Thursday 14 March 2019
On Saturday, my neighbour Ruth and I decided to go on an early morning run. I confidently led the way, telling Ruth I’d show her a route I’d run a few times.
“It’ll take us about 20 minutes, it’s nice and easy.” I’d promised.
So, we set off for our “nice and easy”, 20 minute run at 6:30am. (I’d figured that leaving before sunrise would mean less children on the school run shouting ‘Mzungu!’ Yet, I’d forgotten what a friend here had told me – that Bzungu glow in the dark!)
After running at a good pace past a familiar row of shops, Ruth and I were startled by the sound of feet padding behind us. Clambering past us now, ran a long-legged, grubby wild dog and as he went ahead, he stopped in his tracks, turned around and waited for us, staring all the while. We then grew more unsettled to find two more long-legged, grubby wild dogs, tailing us on either side of the road. We kept running, encircled by this small pack of animals, with no other people in sight. I prayed for God’s protection and we tried to lose them. We tried to stop running to see if they’d pass by but the dogs stopped too; we tried slowing down but they slowed down; we tried speeding up but they sped up! They followed us for about 10 minutes before finally leaving us.
We breathed a sigh of relief and yet I had another worry on my mind.
As I’d told Ruth before, the run would last 20 minutes. Prior to meeting our new friends, we’d run for 15 minutes and we’d now run for another 10, but college was nowhere to be seen. In fact, I had no idea where we were…and nor did Ruth, but we kept on running. Everything around us looked the same – we were lost! And without a phone, I couldn’t even blame Google maps.
But what a beautiful place to be lost! The sun was slowly rising over the distant hills and we kept to the rusty red, dusty road, surrounded by rows and rows of deep green banana trees. The bushes and shrubs were alive with birds who’d occasionally show their bright, vibrant faces as they flew over us between treetops, singing all sorts of different songs. Yes, we were doing exercise and yes, we were lost but it felt a little like paradise!
Yet and all, I still held out hope that we’d end up on the right track again and so I ran ahead of Ruth to see what lay before us. After 100 metres, I stopped, as this glimmer of hope flickered away. There was an unfamiliar row of shops a little way off and we’d been running for about 40 minutes…we were definitely on the wrong track. Scrunching my nose up and shielding my eyes from the hot sun, I turned back towards Ruth, feeling thirsty and fed up. Suddenly, I was distracted by some shifting silhouettes, which caught my eye in a nearby tree. As I peered more closely, I was delighted to spot a group of monkeys, leaping amongst the leaves. In higher spirits after watching the morale-raising monkeys, Ruth and I switched between running and walking along the road. As we approached the new row of shops, Ruth asked the locals for directions. It turned out we were super far from college; one man suggested that we should get a taxi but Ruth and I were determined to get back on our own.
We passed through streets lined with tiny shacks, whose owners sat outside and watched us intently. Some scrubbed clothes, some hung out washing and swept houses, others sold fresh fruit to passers-by or cooked chapattis and Rolexes on the roadside. Later, I feared the wild dogs had returned as I heard feet scampering behind us. But as they overtook, I saw that the footsteps belonged to a couple of teenagers running along the uneven turf with no shoes on! They wore bright t-shirts and shorts and Ruth told me they were students in a P.E lesson. More and more barefoot students followed until Ruth and I were engulfed by an enormous crowd of them. One student took the chance to hop on the back of a taxi for a free ride as we ascended a steep hill. In an instant, as quick as they had appeared, the students had vanished. Off back to school they went; they knew exactly where they were going! Everyone was busy, getting on with their day, whilst we puzzled around, trying to get home.
We asked 5 or 6 different people for directions before Ruth could work out where we were. We walked and ran and walked and ran, past huge fields, past more shopping streets, past farmers carrying scary-looking tools and past gigantic ant mounds. We eventually left the rusty red, dusty road behind us as we reached the main, tarmacked road, which took us back to college.
We arrived back sweaty and exhausted after our 1.5 hour run but laughed about the fun we’d had on our adventure in the African morning sunshine.
I’ll write again soon.
Love from Laura xxx