Lake Victoria

Seeing as it was Easter weekend, Tom and I both had 4 consecutive days off work.  This meant serious thinking and careful selection of where to travel to.  4 days are not to be wasted.  We settled on Lake Victoria, an 8 hour over-night bus ride to the West of Kenya.Getting on the bus on Thursday evening, we settled in for the long ride.  We quickly fell asleep, and woke only hours later to the strange puffing and wheezing of the bus motor.  Oh dear.  The bus was moving incredibly slowly, there was absolute darkness outside, and we were in the middle of nowhere.  Soon, we broke down.  Out hopped the driver and co-driver, with mobile-phone torches and a screw-driver.  Much tinkering and banging and engine revving later, off we sped, only to grind to a halt again soon after.  More tinkering and banging and engine revving (an hour or so passed meanwhile), and we were back on the road – for good, this time.  It was a lucky escape.  Even with the delay, we pulled into Kisumu bus station at 7.30 a.m.

First things first, some breakfast.  As we are wont to do – we plonked ourselves down at a table at a local cafe, much to the bewilderment of the locals.  A quick glance at the menus, and I ordered an omelet.  “No omelet today”, announced the waitress.  “How about fried eggs?” … Fried eggs were fine, I assured her.  Go figure.  After a yummy breakfast that filled the hungry gaps in our tummies just so, we hopped on the back of a motorbike, and dropped by the Kisumu museum.  Lonely Planet promised us a wealth of information about the geography and history of the Lake.  Sounded like a good place to start.  Well, Lonely Planet lied.  There is one exhibit at the Kisumu museum, which houses a few African pots, a bit of Maasai jewellry, and a stuffed lion.  Outside, one can view a fake Luo village (complete with individual huts for each wife), and a snake pit – with no snakes, and a tortoise pit – with huge, sad tortoises sat around in their tiny enclosure.

We quickly left, and found a matatu to go to the ferry.  Our first destination was Mbita Island.  Accessible only via an hour long ferry journey, once again, we were accompanied by curious stares by local people taking their children and chickens over to the island for Easter weekend.

On arriving at Mbita, we realised that the island was another type of Africa- a type that appeared to have grasped even less Western influence than the rest of Kenya.  We wandered over to the bus station/marketplace/cattle grazing ground, and found the Elk Guest House, to have our lunch.  The Elk features 4 tables plonked on the street/marketplace, and a lady deep-frying freshly caught tilapia over a fire.  Choices pretty limited, we went for deep-fried tilapia, chapatis, and Tusker.  It was a feast hungrily devoured with our fingers.  To much more amusement of the locals.

After lunch we checked into “the fanciest hotel in town”, the Bimoss hotel.  There were semi-clean bedsheets, a lock on the door, and a toilet WITH A DOOR (to my endless delight – little did I know at this stage that I would spend much of the weekend there).

Back down onto the street, we called a motorbike guy, who took us off to Tom Mboya’s mausoleum, whizzing past large monitor lizards on the way.  Tom Mboya was set to be the second president of Kenya, before he was assassinated aged only 39.  His mausoleum now sits fenced off and locked off from public viewing, monitored by the Kenyan government.  However, next to the mausoleum, in his old home, sits a museum in his honour, cobbled together by his countless brothers and sisters (in true Luo fashion, Mboya’s father had numerous wives, each of which gave birth to 5+ children).

His half-brother gave us a tour of the shabby museum – “these were his shoes, this is a photo of his briefcase, these were his wife’s cooking pots, ….etc etc”.  However, he explained, much research goes on at the “institute”.  Firstly, the family united are trying to establish which side of the family Mboya’s intelligence came from.  “Given the high facial resemblance, we have concluded his brains came from his maternal branch”.  Right.  Proper science then.  “Now we are trying to find out which of his brother and sisters might have Tom Mboya’s very same brain.  Some of them look very much like him, so we are researching which of those that look so much like him might also share his very same brain.”  Good on them for asking questions, but still a few steps to go before the shack becomes a centre for genetic research I sense.

Back on the motorbike, we soon realised there’s not much else to do on Mbita Island.  So we headed back to the Elk Guest House for drinks, and as the sun went down, we retreated to our hotel bar, for a nice fried tilapia for dinner.  Oh the variety 🙂


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