A TRIP DOWN 14 FALLS

Ayeiyah…Naona leo kila mtu ako kwa ma-J’s zake au sio,” Ken points out, specifically addressing Jhonte and I.

 

 

“Kama kawa boss, si unajua. Ni vile moja ni oriji alafu nyingine ni…” Jhonte responds, firing subliminal shots at my shoes and sending everyone else into wild glee while leaving his remark trailing in air like those bizarre banters with Eastlando born and bred hoodlums who say “Leo ni kuno…” and expect you to unflinchingly finish “Ni kunoma”. And, yes, the word he conventionally left out, I would presume, was Chinku; yaani China made. Or fake. Not legit. Of course I took offence, given how much I fetched those beasts for, but I just let go and let the man have his day. Payback will bite him in the arse one of these fine days when writing begins to pay, or when I con the good old man a good one, and I decide to spoil myself to a shoe shopping spree. Okay, now am just bitching, his were realer but you get my drift.

 

 

We are at Straight Bar and Restaurant.  Not that we’re here to order anything, we’re just awaiting the long overdue arrival of few more guys and the transport van before we set off for an adventure in Thika’s (in)famous 14 Falls. The waiter here at Straight doesn’t seem so enthralled by our occupying of ‘his’ seats [never mind we’re only sitting outside] amidst nothing but loud prolonged blabbers yet ordering nothing whatsoever, not even taking a single look at the menu, so he comes over to where we’re seated and asks for our orders. At first, we pretend like we want to order beers and Ken and I take him on a groundless twaddle about how ridiculously high their prices are to which he asserts that the prices are the same all over Juja. Now I hadn’t taken any meal yet that day [it’s almost 2 p.m. now] so I would’ve had a bite or two of their specials but I didn’t know about all these other fellows. I couldn’t just sit there eating while my friends feasted on tasteless saliva and the scent of my delicacy. Don’t even give me that look, my old man is just a high school teacher, not an oil tycoon. I can’t buy more than ten guys lunch; perhaps at F-Class where a fifty-shilling meal will keep you full till the next day but not here. Especially not with flabby stomachs like Ken’s around. Ah ah!

 

 

The ladies now are noticeably getting tired of the guy bugging us and we taking him round and round so this drop-dead beauty next to me named Loise [though she prefers to be addressed by her second name Wanjiru, or better yet, just Luisa] orders two sodas; one for her BFF [Jhonte] and another for herself. Not even one for me. Yet I was seated just right there next to here. Tell me people, is it just me or women can be really mean at times? Am just saying, no shade *insert Nicki Minaj voice*. A couple of seconds later and the matatu we had supposedly rented for the trip appears into the vicinity, moving at a pace sluggish than an overfed python, albeit jamming to loud music; Riddim, to be precise. I shudder and remain back in my seat as everybody jumps in. Luisa cancels her order as a satisfactory smile prints itself all over my round face. At least now Jhonte won’t get that soda either, aye? Good riddance. Karma’s a prick boys.

 

 

Everyone has now arrived, save for the other two ladies and one guy we’ll be picking up somewhere around Thika. Let me put the number at 8 damsels [Luisa, Brenda Mutheu, Jennifer, Florence, Brenda, Rehab, Rachel and Gloria], alongside four ninjaz [Ken, Jhonte, Sassuke and Son of Were himself]. Am totally feeling this ratio, for obvious reasons. Don’t get it twisted though, it’s never that serious.

 

 

I like being last in everything I do; except classwork of course [Omondi Were would slice my throat and feed my balls to his dogs in the village]. So I let everyone else jump aboard before I take the front seat next to the driver and Jhonte takes the one next to me. Then the exodus begins.

 

 

The whole 8:4 ratio thing is just hitting Jhonte right now. He doesn’t feel like it’s entirely fair. He wants us to balance. He hits up a few of his friends if they could come over but most of them are either in class or offline. So he turns to me and asks me to call up a few of my Team Mafisi goons but I can’t be of much help either. Mainly because am still reeling from the fact that I’d been robbed of my phone in town a few weeks back and I hadn’t bought another yet despite Chacha and Luisa’s incessant naggings that I get myself even a Kabambe to get me through my days. Can you imagine that? That I, chok Omondi Were achiel kende, Jaluo from the remotest part of Kenya; a place where night runners dine and wine with you during the day only to lob sand in your eyes at dusk, should ‘push’ with a Kabambe! Apana! No, Thanks bwana! Am oraiit!

