Take 5: Rallying in Kenya
I recall making rally cars out of wire hangers and used metal tins with my brother. We dreamt of entering the Safari Rally in our dad’s Datsun 120Y. As part of early preparation, we’d take our hand-made toy cars and race each other within Doonholm estate, and during school holidays, compete against other boys in rallies run in what are today Tena, Greenfields, Sunrise and Savannah Estates. The first boy on the finish ramp had to stand on his car like we saw on TV, and shower in a cold Coca Cola that was intended to assist in swallowing the marble cake won. The rest of us settled for tropicals, patcos, KSLs and, if budget allowed, Big Gs. The whole operation was funded through the five shillings we paid for entry – a hefty amount at the time.
Every Easter, without fail, we would gather at the Outer Ring and Jogoo Roads junction to wave rally cars by as they headed to Central Kenya. Patrick Njiru drew the biggest cheers. He once – I’m told – slowed down and threw sweets at the crowd. I believe he was time barred in that rally. When my brother and I performed well in school, dad would take us not too far from town to watch the rally cars zoom by. On the way home, we’d entertain him with rally car sounds and ask him to drive fast, like the rally cars. If you ever saw a white 120Y coughing and wheezing down Jogoo Road with two boys cheering like crazy from the back seat – that was us! At home, we would keep glued to the radio to listen to the results from the check points as broadcast by VoK and made sure the tallies we made in the newspaper pull-outs were up-to-date and correct.
The first photo below was the first good photo I ever took of anything. This was in August 2006. I treasure it as I treasure memories of me, my brother and our dad enjoying the Safari Rally.
I hope to rekindle my love for the rally and indulge my son in the battle of man and machine against the elements. And maybe, finally take part in a rally with my brother. We’ve practiced enough.