A weekend on the Coast

Last Wednesday, Tom and I resumed our travelling fun.  We were off to the beach for a relaxing weekend by the sea.  With plenty of Tuskers. Naturally.Now seasoned night-bus-ers, we hopped on MASH coach’s finest vehicle ready for the 8 hour ride to Mombasa.  At our one toilet pit stop, I was proud and alarmed by the ease and comfort with which I strolled into the ladies “hole in the floor, with no door, or paper, or water” bathrooms.  I’m definitely turning Kenyan.

We arrived in Mombasa at 6, earlier than scheduled.  Lonely Planet let us down, as it promised us many a lovely breakfast hole in the Old Town.  There were none.  So armed only with my bus stash of crackers, nuts, and sweets (very kindly forced on me by my surrogate family), we sat on the wall of Mombasa fort, and devoured a less than satisfying feast.

Having passed through Mombasa on our way to the beach on numerous occasions, we decided to take a day seeing the sights of Mombasa town.  But when you start the walking tour at 6.30… Suffice it to say that by 9.30 we had seen the whole of Mombasa, had sweated enough to fill a swimming pool given the rising heat, and had sprouted afros given the humidity. Sat in the museum at Fort Jesus, I turned to Tom saying “all I want is a beer”.  Then we had a good old giggle, realising that by 10 we had done a full day’s tourism.  We headed to the beach.

We spent our first afternoon happily lying on the beach and by the camp swimming pool. It was amazing.  We immediately resurrected the possibility of moving to Diani Beach to open a restaurant / beer stand on the beach.  There was a highly amusing interlude when a cheeky monkey ran down to our poolside table and stole away with Tom’s tobacco, scurrying up into the nearby mango tree.  Enraged, Tom stood beneath the tree, throwing baby mangoes at the monkey.  Missing badly.  Eventually the monkey dropped the tobacco, and promptly ran into someone else’s kitchen.

Day 2: Much the same as the previous day, we spent the day on the beach.  We met up with our good friends Captain Ananas, Eric and Abu- who conjured up a lovely fish bbq on the beach, with rice and kachumbari salad.  And we drank “bia”.  (No prizes for guessing).  In the evening we went to Ali Barbour’s cave for dinner.  This was as a result of a wildly wrong Lonely Planet price guide, and a ridiculous recommendation from friends.  The restaurant is situated in an ancient coral cave, open air, and is lighted by fairy lights.  Seafood only.  Very, very swanky.  Not entirely suitable for me and Tom in our shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops.  (And near empty wallets).  We had crabs, yummy- but made a swift exit back to the bar of the camp site.

Day 3:  We were up bright and early.  Too bright.  Too early.  Anyway, we had booked a day trip to Wasimi Island – and the Kiteme National Marine Park.  We were going to watch dolphins and go snorkelling.  Not before an hour’s bum-numbing drive in a safari van.  Note to the public – do not fear, Tom’s shoulder survived the bumps.

We arrived at the entrance to the park, and boarded our ship.  A big wooden sailing ship.  The guides announced their disclaimer: dolphins are wild creatures, there is no guarantee of seeing any.  We left port.  5 minutes later, “OVER THERE”.  The dolphins had arrived in force.  Reaction to dolphins in 2 words:  BIG, and UNPHOTOGENIC.  We have many pictures of fins in the sea.  After a while of fin-spotting, we sailed off to the marine park.  A one-hour sail across the luscious blue waves.

Then the moment came to jump off into the sea, with miles of unspoiled corals to explore.  I was feeling very smug, having just purchased Tom his prescription goggles so we could actually snorkel together, as opposed to me swimming, him watching from the boat.  The corals were so lovely, and of course we spotted many a madly coloured fish: including some little Nemos lurking in an anemone.

