I’m driving our Land Rover Discovery for the last time from Loki to Nairobi. It has only made this trip once without a breakdown of some sort. It saved the best for last. Friday afternoon, while climbing up the mountain out of the desert floor, at sunset, the steering stopped working. Fortunately it gave me some warning, so I could slow down and begin to pull over. AND weren’t going around a hairpin turn when it happened. God IS good. After we came to a stop, I could spin the steering wheel like the intro to Gilligan’s Island.
It left me and my passengers with few options (and we tried them all). Martin, a friend of one of my passengers and local truck mechanic, even bunkered my idea of steering with tow straps. He ran ahead while I idled up the hill trying to move the steering arm. No good the cops came and shut us down.
So we had to hire a recovery vehicle to come get it.
Here I am again, staying in a familiar town with a non-functioning heap of steel and aluminum. I could just hop on a bus and toss the keys out the window…
In Kenyan fashion, my passengers proved to be super helpful and completely at ease despite the delay.
Martin took a lot time to make sure I was taken care of. I hung out at his house and walked around town. We talked about his family, how aircraft engines work, and his favorite diesel engines. He took me over to his church while they prepared for Sunday morning. I could tell he loved that place, and his pastor was a real person and welcomed us despite interrupting his meeting.
We pulled the steering box apart and found a bearing had come apart and the gearing was trash. I hoped the part would be available in town. Not to be.
The Land Rover dealer said 3 months. Other shops said about $1700 new, and $1000 used. Ouch. Then I remembered a contact I had from my LAST breakdown in Kitale and called him. He gave me a “bargain” at $900 new. It could be overnighted from Nairobi for $12. I didn’t have that much cash, so our finance manager worked a Saturday on my behalf to get cash to me. Humbling.
The part should be here in less than an hour. It’s bittersweet.
Bitter: I bought a Land Rover because parts are supposed to be easy to get. But in more and more places the opposite is becoming true. Most mechanics in Loki look at Land Rover parts like they could have fallen off the space shuttle. And obviously the prices aren’t that great.
Sweet: The steering could have died in a much worse place.
Sweet: Many friends have chipped in to help us buy a newer tougher vehicle. I’m driving down to pick it up.
Sweet: In my whirling attempts at flying, e-mailing, fixing, I don’t often ft to feel what Africa is like (beyond enforced obtuse government regulations, or the more abrasive / needy members of society). This has been a breath of fresh air. A forced slow down. It peeled the cataracts off my eyes to remind me who the people really are, the richness of their lives, full of generosity and grace.
Martin laughs and says he knows Isaiah. I’m surprised.
“There was a time I came to repair a truck in Loki. I also saw you. You were on a big motorcycle.”
I nodded and said nothing. Probably true, but I don’t remember. If he had greeted me, I probably would have greeted him back and quickly moved on. Now he has spent two of his days making sure I’m well taken care of. That thought cuts through me completely.
We call the car “the Albino Rhino,” but maybe it should be “Balaam’s donkey.” It has blessed me, but not in ways you would normally imagine.