Back in Kenya

Posted on February 29, 2012

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I should apologise for the horrendous lack of activity on this blog over the last few weeks. Events have taken place in the world. I have been doing things. I’ve just been too busy to write about it. Hence the urgent need for this missive.

Terms agreed and documentation obtained, I arrived back in Kenya at the start of February after a very unproductive few weeks back in the UK after leaving South Africa. Work has been hectic from the off, with numerous magazines to write and edit content for and a technology sector that continues to grow and produce newsworthy developments. This is what preoccupies my days now (aside from the occasional bizarre piece about gaining a six-pack), and will be the subject of a future blog. Probably some time in May, at this rate.

Off time for the first couple of weekends, as a result of a nasty shortage of funds and lack of energy, was spent relaxing by the pool and watching football in bars, which from what I gather is what most of the expatriates in this strange city of mismatched individuals spend their time doing. Bored of tanning and (only slightly) of drinking, we finally mustered the energy to make the trip 70km out of Nairobi to Fourteen Falls. When I say we mustered the energy, I mean of course that we were driven by a willing friend.

Energy was a necessity for the falls, however. They are a little known spot that seems to have missed out on the mzungu money, with a tiny shack for a ticket office. We only spotted one more western group during the rest of our time there, the reason for which was confirmed upon return to town and being greeted by looks of ignorance when we said where we had been. A short boat trip across the river was followed by a fairly strenuous walk along the front of the falls. It is difficult to see how anybody considered that there could be fourteen of them, as depending on what one considers to be one waterfall estimates could range from three to eighty-three. Yet they were undeniably impressive.

What came next was harder. Our enthusiastic local guide proceeded to make us do the return journey across the top of the falls, just feet from where the water tumbled over the edge. The current was strong, surprisingly for this time of year, and the ground so slippery that it was very hard to get a decent purchase. By a mixture of luck, bravery and literally being dragged along by a guide who clearly couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, we made it to the other side proud of the achievement but in no mood to repeat the experience anytime soon. It was time for a Tusker baridi. And there would be plenty of it the next weekend.

Not in the mood for any more daring climbs across waterfalls, the next weekend was reserved entirely for rest and relaxation. So it was back to Diani, the scene of a very chilled, beer-soaked weekend prior to Christmas. This time was more active. After arriving in Mombasa very early on Thursday morning we decided to actually try and see something of the town, doing a short walking tour of the Old Town, which was interesting but aside from religious buildings and dilapidated restaurants there was not much to see. From there we visited Jesus Fort, one of only two UNESCO sites in Kenya that are not national parks. The fort, which was built by the Portuguese, is a little run down but remains accessible and the guide was full of interesting information. Though slightly restored using brick, the main body of the fort was made entirely from coral.

Having now ‘seen’ Mombasa, we caught the ferry and two matatus to Diani Beach and checked into our usual accommodation (with the usual associated hassle). The rest of the day was spent by the pool and beach, before the normal pilgrimage to Forty Thieves for dinner and drinks. The same can be said of the next day, though we hooked up with our beach boy friends who cooked us a taffy fish lunch by the waterfront. This is something that not many mzungus would want or have the opportunity to do, and was a good experience and slightly cheaper than a standard restaurant lunch. That night we visited Forty’s sister restaurant, Ali Baba’s cave, based on several recommendations. There is no doubt that the food was great, and the location of the restaurant in an underground, open air cave draped with fairy lights was quite special. Not prepared for this, however, the evening was not as atmospheric as it could have been as we were horrified by the price of crab, had no reservation and were horrifically underdressed for such a nice place. We ate, enjoyed, and left before our last few shillings could be spirited away by a nifty waitress hawking overpriced dessert.

The next day we were truly active, up bright and early to catch a bus down the coast. Our destination was Wasini Island, which we reached by boat. The special sight along the way was hundreds of dolphins swimming in the channel. We were not given the opportunity to swim with them, but spent a while viewing and attempting in vain to get a picture that did not just include a fin poking out of the water. After getting our fill of dolphins – this was the first time I had seen them – we boated round to the other side of the island to visit the marine park. Blind as I am, I had prescription goggles in hand, and for the first time was able to snorkel and look at the many species of fish, though I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what any of them were. Faintly ridiculous and unnecessary hand gestures in the event of “emergency” were taught to all of us pre-snorkelling, adding some hilarity to proceedings.

From the marine park we proceeded to land, where we had a great crab and fish lunch courtesy of a local restaurant. Wasini Island is populated by two villages, both Islamic, and we had a brief tour of Wasini Village and a look at a protected area of coral formations on land, before catching our boat back and making our way back to Diani. That night we made ourselves the talk of the town by visiting a local restaurant and tucking into nyama choma washed down with cold(ish) beers. The next day being our last, we spent it by the pool again, with the only notable divergence being a thieving monkey making off with my tobacco and only being persuaded to return it after I had hailed it with mangoes.

One final trip out to mention, as we attempted to reach an ostrich farm we had heard about near Kitengela where visitors could ride an ostrich and then sample ostrich meat. This did not quite go to plan, as we became very lost and the families we had undertaken the trip with soon gave up hope. Instead we visited the semi-famous base of Kitengela Glass, a quirky little place that serves as both glass factory and adventure playground. Numerous workshops and galleries made for some interesting viewing for a little while, but did not quite provide the same level of excitement as riding an ostrich would have (though I managed to keep my shoulder in its socket with this activity at least).

February recap complete. Back to Kenyan ICT.

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Posted in: Experience, Travel