It’s lazy Saturday morning. Two bicycle mechanics are sitting on a bench at their base, waiting for customers, watching their youth pass by without saying hi. One is squinting at his kabambe held together by an oily rubber band. He reads a message from his girlfriend who is 1000km away. The other chap who is his brother is chewing on a matchstick, wishing he was chewing muguka. An estate lad comes to have his bike’s puncture repaired. When the two brothers get paid, they buy a kanuthu of Safari Cane and bunch of muguka .All at Ksh 200.
After they have chewed enough muguka, the younger brother says that he misses his girlfriend who is 1000km away. You know how muguka gives people outlandish ideas? His brother tells him that they can convert the scrap metals and steel bars in their yard into a flying bicycle so that they can visit the girlfriend the following day.
The two fellows then welded the scrap metals from their garage together and came up with an ugly juggernaut. Then they went to a cliff where it was let off. The younger brother was the first to go off. Some hormonal soups were hissing angrily in his hips looking for an outlet so he took the risk. Men who achieve great things are not motivated by their love for humanity. They are basically motivated by some primordial desires like Oedipal urge to be in some girl’s bosom, to suck deeply from Mother Nature’s wells.Anywhow, that’s how the first flight took place in some windy town in Ohio, U.S.A, in 1903.The flying bicycle invented by two brothers high on a crude spirit later came to be known as the aeroplane.Ok,I made up the crude spirit part just to spice things up.
Thus the first chap to fly-the one who was missing his girl-was Orville Wright. His brother was Wilbur Wright. Orville Wright never reached his girl since his flight lasted only twelve seconds and he carried the entire humanities fear of flight in his heart but all in all, he tried. I am sure his girlfriend left him since ladies don’t like a man who lasts only twelve seconds but that’s a story for another day.
You can now see the reason I don’t like flying. I don’t trust those things that defy gravity. The plane was invented by two brothers whose main motivation was not to connect the world but to visit some swooning girlfriend.Heck!The two jokers were not even engineers but some school drop-outs from Ohio who ran bicycle repair shed that was rarely open since they patronizedcheap spirits joints when they got money. The fellows weren’t even schooled. Orville had gone up to grade 4 and was chased out of school for stealing steel rods. His brother had repeated grade 5 so many times until he gave up. Such are the fellows who discovered the airplane.
But there are times when one has to take a flight. Like when you take a punishing 12 hour journey to Wajir by bus, you just don’t want to go by road again. Your back is drained of all sinokio fluid, making it creak loudly like you were classmates with Methuselah.
Wajir airplanes operate by their own rules. But anyway, Waria businesses operate by their own rules. They are guided by informality and haste. Warias break down unnecessary red tape leaving only the basic structures needed for business to operate. Warias will do a half a billion contract with zero paperwork. When you work in places like Wajir, you become a part of this delightful informality.
Take for example some years ago when I worked in an office that faced the flight path to Wajir Airport. Such that I could see planes landing from Kismayu, Mogadishu and Hargeisa for stopover before proceeding to Nairobi. We would wait until the plane lands, close the office, go shower and then rush to the agent. The agent was an amiable fellow called Shukri who would give us ticket on credit. Most of the times he would be lazing on a mat behind his office taking hot tea in the hot sun, chatting animatedly with his friends. I would go holding 3K knowing too well that the ticket was 5K.
Hakuna shinda,wewe atalipa tu. No problem, you will pay later.
He would tell me even before I had given him a sob story about how my salary had delayed and I had to go home. He would promptly issue a receipt and go back to his tea and friends.
Salamia bibi na watoto ukifika Kenya. He would sign us off. These places do not consider themselves Kenya. Then we would take boda boda to the airport just in time for the 50 min flight to Nairobi.
The thing about business is that when you trust people, they don’t break that trust. They pay up. We would pay Shukri the soonest we got money, only to go and borrow a flight home again. Such are the joys that come with these small towns.
Unfortunately, the airline that Shukri acted as the agent for left the route. We were left at the mercy of rickety miraa planes or commercial flights which were quite expensive. Commercial flights also come with their own red tape about online booking that we weren’t used to.So we opted for the miraa planes.
You may have flown the Dreamliner to Pluto and back, but you haven’t flown until you have done it in a miraa plane. Those tiny things that leave Wilson Airport for some windswept Somali cities at dawn. By 8 am they are on their way back to Nairobi, but have to make a stopover at Wajir airport. My first flight with such was an out of this world experience.
One, the thing was too claustrophobic for comfort. It only had four seats since it’s a cargo plane and they remove the seats to create space for the miraa.As we boarded the plane, we were only five of us. When it was about to take off, a Land cruiser came running in the airstrip, waving us to stop. A family of three was ushered in-an elderly woman with her two daughters. She looked sickly so we had to vacate the seats for them and sit on the empty miraa sacks on the floor.
When the thing took off, I came so close to hell that I could hear the cackling of hell fire in the hereafter. The tiny thing did a somersault, two cartwheels, twerked its ass like a slay queen dancing in an X-rated music video before it got stable after achieving cruising altitude. Which was not much of an altitude since I could see goats chewing curds in the plains of Habaswein.
They say that planes take off against the wind. Methinks these small planes should be excused from that rule. The panting that the plane did is enough justification for that. Alternatively they can see a Grogon mechanic who can fit a small turbo propeller or a loud Subaru Forester engine to add some oomph to those small thingies.
But the take-of scare was nothing compared to when we came to that Ngong Hills circuit. The colonial aviation engineer who designed that airplane route that dictates airplanes have to go all the way to Ngong Hills before landing was high on something illicit. Then, the thing was flying so low that the aroma of nyama choma wafted from Ngong below us. It was a particularly bad day for flying and the sky was heavy with fog like unshed tears.
We rolled from one corner of the floor to the other, like potatoes in an old lorry from Kinangop.Then the small plane hit this huge turbulence. We felt like beans in a can soaring through the air on a downward turn of a parabolic arc. My friend rummaged the miraa sacks for some miraa to keep from puking. Am sure in that plane, we didn’t have a pagan at that particular moment. I promised Lord that I will offer burnt sacrifices to Him if we landed safely-something I am yet to do.
Clouds may look all fluffy and alluring from down here-until you are up there flying in an old miraa plane and you hit one. You see, clouds are the souls of the rivers. Rivers that have been reborn in the sea, only to fall back as rain and become rivers again then rush to the sea. But the reason clouds are so menacing is that they contain tears. Tears of heartbreaks and unfilled dreams and such.
The small thing’s air brakes hissed and moaned like angry dragons before it hit the runway in JKIA.The crew had told us that we were landing at the less bothersome Wilson airport. Now, the cargo section of JKIA is miles away from clearance. Before they came to pick us up, a bus that had left Wajir was on its halfway to Nairobi.
They say flying is like throwing your soul into the heavens and racing to catch it as it falls. When you fly a miraa plane, you are not even sure you will catch it.Its the closest you can come to playing the Russian roulette.
Flying may have some macho erotic terms like ‘Set Thrust’ and ‘Ad Cock’ to make it look cool.They dont fool me-its not my thing.