Not my monkey, not my circus
Although I had to crawl out of bed at 4 in the morning, as we sat in the van driving out of Nairobi I couldn't contain my excitement. Despite being told stories about what Rhino Charge is about, I was excited to experience it for myself. I no longer referred to it as Rhino Charge as most people did. No! We had formed a bond, developed a relationship and I now referred to it as the charge.
If you are questioning what the charge is, let me give you a short breakdown. It is an annual off-road motor sport competition in which participants are required to visit a number of points (Guard Posts) while traveling the shortest possible distance across difficult, trackless terrain. Rhino charge is an event hosted by the Rhino Ark foundation in order to support conservation of mountain forest ecosystems in Kenya.
This year’s location was Elangata Enterit Enkutoto. I had never been but it was retroactively added to my bucket list as we headed there. I couldn’t wait to cross it off.
Traveling with the Tarpo team, especially ours, is never a dull moment. We had a good time. Thanks to Martha Kisaka, Head of Tarpo Events and Marketing, we had plenty of food and good music to remain entertained.
During this trip, I learned Mr. Asim Shah’s (CEO) favorite phrase is NOT MY MONKEY, NOT MY CIRCUS. For whatever reason, it was amusing to me.
We encountered a small hiccup. The trucks we thought would be leading ended up frustrating us. They got stuck. Sadly, it was our monkey hence our circus so we had to spend a lot of time finding a solution. Because of this challenge, we arrived at our destination at around half past three.
The technical team, who had arrived earlier, already set up the Headquarters. We got right into business, offloading what was needed while the kitchen staff whipped up some food.
Thank God it didn’t rain.
The Realization That Reality TV Is Indeed Misconstrued
Have you ever looked at the world through someone else's eyes? As we prepared for the set-up, this is what I had to will myself to do.
Our morning began with cheerful greetings from the eager staff ready for a new day. I had to drag myself out of bed as usual. Although cold, the view was ridiculously breathtaking.
Mr. Shah had brought along a team of excellent professional who film some wondrous videos for NatGeo. They were shooting the behind the scenes footage for a couple of days. As soon as we stepped out of our tent, Mercy- the talented director- requested us to walk back to our tents and step out again since she needed a shot. Apparently, we looked like professionals. This was when the realization that reality TV is indeed misconstrued set in. A sad day for an avid Bachelor/Bachelorette fanatic. I have been in denial for the longest time.
After breakfast, Mr. Shah and several of us embarked on a journey. We scoured the entire campground in search of where the VVIP area would be set up, ending up in the official's camp where we met David Lowe. Mr. Lowe was the chairman/ Clark of the Course for Rhino Charge for six years. Sadly it was his last year, handing over the ropes to Don White.
The next ride was a trip down the campground where Mr. Lowe and Mr. Shah discussed the set up according to plans. For those who watch Big bang theory, do you remember the episode Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, and Amy had an entire conversation in Klingon and Ubbi Dubbi? Watching them work was like rewatching that episode without the subtitles. I could not envision their plans.
Later that evening, we spent time watching the sunset in HQ as Mr. Shah wrapped up his business. It was absolutely breathtaking. All this was followed by a nice relaxing dinner where we chatted about everything and nothing while James (the company comedian) kept us entertained.
Again, thank God it didn’t rain.
Despite our camp's scenic beauty, I utterly disliked how remarkably cold it got at night. Regardless, we had to endure. The thought of waking up to a phenomenal buffet breakfast honestly didn’t hurt either. We had chefs ready to whip up whatever it was we desired. I mean, this is the kind of stuff I only read in novels. I relished in the five start treatment.
Watching some of the project leaders take charge of their teams was another transcendent experience for me. It was an opportunity to appreciate the strengths of my colleagues. Walter Kibichyi, head of quality control and maintenance, did an absolutely commendable job holding down the fort. By the end of the day, I don’t think I had seen him take a moment to appreciate the environment we are in.
John Mutuku, Supervisor, on the other hand, was gradually becoming my role model. Never have I met a leader who commands respect so effortlessly. Trust me, it’s never a dull moment to watch him guide his team. Thanks to his leadership skills and the work ethics of his technical guys, what needed to be set up were up by the end of the day.
Our CEO, Mr. Shah, also had his hand full. He put on his work gear and helped set up the lights at headquarters while we stood on trees looking for a decent network in order to post pictures of him in his outfit. Lol! Millennial problems.
It was a good day. As I tucked myself into bed, the one thought that ran through my mind was, ‘THANK GOD IT DIDN’T RAIN!”
More people were starting to come in (competitors and camp operators), breaking us out of our cocoon. Who knew there was a world outside? This came as a reality check for the marketing team which meant we had to start setting up the Kid’s zone.
Our determination was palpable. We wanted to create a great space for the children. Somewhere they would feel comfortable and not desire to be with their parents because they were having as much, if not more, fun. By the end of the day, we had set up the obstacle course and the barrier.
