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November 30, 2020
Wanderlust Diaries

What’s the most remarkable thing you’ve seen on the road as a long-distance truck driver?

My name is Ali, and I’ve always been a motor head. I’ve driven hundreds of African miles, but my all favorite road is The Great North Road in Kenya. It runs from Isiolo past Archer’s Post, Merille, Marsabit, Turbi and ends at Moyale.

But, first, some tidbit on me….

I literally grew up in an auto garage. I got used to hot radiator steam burns, oil spillages, gaskets, crankshafts, turbo heads and God know what else under the hood – before I could walk.

 

My father ran a family garage, and his father before him. I could drive before I learnt the alphabet, and, frankly speaking, missing school wasn’t a big deal, then. But, a careless oil smudge on a client’s car upholstery would earn you a fearsome spanking. Or, a misplaced rotary spanner head.

The family dinner table wasn’t the classic family dinner table. Heck, we didn’t even have a dinner table. We’d eat, sprawled on the patchy garage floor littered with pieces of a dis-bowelled engine.

There was a bare yellow bulb hanging high from the rafters – and, sometimes it would blow out. It’d be days before anyone replaced it.

Interesting Read: http://kuchorea.com/seasoned-lawyer-biker-takes-time-off-a-ruracio-to-dress-down-an-ego-bloated-prado-driver-who-bully-a-boda-boda-rider-off-the-road/

But the moments were magical. I’d spend hours listening to father rattle about this or that engine part. He’d periodically have 3 or 4 apprentices learning from him. He wouldn’t charge learning fees, lots of times it’d be returning favors owed to their fathers. Or, something else.

At one point, there’s an apprentice who spent months in our garage – and when he stopped coming, we wouldn’t know how to trace him. No one knew his name.

Well, I didn’t attend high school. I opted for a driving and mechanic course at the local Eldoret Polytechnic. For the papers. I already knew more about engines than they could ever teach me. It was both fun and exhausting.

Have you ever sat through a terrific story you’ve heard a few hundred times before? Well, that kind of fun and exhausting.

Fast forward a decade, and, a half. Perhaps. The garage still runs, and my father is semi-retired. Which means he likes to hover over my kid brother as he takes care of client’s engines. Kind of explains kiddo always got earphones on, blasting away.

I could never sit still, and engines are engines, anyway. I preferred driving, and took that up as my vocation.

Since then, I’ve been driving all over Africa for different clients. I have been in everything from commercial trucks and buses, Safari tour vans to executive, luxury cabs. My love, though, lies in long-distance trucking. Big, high-riding trucks.

A lot of remarkable experiences happen in these long transit runs.

Also Read: http://kuchorea.com/the-sibling-modelling-pair-in-meru-whose-dominance-on-the-runway-is-fast-making-them-a-regional-brand/

For instance, while with Red Cross, I was doing the Isiolo-Moyale-Marsabit Road to deliver supplies to a charity outpost on the Ethiopian border. This was a newly tarmacked road, into a hitherto unexplored hinterland. Travel enthusiasts were a dime a dozen doing road trips, and camping.

I had been on that road a few times, and it was an endless piece of obscurity – “Oh, look, more sand…..” ain’t that exciting, right? The road, though was beautiful. A straight line of flawless bitumen, and few cars.

On that day, just past Merille – a dusty, hot town just before Marsabit, an open-back pickup truck pulls up. We are not speeding. My truck is quite high up – am in a Mercedes Actros – so I can look down on the pickup. It’s an Isuzu D-Max.

It seems like a family, the man is driving, alone in the cabin. Nothing odd about that. What gave me a ‘WHAAAT’ moment, was that the lady was in the rear, open part – and a little boy is propped up on a mattress and cushions just behind the driver’s cabin.

She is deftly slicing tomatoes onto a pan. As they pass, I notice what seems like a modern kitchen-full worth of fittings on that rear part – perhaps, rivetted or otherwise fixed on the bed and corners of the truck!

Is the man driving as the wife cooks? Like, is this a family road trip idea?

A little ways down the road, I notice the Isuzu D-Max parked on the roadside. The family is sitting down to a hot meal! The wife waves, as I blow my air horn as I eye the perfectly browned sausage on her raised fork.

Is that an invite?

A perfect family moment, on the road!

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