We had just turned into the wide, open plains of Solio when our car experienced an unexpected loss of equilibrium. We had been driving on a flat, dirt track, going approximately five kilometers per hour as our visitors tried to photograph a troupe of vervet monkeys. All of a sudden, the car lurched to the left and ground to a halt as if it had fallen into a deep ditch. When we got out to inspect the damage we found that the right front wheel had come unhinged and was sticking out at a 30-degree angle.
D jacked the car up and took a look underneath. Even with his limited car knowledge, he could see that the bolts that should have supported the wheel arm had snapped. We hoped the damage was not more serious than that, but even so we found ourselves in an unenviable position. Not only would there be no game drive that day, but the accident also jeopardized the rest of our travel plans for the next three weeks.
If a car accident can be called lucky, then luck was definitely on our side. There is no telling what might have happened if the wheel had come off while we were speeding along the highway. That we were traveling on a smooth, flat road at a negligible speed when it happened was certainly fortunate. Also, we were still close to the park entrance and within ten minutes a car drove by bearing one of the Solio Lodge managers. She called the lodge mechanic. S already had called the conservancy office manager and he also sent a mechanic. It was the Sunday before Christmas and we were in the bush, which ordinarily would have made it incredibly difficult to get help; yet, not more than half an hour after the accident, two mechanics were tinkering with our car.
While the mechanics worked on the car, some animals wandered by, as if to inspect the damage. Three Kenya Wildlife Service rangers also kept us company for a while and they took D’s family on a walking safari to see giraffes, which had appeared in the nearby woods, before returning to their camp. After banging on the chassis with a hammer for ten minutes, the mechanics managed to detach the wheel arm. “Just be patient, we’ll be back in 45 minutes,” they told us. Half an hour later, we spread out a picnic blanket and got ready to have lunch, thinking we were in for a long wait. To our surprise, the mechanics were true to their word. Less than an hour after leaving us alone with our three-wheeled vehicle they were back. They had removed the broken bolts, found new ones, and busied themselves with reattaching the wheel while we ate.
All told, we spent four hours by the side of the road. After the wheel was back on, the brakes did not work properly, requiring more fiddling before the car was drivable. Following the mechanics to replenish the brake fuel, we met the owners of Solio Lodge and Ranch, who invited us for a drink. We may not have seen much that day, but we were in good spirits by the time we left Solio. Our car was fixed and the owners offered to arrange a complimentary visit for us the following day.
We were too disconsolate to take pictures, so D’s sister picked up the slack.