We had a new feeling and the idea of finding some way to escape from our daily grinding to some remote place. Normally, December is the month of celebrations of various kinds and hues. And nestled in this gorgeous season, is a treat of a musical performance by some virtuous performers. The obvious place we could find was Mombasa.
Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya, is the centre of the coastal tourism industry. By the side of the Indian Ocean, this hot steamy fascinating coast line, is at a distance of about 600 km from Nairobi.
The original Arabic name is Manbasa. In Swahili language, it is called Kisiwa Cha Mvita or Mvita in short, which means “Island of War.” There have been many changes in its ownership. It is separated from the mainland by two creeks; Tudor Creek and Kilindini Harbor.
One late evening, we were having dinner in a Mombasa Resort, watching locals dancing on the Taarab music, which originates from Zanzibar, has a prominent local presence. It followed by hip hop, reggae played in succession. Suddenly, we got a phone call from Nairobi informing that Niki’s cousin is unwell and has been hospitalized.
We had no choice but to take road route to Nairobi as there was no flight after 7.30 p.m. My friend Harish, who was in our group, with his brother, kindly agreed to take us in his car as he had to meet some important foreign delegates back in Nairobi next day morning.
We all understand that, in life, we have to be careful with respect to our health and security. We normally put the best foot forward to avoid expected dangers. We care for our safety together with the security of the people around us.
However, Harry was different. He preferred to invite dangers with strangers and rejoiced playing with it, and took innumerable pleasure in coming out of it. He was casual in accepting and playing with dangers while staying as cool as cucumber.
Once, in a restaurant, while having dinner with four of his friends, he tossed one fried chicken piece in the direction of the adjoining table, where three boys and three girls were having dinner. The piece went flying and landed right in the middle of their table. Harry got up and said to one girl in that group, ‘Try this one from me, much better than what you guys are having.’
A fight was about to start if not for the waiter who saw the commotion and came to their risk. The other well known name for ‘Harry’ was ‘Danger.’ And he deserved it.
I happened to know him since college days. He was one year senior to me. In class, he used to argue a lot with professors.
Though by heart he was nice with friendly and affectionate nature, in fact, he craved to combat with dangers at any moment.
On many occasions, he met with severe accidents and spent a few days in hospitals with fractured legs or hands. In hospital, he used to get very friendly with nurse and they used to rejoice his playful nature. But, his profound love and habit of playing games with danger did not diminish. In fact, as he grew older, every year, he came out with more adventurous acts.
Once, at his age of twenty years, he thought of creating a group of chick girls around him. Every day, he would park his car by the side of motor way and wave his thumb asking for lift. His intention was to get a lift from a cute girl and get friendly to bring her into her group. He also joined several clubs in search of youngsters, boys and girls. He worked for several months for his adventurous cause and also succeeded in forming a club of twenty boys and girls but it didn’t last long.
In a way, many friends and relatives admired his dare devil activities, some stayed with him for the very reason of being the act of strength and vigor. However, a few preferred to keep a distance from him to be away thinking them to be an act of immaturity and stupidity.
Settling behind the wheels, Harish started his Fiat sedan car. Myself and Niki took the back seats. The road from Mombasa to Nairobi was not an adventure road as such, and the degree of difficulty had eased sharply due to whole of the two-lane highway was surfaced with asphalt. The highway was broad but curvy. Harish started driving on the extreme dark road with his car headlights full on.
Harish, having know to embrace adventures in life, somehow, felt unadventurous to drive on this smooth road. After about half an hour of drive, he pressed the car accelerator to take speed, crossing 100 km per hour limit.
There was no obstacle on the way, and hence, I did not envisage any problems. When he carelessly touched almost 130 speed. I told Harish to slow down a bit, to which he replied ‘life is short buddy, so break the rules.’
The glow sign boards by the side of the road were reading.
Drive Slowly. Reach Safely. It is that simple.
Someone is waiting for you, at home. Reduce speed. It is that simple.
However, Harish had no effect on his mind or thoughts due to his routine adventurous nature.
All of a sudden, a wild boar crossed the road from nowhere, right in front of our car. Unable to control the vehicle, Harish banged the animal. The impact, with a single big thug sound was so ghastly that it brought down the car headlights, putting us in total darkness.
Unable to bring down the speed, driving in total darkness, Harish lost his control. The vehicle swerved a little and started moving downwards, taking us into the darkness. Our future was to be decided by an acute darkness covering us and we could imagine nothing as to where our fate is going to take us to. Complete silence took over us, could hear the heart beats pronouncing its presence. The vehicle kept on sliding further down and then suddenly came to a halt with a small thud sound.
This unique experience in life, whether near-death or not, shake our nerves completely. As a wake-up call, it warn us that we can’t take things for granted while travelling. We must slow down our pace of movement for any time we can expect an unexpected to happen. The virtual reality in life is often unpredictable. However, such incidents mark a warning signal for us to understand that we should keep our cool under such adverse conditions.
Thanking God, we got down the car, still in darkness, looked around all sides and then up, and oh la la!, to our astonishment, we found that we had travelled, in silence, a few kilometers downwards in a valley, covered with bush and short trees. No harm of any sort was done to anyone though. We could see a few car lights on the highway at a distance of some 500 meters high.
Walking up towards the road, we all reached the highway. One private car owner was kind enough to give us lift to Nairobi for us to attend to Niki’s cousin in the Nairobi Hospital.
The next day, Harish came to pick up his car, which was standing lonely in the valley, in silence, for over 12 hours.
Even today, we start digging our adventurous past with twinkling thoughts and keep discussing about our life with lions, silent ride down the valley, to say, ‘What really happened during our first holidays together, once back home in Kenya.’
Still, we both are passionate about food, crazy over shopping, eccentric about travel. Moreover, I love to be with Niki, my sweetheart. We both started travelling since our very young age, in fact, it’s in our blood! Later on, the five wonderful years as a flight attendant, allowed Niki and me to travel to many beautiful places around the globe and the shopping spree she went through at many places for bargain.
Niki and myself spent a lot of time camping and exploring as we drove our way in the various national parks in Kenya across these sprawling wildernesses. The three months we spent our holidays together were extraordinary, full of fun and perfect.
Right now, more than thirty years after we first met in Kenya, I’m in Wellington, New Zealand, with Niki, recounting our first holiday adventurous episodes, getting ready to head to Kenya, the best destination for adventure travel.