never-ending car saga
It probably took longer than it would have in the United States, but we finally got our car fixed… sort of. A month and a half after we had deposited our broken vehicle at the repair shop, the mechanic called to say that it was ready for pick-up. And not a moment too soon – S had a friend in town and we had been planning a weekend getaway with her. We cancelled our plans to hire a car and driver, excited to have our own wheels again after driving a busted Mazda rental the better part of the last two months.
Thursday night, D took a cab downtown to pick up our Prado. A brief road test revealed an odd flapping noise, but otherwise the car handled fine. The mechanic diagnosed the problem (something was rubbing against the new front wheel) and fixed it on the spot. With the rental parked in our driveway, D left the Prado in one of the public parking spots on our compound and took the Mazda to work the next morning with the intention of returning it to the rental company. He was less than amused to discover once he got home that the front wheel, which seemed perfectly fine when he drove the Prado the previous night, was completely flat. We changed the tire and got the flat fixed so that we’d have a spare, but it was an inauspicious beginning to our road trip. Our uneasiness only deepened when we discovered that the brakes also seemed out of whack. They mostly worked fine, but every once in a while – especially if we tried to stop quickly – the car would groan and jerk forward as if something failed to engage properly.
For all our worries, the Prado acquitted itself magnificently over the course of the weekend. We had booked a stay at the Sandai farmhouse, which sits on its own private game ranch near the Aberdares National Park. After getting run off the road by the President’s motorcade (the Central Highlands where we were headed are his home turf), we got caught in a torrential downpour. By the time we reached the Sandai turnoff, the 8km rough road that leads to the farmhouse had become virtually unnavigable. The soft, porous dirt had turned into slippery mud, creating precarious gullies on either side of the road and deep furrows where other vehicles had passed. Even in low gear and with four-wheel drive engaged, the car slipped and slid as if it was gliding on a sheet of ice that had been covered in shin-deep soapsuds.
We cut short our stay at Sandai to make sure we avoided the late afternoon rains that threatened to resume the following day, stopping for a quick nature walk at the Aberdare Country Club en route to Nairobi. Back home, we took the car in for more repairs and picked it up for a second time tonight. This time, one of the mechanics drove it to our house. He claimed that they had worked out all the kinks and that they were returning it without any problems. Unfortunately, they also returned it without our stereo system, which somehow wound up getting left behind in the manager’s office. We won’t be sure until we drive the car tomorrow and retrieve our stereo whether we can finally close this chapter in our seemingly endless car drama.