 

 

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A twenty-minute or so drive later and we’re in Thika. We pull up infront of Nakumatt and the men are summoned in to see into the purchase of booze. Now am not a big fan of ‘colourless’ [for lack of a better word] booze or makali [as I hear they’re called these days. This Generation Y will kill us some day] so after we’re done paying for the Kalanov and Gold vodkas that we had settled on, coupled with ice cubes, I head back to the shelf and grab myself two ice-cold cans of only the finest; Tusker. Get me that any day of the week and you can be sure of a slot in my ‘Ride or Die’ list. Or just a few random mentions in my blog here and there every once in a while. Am generous like that, Thank You.

 

 

Ten minutes later we emerge from Nakumatt with the bag of ‘goodies’ to which the driver enquires about the other guys that we were supposed to pick up at Thika and Ken makes the call to confirm their whereabouts. From the look on his face, I can tell they’re not yet even in Thika. The driver is mad. We’re wasting his time now. So Ken calls again and they agree we’ll pick them up at some junction after Mount Kenya University. So off we go.

 

 

We reach the pick-up point and sure enough two more females enter [am told their names were Vero and Bancy]. The guy is to come in later on in the adventure. Everyone is at the back now; including Jhonte and I who were previously seated in front with the driver. Ken is popping [I’ve always wanted to use that word] the Kalanov vodka bottle and plastic cups with shots of booze are being passed round now. One is held towards my way and I pass it to the next person, yelling Ken’s name instead to pass me one of my Tusker cans. I alternate between small sips and laying my head against my arm on the adjacent seat for tiny naps, seeing as I had slept late the previous night banging a post [CHILDHOOD CRUSH] for my blog. Everyone’s happy, and so am I. The only thing keeping me from enjoying this journey right now is the driver’s insistence on playing one Riddim mix after another. I mean, seriously, we’re on the road bana, and it’s not like there’s enough space in this mat to Whine and Kotch now, is there?!

 

 

Then like he was reading my mind, the driver changes his playset from Riddim to HipHop and just like that, the whole mat goes into a frenzy. ‘John’ by Lil Wayne and Rick Ross is raging on the speakers and practically every Tom, Dick and Harry is singing along. I mean everyone, even Jhonte with his loud raucous voice, Flo with her sweet soft imported-like tone and Ken with his chipmunk-infested vocals. The mat is in broad disaster, ice cubs are being hurled all over the place and empty plastic cups are landing across noses and faces left, right and within. The murram road is deplorable, yet the driver doesn’t seem like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon. What is it with drivers and high speed on bad roads anyway? We don’t want to see your skills, just get us to our destinations safe and sound goddamnit!

 

 

We are at the gate to 14 Falls, we alight a few metres further soon as everyone has paid for their gate fee. Something between sh. 50- sh.70. I don’t really recall ‘cause I don’t remember paying. I think Luisa paid mine too this time. Okay, I think I’ll lay my obsession with her to rest now.

 

 

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Almost everyone is taking pictures now, only the few like myself who are having a difficult time holding their shit together are rushing towards the loos. Besides, I’m a self-proclaimed photophobic so cameras and I don’t really click that well. I take very minimal photos, like you’re about to see here. I don’t like my image too much out there, whatever that means. Am not your ordinary next-door neighbor. Am complicated like that. So while the crew is busy taking photos and selfies using Jennifer’s Huawei P7 [which I still covet to this day], I find myself wandering towards the water in search of inspiration. Something to write home about, maybe. The water seemed unfazed by my looming appearance, it kept moving on, albeit slowly, you’d think it was being driven by force. And the rocks etched beneath it, some slippery and ginormous, yet still holding their firm end of the bargain.

 

 

 

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It’s time for the adventure to begin. Ken and Jhonte summon one of the tour guides for their price in getting us across to the other side of the rock-laden water. He says he wants 100 baab. We disagree. We don’t have 100 baab. We only have sh. 50 each and we have to get across. He’s pissed. We’re bad for business. He walks away. Ken summons another. He also wants 100 baab. A bargaining session ensues in a language I can only assume is Kamba after which Ken announces that he’s agreed to settle for sh. 70. Fair enough. But we have to take off our shoes to get across. Everyone is insecure about just leaving their shoes lying there. Even Gloria, who confesses to me that she got hers for something slightly above sh. 200 at Ngara, is having the jitters. But the tour guides soon scrap off any bad vibes that we’re having about the security and assure us that our shoes will be right there with them when we get back. We comply, then get into a long line while holding hands in preparation for crossing the gloomy waters.

