diverting a flight from Juba, Sudan. They will arrive at the airstrip about 4:20.”
While we waited, the lab technician came out and offered to go out and buy us sodas. “Will you also buy me one?” he asked. Of course.
I gave him money and off he went to buy sodas. Sarah and I were busy writing in our journals and the soda was a welcome relief. But now Sarah was running out of her clove cigarettes.
“I’ll buy you some cigarettes,” our new friend offered.
“Can you also buy me some?” he asked.
“Sure,” said Sarah. He returned with two packs of cigarettes.
“Do you drink whiskey?” he asked.
“What about a cold Tusker?”
Sarah handed him some more money and he returned with two Tuskers. As our friendly health care worker and Sarah enjoyed their cigarettes and Tuskers, Hodgson called to say the flight would be arriving at 4:10.
“Just want to confirm that you will pay the $1,200 for the diversion with your credit card when you arrive back in Nairobi,” he insisted.
“I’m not happy about it, Hodgson. The mistake on this is clearly MAF’s, but I hope we can resolve this later.”
We still had another hour to wait. “How about some miraa before you go?” Sarah gave him more money and he returned with a pack of the fresh leaves and branches that serve as a popular local stimulant – but only if you chew enough of the leaves and bark.
Finally, it was time to depart. I called our local driver but no answer. Stella called another taxi driver and Sarah and I said goodbye to our personal health care advisor. I hated to think what he would have prescribed next if we were delayed any longer.