The Out of the Way Road

My girlfriend Phyllis invited me and my chum to watch her troupe perform traditional dances to visiting tourists at the Animal Orphanage located within a forested area in the outskirts of the city, besides the Nairobi Game Park. She had boasted of some new dances that they planned to show and I promised I would be there to cheer her up. The dances were exhilarating and the crowd of foreign tourist went wild, applauding the versatile troupe and calling for encores. We had a superb time, drinking beer at the bar and watching the nimble girls gyrate to the pounding drums in the amphitheatre below. They say time surely flies when one has a good time. It was suddenly midnight and almost everyone had left. The barman called out for the last round of drinks.

The troupe had been booked to sleep overnight at a nearby club. We bade farewell to Phyllis and her friends and made our way to the road to wait at the bus-stop for transport into town. The road was dark with large trees rising on either side. As we waited for the bus, my buddy grew increasingly jittery.

“It’s dark out here” he said, frantically looking up and down the road for a sign of the bus. “Are you sure the buses are still running?”

“I think so” I replied, trying to boost his morale. “This is a busy road. We are bound to get some transport into town.”

” No vehicle has passed here since we came” He remarked. “What time is it?”

“Half-past midnight”

“Its late man, and we are at the edge of a National Game Park.” He should not have said that, for just then in the distance, was the dry laughter of a hyena.

“What’s that?” he asked clutching my arm.

” A hyena… I think” I hesitatingly replied.

It was dark and lonesome. We waited. It was now one o’clock. My initial courage was rapidly dissipating. My friend was rapidly deteriorating into a nervous wreck.

“Why did you let us stay so late if you knew we may not get transport into town?” I really was in no mood to get into an argument.

“A bus will come” I assured him.

“Look, lets go back” He said.

“But the place is closed man” I replied.

“We can wait by the door.. or sit with the night watchman until it is light. This place is dangerous, I tell you” My friend said.

” A bus will come” I repeated. Somehow I did not cherish the idea of Phyllis and her friends finding us huddled with the night watchman. What would they say? That we had no money for transport home?

Lights flickered in the distance. Was it..? Yes, it was a vehicle coming towards us. Our spirits were rekindled and we placed ourselves well on the road to flag the vehicle down. The vehicle roared to a stop and my buddy ran over to beg for a lift into town. The driver motioned me over and as I approached I noticed the driver was not alone. The vehicle was full with other people. The driver said in a rough voice:

“Listen here you two. This is our road. We do not welcome competition. We are going down the road and I strongly propose that you leave this place as fast as you can, before we return. If we find you here on our way back we will hack you to pieces”. The vehicle roared off.

My friend muttered: “Those must be nighttime thugs. They must have thought we are thieves. We need to get out of here before they return”.

I tried to talk him to walking down the road. He was adamant that we await where we were. If the vehicle was to come back we could run to the orphanage. We did not wait for long, for in the distance, we saw the lights of a vehicle. The lights came from the same direction as the vehicle had driven to.

“Is it them?” My friend asked in fear as he tried to pull me into the bush.

“I don’t know” I said. “It sounds a bit different”

“Should we wave it down?”

“We must” I suggested. “Although it is headed away from town, anywhere is better than waiting in this scary forest” I walked onto the road and flagged the car down. The vehicle slowed and stopped. I could see it was a different car altogether. I had hardly began speaking when the driver called out in consternation: “Hey, you…! Have you not been told? Get out of here as soon as you can because a pride of lions has just escaped from the park and are headed this way..” With those words he revved his engine and roared off. “Wait,” I shouted waving after him. It was too late.

He sped into the distance.

“We must go back immediately,” My friend said.

“We don’t know where the lions are,” I said. “They could be anywhere”. I insisted we stay by the road. Then the night was broken by a fierce roar. The sounds reverberated all around us. We crouched down in fright. My friend was mumbling prayers and cursing me at the same time.

At the distance, the headlights of another vehicle lit the road. The sound was unmistakingly that of the first. We quickly hid in the bushes, praying that between the lions and the thugs, we would be saved somehow. The vehicle slowed down. The rough voice of the driver called ” I don’t see them. They must have run off. The bastards!” The vehicle picked speed and drove into the night. We were just emerging from the bush when there was another roar from the lions, much nearer this time. We clutched at each other. The night was becoming one long nightmare.

There is an African saying that says that beyond every hot and dry drought season there is a relief in rain. I guess it is the same as beyond every dark cloud there is a silver lining. For in the distance was the sounds of a vehicle. A large vehicle. The deep rumbling of a bus. My friend shouted in relief. ” A bus! I hear a bus”.

“Careful” I said. I closed my eyes in a prayer “Lord, let it be a bus”

“Its a bus I tell you” He ran off towards the road and furiously waved the bus down. As we hastily boarded the bus, the conductor castigated us in no uncertain terms:

“You must be mad. Both of you. What in the devil’s name are you doing here at this time of the night? We normally don’t stop anywhere along here. This is a very dangerous spot for quite some time now. Not too long ago a tourist was attacked by wild animals. It was only last week that robbers hijacked a vehicle and killed its driver. You must be out of your mind….”

None of us had the courage to offer a reply. The bus rolled on, gathering speed and took us towards the city centre. Never was a bus ride so lovely and warm.