Hold onto my skirts I did - wondering what he was holding onto. This seemed to be a bit of a longer ride than the previous two destinations, and a lot more bumpy. Finally we skidded out of Green Gables barn doors and onto the beach at the famous Mombasa Beach Hotel.
Leaving Green Gables was hard. It was like I didn’t quite get finished there. Maybe we could stop by the barn again on our way back home. But I didn’t have time to think about that now. Remembering what ocean I was about to dip my feet into was requiring all of my homeschooled knowledge. Indian! Yes. The water was clear and free of the abundant seaweed we had in the Puget Sound. There was a reef about 40 meters out which made for some really amazing waves which settled down by the time they reached the shore. There was a family frozen nearby, enjoying time in the water and the sun; they looked nearly as pale as I felt. Wondering if they had remembered their sun screen, I thought about ransacking their beach bag.
“Don’t worry, the sun won’t be burning your skin. We are on the equator and you will definitely feel the sun’s heat, but the rays will have no effect on the color of your skin,” Robin reassured me, almost as if he had read my mind.
“So why Kenya?” he asked me. “It’s hot here, there is a great deal of poverty, not a lot of water, they seem to be just eking out their existences day by day. Is it the people you are curious about? The animals on safari? Parliament? The food? What?”
Unfortunately, these were questions I was asking myself as well. Kilimanjaro was here in Kenya, right? Maybe I needed to summit that magnificent dormant volcano. Hiking 19,341 feet (ok, gotta get into the right frame of mind here - 5,895 meters) up into the stratosphere sounded amazing. “Staggering to half way up that mountain would be more like it though,” my realistic self chimed in. So, no, that didn’t feel right. Besides, then I remembered Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, not Kenya. Duh.
Robin and I began walking, which might sound weird but most people seemed to walk everywhere here. As we got onto the main drag into downtown Mombasa, I saw all kinds of people in that strange fixed state of not moving. There were beautiful women with mahogany skin, large, white smiles and dark eyes, carrying five-gallon buckets on their heads (how on earth did they do that?!), others carrying large bundles of sticks on their heads and children from newborns to toddlers wrapped on their backs. Then there were men, both young and old, pushing carts filled with buckets of water, two-by-fours, mountains of fruit, piles of rock, and even a family of goats. Most were barefoot and I wondered if my feet could ever become tough enough to walk over pebbles and prickers and dirt clods like these captivating people did. We walked past markets, hair salons, charging stations (can you believe they have an abundance of cell phones over here?), fruit stands, people selling water in clear blue water bottles or slingshots or produce of any kind and of course, Coca Cola in the middle of the road to the drivers of trucks and tuk-tuks and safari vans and racing Toyota Camrys. We walked past herds of goats as well as their herders, chickens out socializing, and children playing with balls made from a bunch of plastic bags wrapped tightly together. The landscape became more desert like as we left town behind and began passing by small villages. Here we saw school children returning home after their day at school. The only way I was able to tell the boys from the girls is whether they had on skirts or shorts, as all of them had shaved heads.
Soon I was dripping. I hadn’t realized how humid it was while we were on the beach and then as we began traveling I had been so immersed with all the new things I was seeing that I hadn’t noticed the sweat pouring down my neck and the backs of my arms, until now. My brow was sprinkled with beads of perspiration. I began to wonder where we would get some water to drink. While I was thankful for the wonderful meal we had eaten before leaving that magical cabin, I could not imagine traveling another meter without some water.
Seeing a woman up ahead near a sign that said, “Water 2 shillings per jerry bucket” I approached her buckets, anticipating some relief from my thirst. However, when I looked into several of the buckets, I knew that no relief would be found here for me. The water was dirty, a dark brown with things (I don’t know what things exactly) floating on top. It screamed “disease!”
“I need something to drink, Robin,” I begged. “Please, it is so hot.” He looked at me kindly then handed me one of those cool blue bottles of water. Clean water. One liter of life in such a small container. I was so very grateful. As I chugged down the water, he asked me where we needed to go next.
Then I knew. Of course, it had been so obvious! We had to go to the elephant orphanage.
“The what?” Robin blurted.
“I’ve heard about one of the few remaining black rhinoceros living among the baby elephants at the elephant orphanage. It’s near Nairobi. Is that far from here?”
“Only about 440 kilometers, Emma. But don’t worry, it will take us just a moment with my travel agent,” Robin reassured me. And then suddenly we were standing in front of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi.
“I know what we need to take from here, Robin” I said. But I wasn’t at all really that sure. Well, I was sure, I just didn’t have a clue about how we were going to take it home with us.
Together we walked through the orphanage. There were about 30 elephants here ranging in ages from a few weeks old to 8 years. One was blind, another had a damaged trunk from the hyenas that had attacked it after it had been abandoned by its mother. Still another had just arrived and had an IV inserted into a vein just beneath the ear flap. I hadn’t ever thought about doing something like that before and wondered just how tough the hide of an elephant was. Then at the back, I saw what I knew we had come searching for. Maxwell. The blind six-year old black rhino that had been abandoned when he was only a week old. He was huge, prehistoric looking, and yet seemed so meek and shy. I walked over and placed my hand on his horn, the big one right on the tip of his nose. It was rough and covered in dried mud and reminded me of my grandfathers really gross toenail with fungus. But this horn wasn’t gross! Of course he didn’t move when I touched him, but it was still a bit unnerving to be so close to something so massive. An animal I had never considered seeing much less touching.
“Robin,” I began nervously, “This is what we need to take with us. I’ll give him the cherry cordial from Green Gables to drink so that when we arrive at our next destination - which I hope is home - he won’t totally freak out. He should remain calm.” How I knew this was beyond me.
“Sure, Emma Stone. I’ll just pop him in my backpack and off we’ll go. Intoxicated rhino and all.” I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t.
Check back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to "Vaughn's Vacation Venue"!