 

 

 

 

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Bancy is at the very starting point of the line, after the tour guide of course…who is holding her hands just tightly enough. Brave girl right there, she didn’t seem to have any problem the whole way and at one point even stopped to laugh at how indolently the ‘back-benchers’ were moving. On the other hand, Brenda steps on the rocks for a second and decides there’s no way in hell she’s going across that water. We try to convince her to brave her fears but she’s having none of it. She’s not going across the water on foot and that’s that. There’s nothing we can do about it. So she goes downstream where the boats are for a ride across, where we’ll later meet up with her.

 

 

After Bancy cones Jhonte, Jenny ‘from the block’, Rachel, Rehab, Ken, Vero, Sassuke, Brenda Mutheu, Florence, Luisa, then the Son of Were and Gloria at the extreme end, in some order close to that. I don’t even know why she insisted on being last, that should have been my spot. But I just let her have it her way. Not that I didn’t regret it.

 

 

Gloria is one fun character, take that to the bank. Especially when she’s had a tad too much to drink. She’s talkative, but never boring. You can listen to her crazy stories all day long and still feel like not a second of your time was wasted. But when she starts tickling you and cracking jokes while you’re crossing the water with your feet standing on slippery rocks below the water, you’ll find yourself torn between laughing and risking a fall or just striking the living hell out of her. But my old man taught me better, you can never raise your hands on a lady. Heck, I never even raise my hands on anyone. In his piece, ‘Copywriting for dummies’, Magunga Williams taught me to pick up my pen and write whenever am scorned, not throw punches.

 

 

All is going well. Everyone seems to be moving along just fine. Gloria and I are having the time of our lives back here, she’s laughing and talking and laughing again. Am just laughing. Then out of the blue Gloria trips and falls into the water right behind me, almost tripping me too in the process. I try to pull her up but my strength seems to have flown off to a world yonder. Luckily [for both of us] a tour guide is nearby and he rushes to the rescue. You’d think she had learnt her lesson and would go mum from now on but NO! Gloria is still laughing, even harder than before. I mean, really, sweetheart, you almost just got swept away by the murky waters and you’re still laughing? Who does that? Only Gloria. Only in Kenya! One helluva character, this Gloria person.

 

 

A couple of minutes later and Florence is having a hard time keeping her balance too. Her leg falls deep into the water but she’s stable enough and manages to hold on till the nearest tour guide comes and helps her up. Unlike Gloria, she doesn’t really fall. But she’s laughing too. Only one of two things is happening here; The vodka is taking its toll on people or guys around here just don’t care much for their lives.

 

 

Otherwise, there are no more glitches. Bancy, Jhonte, Jenny, Rachel, Ken, Rehab, Vero and the guides at the front can now be seen standing on the gigantic rocks enjoying the colossal sunshine on the other side. They’ve made it through. Successfully. Brenda Mutheu, Florence, Sassuke, Luisa, Gloria and I are still struggling to pass but we make it through in no time as well.

 

 

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We find some high school kids on the other side just hanging loosely, thirsty for photos with the ladies you’d think they were some hotshot celebrities. The ladies are generous enough to pose with them. Then they leave. And more pictures are taken.

 

 

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Now it’s time for us to find a spot and bond. Oh who am I kidding, we’re looking for a spot to drink and get wasted. Then take more pics till darkness begins to appear in the vicinity. Ken [who seemingly has taken the role as chief alcohol distributor] pops the remaining Gold vodka and passes shots around for everyone. I take one this time. Jhonte then unleashes a 10 litre bottle containing punch and fills up everyone’s cups. We drink. We make merry. We laugh. We shout. And we pose for even more pics.

 

 

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I take a spot behind the people with just my cup of punch and can of Tusker and enjoy the scenery in utter silence. Luisa sees me just sitting there all alone and comes over for a chat. She asks why am so far from everybody else and I tell her that’s just who I am; I like keeping to myself a lot. It’s a bad habit I picked up along the way but one that’s becoming too hard to scrap off .The guys think am being a snub but I tell them am just about having as much fun watching the falls as they are getting wasted and posing for snaps. They ain’t buying that. It just sounds stupid. I love my peace guys, why is it so hard for people to understand that?  They insist I join them, that we came together so we make merry together. Am out of options here. I don’t want to make a bad impression either so what the hell? I join them. Jenny invites me over for a pic and I duly agree. You can never turn down a beautiful woman, even if she asks you to just help her put her feet into her shoes. It’s always an honor. Ken pours me another drink and we live it up.

