My trip to Nairobi, Kenya, following President Gordon B. Hinckley in February 1998 was one of the few trips when I wasn't alone. This time, it was with Bob Brown of KSL-TV.
One evening, we heard that President Hinckley, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and a couple of others were, first thing in the morning, to drive through the Nairobi National Park. With President Hinckley, such trips were always quick and so rare we didn't want to miss it.
Two four-wheel-drive vehicles were taking the presidential party. We learned at the last moment that we needed our own vehicle. So Bob hired an old London taxicab, probably a 1950s Austin, one with the doors opening backward and high axles, one that had found its way to Nairobi.
We perched on the wide back seat and off we chugged.
A muddy road led through the park, past the giraffes, zebras, the hippo pools. Then it snaked downward to run along the lowlands by the monkey trees. We watched as the sport utility vehicles with their knobby tires splashed through puddles that almost appeared as a low lake. Tires churned over the greasy mud, and the SUVs pulled up victorious on the other side.
We were not so lucky. Our Kenyan driver manfully accelerated to a high puttering, then plowed into the pooled muddy water like a motorboat. A wave V-ed out from the cab, and a wake foamed behind. The cab slowed to a raft's pace, and its motor popped, struggled and died.
Dead in the water.
I looked out the rolled-down window and thought I saw an oil slick forming beneath the front fender. Water rippled against the running boards. Ahead, the two SUVs halted as the passengers stopped to look at us. I had no idea what they were saying, but it wasn't hard to guess.
"Try to start," said Bob. Our driver cranked the motor. Nothing. I was ready to look for a pole. Or one of those Tarzan vines for a tow rope.
"Try again," said Bob.
Our driver cranked the motor again, and this time, a mechanical miracle. It started. He carefully put it in low gear, accelerated slightly to a thin whining. We gently plowed forward. Spoked front tires climbed out and, unfathomably, the rear tires followed. We were elated.We looked at President Hinckley's group. They waved. I am sure I heard them applauding.