Ann McKenna Fromm
WRITER: Books, Essays, Ghostwriting
Adventure in Africa
I set my first novel in Africa — Kenya, in the eastern part, where I was a high school English teacher just out of college. To this day, the sight of an old VW bug reminds me of the first car I ever drove there. I still remember the license plate: KKF-9. A dusty brown color, it already had 100,000 miles on it when my two American housemates and I bought it.
We decided to take it on safari from Nyeri to a beautiful white beach 2,000 miles away on the Indian Ocean. Would KKF-9 make it that far?
We teamed with two Dutchmen, Sjoerd and Lennert, who had their own VW just like ours. We could share parts, since it was unlikely that we would break down in identical ways. In tandem, we drove across Africa, through dry river beds, down the Great Rift Valley, dropping 6,000 feet over five days from the highlands along a series of plateaus. The bush was so flat. I missed the hills of Nyeri, and the hills of my native Pittsburgh.
We reached Malindi on the coast. Cocoanut palms dropped around our tents at night with loud, squishy plops. The air smelled so sweet, and I was in love.
That Dutchman, who still lives in Holland, has remained my friend over all these years.
We made it back to Nyeri, too, the whole 2,000 miles. One car got stuck in the mud of a riverbed once and had to be towed by the other other one. But we had only one flat tire between our two VW bugs the entire time.