 

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Darkness is fast setting. The tour guides are getting impatient, that they want to close up shop so we should pay them and let them go. They’re even scaring us with tales of how it’s about this time of the night that the wild animals start coming out and scoping for prey. And it works just fine. But before we cross over in the boat, I manage to grab a quick interview with one of the tour guides, a certain Samuel presumably, [take note am high at this point] after lying to him that am with the media and this interview will be put in the papers soon. I have never known I could pull off such a lie before; the guy practically subjects himself to my queries, answering with the precision akin only to one Abduba Dida during the last Presidential debate.

 

 

I ask where he got the numerous bruises on his face to which he replies that he sustained them while rescuing some kid who had tripped and fell and was being swept down the falls by the water. He says in appreciation, the guy paid him Sh. 600. Out of his own volition. I then ask how much he takes home and he says on a good day he gets around Ksh. 15000 and above but not less than Ksh. 12000 even on the worst day. He complains about some of the visitors being careless and not ready to listen to them but when they get into trouble, it’s still their job to rescue them. They can’t let them die just because they refused to heed some minute piece of advice. I pat him on the back, tell him he has a good heart then I jump into the boat not wanting the booze to get a firmer grip on me and take my seat. Next to Luisa. [P.S: Don’t ask questions I don’t have the answers to.]

 

 

As we row across, Jennifer and Ken mimick DJ Nakumatt; the grey haired old fogey who does mixes using nothing but his mouth. No decks, no computers. Just his lips. I mean, who does that? Do whatever you can people, ply your trade the way only you know best. These days you never can tell what could be your 15 seconds of fame. Ask Vera Sidika.

 

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Once again, Luisa pays for my boat ride. Right now I’m probably thinking I might have been too quick to judge back at the restaurant, she cleans up pretty well after all.

 

 

Meanwhile, on the other side, the grass is sharp as hell, poking our feet as we walk on by. But some of us come from those sides of the lake where this is as normal as Chinese feeding on snakes so we’re having no trouble at all. Luisa [God knows I’ve mentioned this name too much already], on the other hand, is literally walking on her toes. I offer to carry her to softer ground but no, she won’t have any help. She’d rather make it across dead on her own than be carried shoulder high by the Son of Were. This is the part where you say, “Asiyesikia la mkuu…” then you walk away.

 

 

Am having a conversation with Ken right about now. The topic of discussion is women. He advises me to never show a girl I love her too much. ‘Cause then she’ll take advantage and show me madharau. Ken loves his girlfriend, that much I know. Too much, even. But she had done something to him he didn’t like. And Ken is my friend, so I won’t air his relationship’s laundry here. I respect him way too much for that. I respect all my friends way too much. But ladies, just like you, we men too are sensitive. We love you, but that shouldn’t be a reason to start getting too cosy. Appreciate us, just as we appreciate you. Relationships, like love, are a two-way traffic.

 

 

The mat for transport back to Juja has now arrived. People are drunk here. And the driver isn’t in a hurry anymore, he’s finished his route for the day. Which is a good thing ‘cause guys here don’t feel like leaving just yet. At least not before getting their freaky on. So they insist the driver turns up the music and they dance the hour away. The men are having a merry here, because the ladies are almost double their number. You can dance with whoever you choose. But Son of Were is not a very good dancer, so I opt instead to keep my distance and just watch the jolly fellows get down. Only hoping the good ol’ Man Above daen’t unleash His untimely wrath on us. You’d think people had danced enough by the time we are leaving but no. Hips continued to sway even inside the matatu. How do you dance in a matatu, you may ask? Let’s just say you don’t wanna know. Not right now.

 

 

All in all, it was a fun experience; Meeting the new people (especially the ladies), crossing the waters, watching Gloria and Florence almost drop their teeth, drinking like fish, spending time with Luisa (*coughs*) and the boys, et al. Adventures are not and have never been my thing but if this was anything to go by, I might just have found myself a new leisure activity. I’ll hold on to that thought for now though. Old habits die hard, after all.

 

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Blessed!