Just the other day I experienced my first piki tumble here in Kenya. Ironically, as I left the house that morning I had the thought ‘wow, I’ve done well. Been riding a motorcycle here in Kenya for over 6 months and haven’t come off once!’ Evidently I forgot to touch wood…
The incident has been dubbed, quite fondly, as my ‘immaculate fall’ by my best friend. There I was, driving along the dusty road where I hit an extra dusty spot. The road had just been re-graded and, without the rain we so desperately need, had created a stretch of road where the dust was literally 3 inches thick. I slipped, and spectacularly faceplanted into the dust. Gave myself quite a beautiful wee hole on the face, and bent the cheap frame of my bike out of shape. Nothing a bit of detol and brute strength can’t fix mind.
The biggest problem with taking a fall, is now I’ve lost my confidence on the bike. It will come back in time, it’s not the first time I’ve come off a motorcycle, or anywhere near the worse, but even still it gives you a shake.
This got me thinking. It’s very easy to feel safe in your little bubble in life, then something happens that gives you a shake and has you reassessing. You can become too trusting of your personal safety. Too secure in the fact you are invincible. Unfortunately, we’re not.
Kenya has given me a few shakes likes this now. We live about 15 kms out of town, on a stunning 50 acre plot coated in grass and Yellow Acacias. It’s a little oasis out here. So quiet, private, spacious. and breath-takingly beautiful.
We went for dinner a few weeks ago now. Came back around 9pm, by no means late. We were plowing along the road in the big Pajero, about 5 kms to go, where we found ourselves faced with a gunman. And he wasn’t alone. From the darkness popped a man in front with a gun, firing rounds right towards us. We hit reverse, and from the bushes appear another 6 or so men, all armed with machetes, clubs and metal sticks, banging at the windows.
To be honest, prior to this incident I had never even heard a gunshot and it took me a while to realise what was going on. I had to be told to get down, and it was only in looking up to see an angry face furiously banging at my window, trying to break the glass, that I realised what was going on.
Long story short, we got out unscathed, the car a little worse for wear. But it definitely gives you a shake! I think for me, it’s caused more fear after the incident than during. Every pop in the night sounds to me like a gun. The power goes out, and I lay like an idiot in the darkness with my breath held, praying for the safety of light to return. It is, of course, easing off now, and other than being sure not to come home after dark, it doesn’t affect me so much. But it makes you reassess just how secure you think you are. Someone from upstairs is clearly sending down a message; don’t get too comfortable down there!
Sometimes our own safety is out of our hands. I was lucky in that instance to have a driver in front with quick reflexes. Had I been in front, the car would have been long gone and Lord knows where we would have been!
We can’t live in constant paranoia of disaster, particularly here in Kenya, you’d give yourself an entire head of greys within days. But at the same time, you always need to be on the lookout. Life is not always as it seems. And our instincts to trust all will be ok, are not always accurate. I think the moral of the story pretty much is; getting too comfortable is when the shit hits the fan.