After two weeks on the road, Morris Kiruga could only think about sleep. But a quick power nap had unintended consequences.
To tell this story properly, I first need to tell you that I am not one of those people who randomly fall asleep when travelling. I am a good, socially-conscious adult who knows full well the dangers of sleeping on the road. You might fall asleep on a random stranger or fall in love, for one. I also have an inexplicable fear of people who take photos of you when you are sleeping with your mouth open. That I do it to people is not as important as that they are always waiting for me to take a nap to exact their revenge.
In my defence, it had been a long two weeks.
A few years ago, I left my luggage in the lobby of a hotel in Naivasha. I didn’t realise this until I was being dropped off outside my house. I’ve lost a bag from an open boot once, but that was in the future. Nothing else seemed to be missing, so we started working backwards. I had last seen it when I placed it on the floor at the hotel. Then we had hopped into the car and gone to the mall to have breakfast and mingle a bit. I was tired.
For 13 days I had been part of a photographer-producer-writer team on a mission. We had covered thousands of kilometres, from Nairobi to Turkana through Machakos, and then all the way across to Iten, the Home of Champions. There had been long days and short nights, starting with early wake-up calls and ending with quick doubles of rum at the bar. Those days were spent either sitting in the car as it coursed through all forms of terrain, or holding flashlights and trying to make models relax for the shoot. In between I managed, somehow, to file a story a day and send a few tweets and Instagram posts.
I had done this once before, in 2013, but that one had mostly involved walking around Lamu Island or trying to sing along to the melodies of boatmen. It hadn’t been so tiring – but then maybe it was because I was younger.
Anyway, this next time was something else. I could feel my body shutting down by Day Eight but I surged on. Writing became easier, funnily enough, perhaps because I was losing all care for grammar and punctuation. Systems were shutting down to support vital functions, and I wasn’t drinking enough water. Even my triedand-tested solutions weren’t working anymore.
For example, I have always been car sick. Once, when I was kid, I threw up so much that the matatu driver drove us to a clinic because he thought I was dying. Over time, I’ve developed a few ways to fight it: chewing gum, being slightly inebriated and trying to fight off sleep.
But after 13 days on the road, even motion sickness ceased to worry me. Everything was just a blur as we had breakfast, so I decided to go to the car and take a power nap. A proper power nap – and I am a professional at them – should be less than 30 minutes. When I woke up three hours later, we were somewhere in Westlands. I had slept through as everyone else finished breakfast and sent emails, and as they went back to the hotel to pick up their luggage, and all the way from Naivasha to Nairobi. I hadn’t even stirred. No one laughed when I woke up, so I figure I also hadn’t farted or snored. Or they conspired not to tell me.
Now here I was, with only my laptop bag while my other bag sat innocently next to a table in a hotel 90 km away. Someone had nudged it on the floor so it was hidden by the table, which is how no one saw it when they went to pick our bags.
The kind lady at the other end of the line had an “aaaah” moment when she found it. She sent it down the next day, and I am now paranoid about leaving my bag on hotel floors, and I have added a new reason to the reasons why I don’t sleep (a lot) while travelling.
Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at owaahh.com