Next stop on the day trip was lunch.  At a restaurant that can only be accessed by boat.  We were served up crabs, and given a good old log of wood to bash the crabs open with.  One bash from me resulted in the (rotten) claw exploding and firing crab goo all over me.  Not nice.  Check the other end, a guide helpfully said.  Bash number 2:  crab goo in the eye.  Looking mortified, the chef ran over, whisking away my plate.. and returning ceremoniously with the biggest crab claw available – it was awesome.

Lunch was followed by a walk on Wasimi Island.  No electricity.  No running water.  And weeeeird looking coral gardens.

After returning back to camp, and spending another hour or two lazing in the pool… it was time for date night. And this time we were doing it proper Tom and Gabi style.

We hopped on a matatu into Diani “village”, and rocked up to what was clearly THE nyama choma stop in town.  The only two mzungus walking in, we did our usual catwalk to a spare seat, and ordered Tuskers while people’s interest slowly dwindled.  We ordered our food:  roast meat.  No cutlery.

So there we were, elbow deep in meat – sucking on bones to get all the juicy scraps… and gulping down cold Tusker.  We certainly give a new meaning to the word “date”… but it was the best date ever 🙂

Sunday we spent the day in the pool- enjoying our last hours of sun,relaxation, and tobacco stealing monkeys (take 2) before heading back into Mombasa to get the bus back to Nairobi.



Note on Kiswahili

It has been roughly 10 days since I started my intensive Kiswahili learning project.I have an hour tuition a day, plus endless amounts of homework.

Here’s a few fun facts.

Months of the year:

…. you get where I’m going with this, right?


The Kenyan clock is upside down.  I’m still not convinced this isn’t a joke.

So, when it is 1pm, one states “It is 7 on the afternoon”
2pm, 8
3pm, 9…

Get it?  Go figure.

And then we’ve got the endless stolen words.

Today for lunch I had saladi, washed down with a wittily named, “soda”.


Sun was invented in Africa

After my three month stint in Nairobi, I decided that I couldn’t stay away, and arrived back in Kenya yesterday.Sitting on the runway at Heathrow, the pilot announced that due to snow swirls around us, the wings would have to be de-iced before take-off.  Arriving in Nairobi a good 9 hours later, we stepped out into 30C heat, and dazzling sunshine.  It’s good to be back.  Who wouldn’t want to live in Africa with sun like this??

This time round, I’m staying with a new family with 2 lovely kids, Geny and Henry.  I got in, unpacked my room, and that was it – reinstalled in Nairobi, as if we’d never left.

This morning I decided to head straight out to the Immigration department, to pick up my ALIEN card.  I applied and was registered for alien status at the end of November, and was told to pick up my card in 4-6 weeks.  Today is the first of February.  No card.  A friendly lady behind the desk said “Give us one more week please, there’s a small delay”.  Oh yes, African time – I had almost forgotten aaaall about you.

Matatu travel is fun in this weather.  Not so much.  The stink inside the matatus has certainly intensified exponentially in proportion to the heat.  I was once again taken aback by the reverence with which white people are treated in matatus.  The lady sat next to me had a sack of grain that had been beneath the legs of the small girl sat in (my) seat before me.  As soon as I got in, she quickly heaved up the sack and plonked it on her lap – half crushing her legs.  “No, no, leave it under my legs, I’ve more than enough space, I’m only small” I insisted.  She was having none of it: “It’s very hot weather, you shouldn’t have the sack at your feet”.  (Logic, anyone?!)

The traffic, if anything, has gotten even worse, which I certainly didn’t think was possible.  I was given a timely reminder while walking through downtown Nairobi that there is a real risk of being ploughed down by cars driving on the wrong side of the road, straight into the oncoming traffic.  Stepping out onto the road, quite sure that nothing was coming, a line of cars came shooting over the pavement and the ledge in the middle of the road, swerving onto the oncoming lane- missing us lowly pedestrians by a hair.  Why were we throwing all the dirty looks?!  Couldn’t we see that there was simply too much traffic to remain in their own lane???

Annnd finally, the monkeys.  I have missed the monkeys 🙂