I would give a carefree laugh, nick another R100 from her bag and head out in search of whatever would help get me to manhood the quickest.
She still says this to me, but now I nod my head wisely and tell her she is right. Nothing angers my mother more than someone agreeing with her. That?s enough about my mother. I only mention her because I have discovered that hell is not a destination, it is a road.
More specifically, the road from Nairobi to Mombasa.
I decided to do the run at night because that way there would be no chance of seeing any game. There is nothing worse than going to another country to attend to serious matters only to find the bush cluttered with dumb animals standing around contributing nothing to the economy. It?s even more galling in a basket case like Kenya.
I climbed into my rented Subaru, bribed my way to the outskirts of Nairobi, slipped into top gear, reclined the seat a few notches and opened a cold Tusker with my teeth.
Dusk was falling. In a flash, so was I. Into a pothole the size of the Ngorongoro Crater.
By the time I drove up the other side, the moon was out. Then I encountered my first truck. He was ahead of me on a blind corner. The driver saw me in his mirror and hit his indicator.
At home, this means it is safe to overtake. Here, it is done to help oncoming traffic to gauge to the millimeter how much space they have before sideswiping each other. I wasted valuable time tearing acacia bush from my windscreen.
Hell's Highway meets Dante's Inferno
I also wasn?t expecting speed bumps leading in to and out of every town. These are not marked in any way. Nor are they the shape or size of normal speed bumps. These ones are designed to get your entire car airborne at anything over 70km/h. Several times I took off only to land in a pothole. It was insane. The Kenyan authorities have no idea how dangerous this is when you are trying to drink and drive.
But spillage was the least of it. Hell's Highway met Dante's Inferno around about the town of Voi, when I encountered what appeared to be a convoy of trucks and lorries evacuating what appeared to be the whole of Mombasa in a single night.
"?Fug this, I said, and jumped back into the hire car?"
I don?t know what they were carrying because their loads were covered with tarpaulins. Perhaps Daniel arap Moi had made a withdrawal from his Panama account to tide him over in his retirement.
My nerves, together with the shock absorbers, were shattered by the time I killed the engine and stepped out beneath a palm tree in the dark heart of Mombasa. I was hit by a tropical fug so thick that my eyes misted up. Fug this, I said, and jumped back into the hire car just as an anopheles mosquito the size of a cricket ball slammed into my window.
With raw malaria dripping down the glass I headed at high speed for my beachfront hotel. Veering into the space reserved for important guests, I flung myself from the moving car, broke my fall with a parabat roll and sprinted for reception where I plunged my head into an ice bucket, then tried to commission a fast-moving dhow to get me the hell out of there. I calmed down when management offered me a purple cocktail and free water-sports.
How many shillings to the doubloon?
Before leaving Nairobi I had read in the East African Standard that DDT was the weapon of choice against malaria so I picked up a pint from a general dealer in a mugger?s alley near the harbour and used it as mix for my nightcap.
The dreams were so vivid that I almost never woke up. But being a professional, I was up at sunrise sloping through the back streets of Mombasa?s old town.
Soon enough, Fayez approached me. He offered to show me something for a thousand shillings. How many shillings to the doubloon, I asked. He smiled from behind his imitation Ray-Bans and tapped his nose. Always a good sign, so I followed him.
It may have been the DDT, but I began getting The Fear around about the 97th step heading up a minaret in an abandoned mosque overlooking the boat graveyard.
The staircase was so narrow that I couldn?t even turn around, let alone push past Fayez and run for my life. He was right behind me, sweating heavily and chanting softly in Arabic. A pigeon had died on the very top step.
That?s the last I remember.