No phonecards until next year
by Sarah Jane Marshall
In 1999 my parents were expecting their daughter back home after a three month adventure helping the Angolan colobus monkey(sub species palliatus) to cross the Mombasa-Diani Road more safely by using rope ladders.
Unfortunately, their daughter had failed to inform them that she had found a job as manager of a 5000 acre livestock ranch "somewhere near Mount Kenya" and wouldn't be coming home as planned after all.
"Somewhere near Mount Kenya" turned out to be a good four hours drive from Nanyuki, the town at the foot of the Mountain and the location of the nearest post office and public telephone.
It never occurred to me that these European-run farms had no telephones of their own, never mind mains water or electricity. Two months later, I ran out of supplies at the farm, justifying the eight hour round shopping trip to Nanyuki.
It was December. Nearly Christmas. While waiting for K.P.Aggarwal Hardware to gather the strange and varied items on the world's longest shopping list, I took the opportunity to join the queue at the post office in the hope of purchasing a phone card to call the parents.
Two hours later, quite asphyxiated by the aroma of nyama choma emanating from a nearby hoteli, I finally reached the front of the queue. "Please may I buy a phone card?" The man behind the counter smiled patiently and shook his head. "No phone cards until July". "Next year", he helpfully added. As night fell, I drove the heavily loaded bone-shaker the fours back along dried out river beds and drought ridden bush to "somewhere near Mount Kenya".
It was another six weeks before I discovered I could use the HF radio on the kitchen table to contact friends in Nairobi on the "sched" and ask them to please ring my parents. So the parents discovered roughly where their daughter was shortly before the Post Office in Nanyuki was resupplied with phone cards. There are still few land lines in Laikipia but the mobile phone is now ubiquitous.