A brazen robbery at his hotel gives Morris Kiruga a nasty jolt. For a while, that is. Soon he’s wondering if actually calamity maketh the trip.
The waiter was five feet away, hurrying towards us, when it happened. It had been a long day and a cold beer has
never looked more attractive. But then my phone rang. I was of half a mind to ignore it, but decided to check the caller ID to know whom I was ignoring.
I picked up.
It wasn’t her voice that told me something was wrong. She speaks slowly, with a singsong voice that forces you to listen. At first I thought it was my fatigue speaking. I thought I heard her say “Come check your rooms, I have been robbed.” I asked her that useless reaction to such statements: “What?!”
Just as the waiter arrived, I declared to the table that a crime was afoot. Or rather we were now in a crime scene. I might have been a bit dramatic, but then again I had just driven for an entire day to Rusinga Island on Lake Victoria, and then eaten a fish the size of my head. We hurried across the well-manicured lawns and into what would be a long night.
True wanderlust can be a curse, and yet for those of us who write for a living, that’s one of the reasons why we travel. No one really wants to read about a perfect trip, one where everything goes as planned from start to end. The fun is in the unforeseen events, the ones that destabilise our plans, and you have to continually adapt and innovate, and sometimes, just accept your fate.
Like that time I was on a trip to Loiyangalani, on the lower shores of Lake Turkana, and we were hit by a stomach bug.
The resort had curtains for doors to the toilet, and the trickle of water into the cistern meant at least one of us had to fetch water with jerry cans while one used the toilet and the other held on for dear life. I was on waterfetching duty because my bout was patient, but it hit me as I sat on a chair outside the room, and watched the starlit sky (in truth, I was running from the smell that was by now hanging around our room).
Perhaps we could have chalked this event, too, to experience.
But on reaching the first floor we found bags open and their contents strewn everywhere. While we ate dinner at
the restaurant downstairs, someone had ransacked several rooms. The thief had gone from one room to the next, using a master key, and then moved to the second floor and tried to break down a door.
They’d made away with phones, laptops, cameras, iPods, tablets, and money.
We had arrived just two hours before, dusty and tired but ready to bring the island down. Now, here we were sitting on the firstfloor hallway, trading random stories as we waited for the cops, and our hosts.
It’s funny how one of our first reactions to shocking events is dark humour. Like someone saying at least they didn’t steal her knickers. And another thanking the heavens he hadn’t charged his electronics before they were
stolen. We chuckled through parts of it, and laughed at each other.
My room was on the third floor so I had been lucky. But most of my colleagues weren’t. And if that was the first part of the night we would hate, what came after would be worse.
The cops were helpful at first, but other than hearing how this had never happened before, it was clear they were there for window dressing. Or rather recording the event for posterity, not to investigate.
The hotel? Let’s just say it’s been a year, and we are still talking about it. We checked out the next morning and found another place to spend the next few days, a nice tented lakeside resort with errant monkeys. Then, in between runs to the festival which had brought us to Rusinga, we took detours to the CID office to see whether miracles could be performed. They couldn’t.
But the night it happened, we still had some hope someone would let us search the entire place. The loot was too much to hide, and there hadn’t been enough time if the half-broken door was anything to go by. We wanted to go full CSI on the hotel, but that couldn’t happen.
So instead I went back to the bar and got a bottle of vodka. Then we sat down in that hallway and finished it. Our trip had officially begun.
Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at owaahh.com