The other night I was scrolling through a group page on Facebook and came across a car for sale advert. The number plate was all too familiar and suddenly a lot of memories came flooding back.

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The registration was all too familiar. (I remember a lot of number plates) You see, this was no ordinary Land Cruiser (Or Cruise Control, as it was nicknamed). Well, it was, when we first set eyes on it.

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Meeting Cruise Control for the first time.

I was one of the bloggers (alongside Tim Njiru, Karue Wachira, Naomi Mutua, Ahenda Anjichi and others) chosen to take part in #TembeaKenya, an initiative by Kenya Tourism Board to promote domestic tourism by educating Kenyans about the many beautiful destinations that they can visit within our borders. Sio tu kwenda Mombasa kila Easter na Christmas. But by the time we were done with Cruise Control it had become an archive of very special memories.  We had plenty of fun experiences in that Land Cruiser. Scary ones too. Friendships were built and cemented in Cruise Control. We learnt a lot about Kenya, and even more about ourselves and each other.

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In Mombasa

In that Land Cruiser, I met Francis Kioko a.k.a MakDunda. A very talkative chap with a pronounced limp, he knows every part of this country like the back of his hand, and he sure did come up with quite a few memorable quotes. The only place where he refused to accompany us was Kakamega forest, coz not only does he fear snakes, but he knew that if we all had to scatter from danger, he would be leading from the back.

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Francis “MakDunda” Kioko

Before I met Tim Njiru, I always thought of him as that annoying, quirky little chap on In Sync, an art show that I quite enjoyed watching. Obviously I thought he had a prima donna air around him like a certain TV anchor we all know, but that opinion would soon change.

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Omera what is?

We witnessed his ups and downs, and his resolve to pick up and keep moving each time a hustle didn’t work out. Once, Tim was on the phone trying to seal a deal with a very reluctant person. He really poured his heart out, coz he had worked so hard on it, and we knew how much since it was all that he talked about all day. Everyone in the car went quiet, silently crossing our fingers and praying that the deal went through, because Tim really needed it at the time. And it did.

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And we DRANK to that!

I met Karue Wachira in that car, a man that I’ve come to admire and respect in equal measure, not just for his photography skills, but for his wise outlook on life. A child of two worlds with wisdom far beyond his years. And a brilliant photographer to match.

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Kukaza sura nayo?

In that Land Cruiser, I met Muriuki Muriithi (aka Muriux) from KTB. A passionate golfer and photographer who loves his Tusker Malt, he’s always smiling and goofing about that many times it was hard to know when he was being serious or merely joking.

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Muriux got talent

But his photography is definitely better than his golf.

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What a miss!

We traversed the length and breadth of Kenya in that Land Cruiser. From Nairobi to Tsavo West, Mzima Springs, Shimba Hills, Mombasa and everywere in between. From Kisumu to Rarieda to Mbita. Then to Kakamega, Iten, Kerio Valley to Eldoret.

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Somewhere in Kerio Valley

In that Land Cruiser, we spent a whole morning searching all over Iten for 800m World & Olympic Champion David Rudisha. We found him…..eventually.

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Naomi and Rudisha

We got lost in Ruma National Park one evening while looking for elephants. Out of network coverage and fast running out of fuel, we had no one to call for help. We just had to trust our instincts and keep moving in the bush. We did find those elephants eventually, and boy was it worth it! Through every terrain that was thrown at it, from tarmac to rocks to gravel, mud and rivers, bush and whatever else you can think of, Cruise Control just kept on going. I doubt if Jeremy Clarkson and Co would manage to destroy it.

Naomi saved our asses when the jack slipped on very loose gravel while changing a flat tyre. Cruise Control almost tipped over to the side while Karue was under it. She pushed the car upright with all the energy she could muster, and in those two or three seconds she saved Karue from imminent amputation. I think photographers need to insure their arms.

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Puuush!

In that Land Cruiser we drank quite a lot. Nitasema ukweli. That ka Famous was probably mine.

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Part of the stash

Late last year, I was leaving the office and the very distinct Cruise Control passed by. I waved, hoping to catch MakDunda’s attention, unfortunately the car just passed and went kabisa. I tried to call him just to say hi, but his phone was mteja. I didn’t think much of it until I received an email a few weeks later from Muriux with some sad news. He had called the tour company to book Cruise Control for a safari, only to be informed that MakDunda passed away in July 2012 after a heart attack.

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Ahesh and MakDunda

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MakDunda & Ahesh in Mombasa

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MakDunda at Tom Mboya’s mausoleum, Rusinga Island.

The news was quite sad. Rest in peace, Francis “MakDunda” Kioko. You were a good man.

Well, I have no doubt that Cruise Control will serve its next owner well, and I hope that whoever gets to tour the country in it will also create lifetime memories just as we did.

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Cruise Control at Kerio Valley Resort

What’s on my Playlist?

Phil Collins – Take me home.