Mr. Shah was kind enough to let us tag along and check out his guard post. They named it the Satao guard post which I now realize I don’t know the meaning or reasoning behind it.
Later in the day, the rest of the marketing team joined us. It was fun to initiate them into what was already our routine in the few days we’d set up camp at Elangata.
Unfortunately for them, we had work to do. Luckily, the food was astounding and the night was warmer than usual.
I was up earlier than usual. As I mentioned earlier, I was in reverence of Mutuku and his leadership skills. I had to be up early in order to film him. Part of my job description was to get as much behind the scenes footage as I could. It was only right that I had a shot of the technical team's daily morning meeting. As usual, it was entertaining.
We had to finish setting up the kids’ zone. What was left sprucing up the place and turn it into an attraction site. We sculptured in the kids’ zone for a couple of hours, setting up the PA system for the next day.
Our first visitor was a little boy by the name of William. He gave us a run for our money but thanks to him, we tested out everything and discovered it all worked perfectly.
Bar Set Up
We began the day relocating our flysheet in the Kids’ zone. The entire place was perfect.
The bar was being set up. This was ideal for us because we got the chance to get some amazing setup videos of some of our tents being set up.
Again, it didn't rain. Thank God.
We Were Immune to Their Charm
It was the day of the scrutineering. This is where all the cars participating have to be inspected to see if they’re viable enough to compete.
The marketing team had their hands filled with the kids’ zone. At first, it was a slow morning, but soon enough there were kids flocking the area waiting for their chance in the obstacle course. They were all very eager to beat the record which was 1 minute 22 seconds set by an amazingly fast young lady called Nina.
My boss, Martha, and I snuck into HQ later to film what was happening at scrutineering.
Since it was my first time, I expected it to be the life of a party but it really wasn’t. For someone who loves cars, this would have been heaven. For me, the kids’ zone was way more fun so we went back.
More children were still coming in by sunset. They were as energetic as ever, ready to do the challenges over and over again. Their competitive spirit was so adorable but we had to close shop at 6:30 pm, sending some reluctant children back to their parents. They were begging to do the obstacle course one last time but we were immune to their charm.
We had a nice dinner and a laugh at the bond fire. By the time we retired to bed, I was exhausted it didn’t take more than five minutes before I passed out.
Thank God it didn’t rain!
The Charge Is Here.
I was up by 4:30 am. We were instructed to be ready to leave by 5:30 am because we had to film the convoy of the cars leaving to their respective guard post. A little insight for those who are unaware about how this works, every car is part of a convoy that leads them to their first guard post.
My designated tripod carrier and I scoured the location for a nice spot we could shoot the scene from. We settled at the front and captured the sunrise together with every car in the competition. At times, we got distracted cheering on the teams leaving but we got some fantastic shots.
As I mentioned before, Mr. Shah’s guard post was called Satao. His convoy was the last to leave. By the time they left, I had decided the teams I was rooting for. The pink horns were number one because I mean, who wouldn’t root for badass women in pink? Number two was team 55, they were serious and focused- ready for battle.
After breakfast, it was time to put our work boots on and get to stepping. We were skeptical about the children coming to the kids’ zone since we thought they would be at the gauntlet watching. That was not the case. By 10:30 they were already coming in, enthusiastic to play.
Several kids participated in the obstacle course. By midday the children from the local community were coming in, eager to know what was happening.
James was really good behind the mic, easing them into the game comfortably. The rest of the team took turns playing with the children. Other than the obstacle course we had the musical chairs, guessing games, dancing games and so much more.
Half of us had to head up to the scrutineering area to help check the cars coming in. We had to ensure that each team brought back their first aid kit, flag, and some other things.
It was fascinating to watch the teams finish their day. Some were ecstatic, while others were just ready to end the day and have a nice shower. Some teams managed to make it to the last guard post while others retired.
I learned a lot. By the time the last car was arriving, I had a newfound appreciation for the officials and the work they put in to make Rhino Charge a success.
This was my best day yet and guess what, it didn’t rain.
Look at God, Won’t He Do It
Leaving was bittersweet. On one hand, I was ready to go back home while on the other hand, I knew I would miss everything. The food was definitely top of the list. I was literally savoring the last meal with tears in my eyes.
We said our goodbyes to the team who were preparing to attend the prize-giving ceremony. Sadly, we couldn’t attend because we wanted to get ahead at least we got caught up in traffic. Apparently, we were not the only ones who thought the same. There was a fleet of us leaving but luckily no traffic at all.
As we drove through the dusty road, I couldn’t help but look forward to the next rhino charge. It’s a one in a lifetime experience that everyone who can experience definitely should.
The funny thing is the day we left, apparently, it rained. Look at God. I was so worried about it raining only for it to rain right after we left. Won’t he do it?