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African Sky

African Sky, originally uploaded by Robin Manuell.

We take a short cut back to the metalled road this time, the old radio transmitter and the Vodacom tower that mark the two highest points at Bujora a beacon in the far distance. Laurian’s House is a couple of minutes from the mast. Shegera sets a fast past, not so fast as to be winding but fast enough that I have to work to keep up. The wheels eat up the miles and we hit the road within an hour and rest at the junction chewing on sugar cane for the glucose.

We head off again but Cos struggles to keep up and it is clear he is having problems. He has a splitting head ache. We rest for a bit and then press on but it is too much and we have to stop again. This time Cos parks his bike outside a duka and lies down exhausted. He thinks maybe he has malaria and we start to weigh our options. He could try and get some medicine. He could take a car and get his bike carried. Shegera explains this is the problem with malaria, you have to get rest and medicine and in the heat of the sun with the extra load on the heart these things can kill you. Even fit young boys have dropped dead.

We sit around while various enquires are made and Shegera buys something from the shop. I am angry again because I suspect that what Cos is suffering from is dehydration and a lack of alcohol in his blood stream. I am hemmed in again by spectators interested to know what the mzungu and his companions are going to do next. I break free to join Cos and Mzee and I see that what they have brought from the shop is a razor blade. I point at it. What is that for I ask? Shegera explains that some people say that you can cut the vein in the head and remove the black blood on the brain. I am shocked. Who says that I ask? Some people he says? Does Baba Lau say that? He laughs; No Baba Lau does not say that. Right I say Baba Lau does not say that so we do not do it! I motion Paulo to get some water and Cos knocks it back, splashes his head and shoulders to cool them down. I get Paulo to fetch juice and some sweet biscuits for the sugar and we sit around for another 10 minutes until Cos decides we can ride on and if necessary he can stop a car.

We hit the road again and we are not far now from Kisesa. Cos trails behind but as the ride progresses he seems to find a new strength and when we stop to watch a football match being played between Kisesa and the village Ngongoro we have just visited he catches us up. Paulo has been signing to me that Constantine is all blah blah; that he drinks too much and is weak. His youthful body languishes easily across the bicycle, impatient to get on but still in repose. He points at the duck which he has now acquired as a passenger. Bata kidogo he says, In Kisesa I could have bought a much bigger duck for 5000. This duck is only worth 3000. Cos is all blah blah blah.

We complete the final mile together and arrive as light is fading. Laurian is still busy at the surgery. Business seems to have picked up since I visited him first time round and there are several people occupying the rooms where they can stay, resting away from home under his watchful eye, a couple of relatives sitting by to keep them company and to run errands. As soon as he is done we head out to find some food. It is too late and everyone is too tired to cook anything at home. We sit outside the large public bar away from the noise and the lights and are served food out the back of the kitchen. Ugali and chicken again but much needed. Laurian feeds me lots of Fanta, for energy he says, we have had a long trip and must have energy.

We start to head back to Bujora but of course we detour off the road to our regular haunt to pick up some thing to drink. I am feeling fairly strong, tired from the exertion of the day but happy in myself. Clearly though I have overdone it because when I knock back a small shot of spirit I begin to sweat and I feel nauseas. I very clear and emphatic voice in my head says “No more”. I stand up but I have clearly stood up too fast because I realise that I am in a different place. It is cold. The faces around me are white and they are drinking clear vodka from glass tumblers. Frost laces the windows and outside I can see the first settling of snow reflecting the clear light of a winter day. My sister is next to me and as I look at her, as I look around the room I am aware of the intricate tapestry that joins us. I know her husband, I know her house, and I can picture it in my mind, the walk through the village to reach it. I look at my companions and they are all so familiar to me, friends I have known all my life. I do not know how I know them; the knowledge has always been part of me. We are arguing quietly together, reaching a decision on some important matter but just as it seems to me we are in agreement I look up and see that it is dark again, the stairs stand out like diamonds on velvet and there are four black faces moving around me. Arms are cradling my neck and head while other hands hold my feet and someone slips a mat under my body. I move to say I am all right, that I can look after myself now but I realise they know what they are doing and I relax as they pull my sweater over my head and use it to fan air over me, cooling me down. Low murmured voices speak soothing words and as I lie looking up at the sky my pulse slows down and my temperature drops to normal. Later we continue up the hill to Bujora. I go straight to bed and sleep. I wake a couple of times during the night. Once to hear the sound of muffled voices and laughter from outside as my friends sit round shikomai: a second time when Shegera rolls a mattress next to my bed and goes to lie down on it. I strip the blanket I’m lying on off the bed and hand it to him before turning back to sleep.


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