I hugged my heavy pack on the Matatu, which cost all of 50 shillings (less than $1).
I arrived in Watamu famished and headed straight for Mama Lucy’s supermarket. It was filled with European delicacies serving the plethora of self-catering resorts in this popular coastal holiday destination.
Unfortunately, the said European delicacies were ridiculously overpriced, so I was left salivating.
I was escorted by a beach boy, through a maze of side street through his village, to Malob guest house, and after heated debate with the manager, I got the last unit left, a three bedroom with en-suite bathroom, for the price of a single.
I told them that I’d called earlier that morning and was guaranteed that there was a room for me at given a price.
It was too hot for a white person to be outside, so I searched for an Internet Café.
For some unknown reason I decided that it was time for me to put cornrows into my hair (Snoop Doggy Dog style). $10 and an afternoon in Brenda’s Salon transformed me into a proper African Mzungu tourist. During the braiding process I took a break while Brenda & friends listened to Jennifer Lopez and 50 Cent on my iPod.
I found a kiosk selling the usual fruit and veg, but also had used European clothing on offer. After having to borrow a smart shirt from Uri in Malindi, I proudly made a bargain purchase and got two stylish dress shirts, in perfect nick, for $2!
After my hair was done, I found a internet café with a satellite linkup, run by a one-eyed Mohammed and his uptight German wife. It was the fastest connection since Cape Town, so I spent two hours updating my blog, all in vain. The electricity cut and I lost everything, even though the PC’s were equipped with Uninterruptible Power Supplies. Just before the power disappeared and the darkness ensued, I got a call from Kevita, Uri’s friend who hailed from Arusha in Tanzania. Kevita invited me to dinner and gave me complicated directions which I tried to memorize. I jumped in a tuc-tuc and we got hopelessly lost in the dark. None of the houses were lit up, nor were their door bells working and neither the driver or I had credit in our phones! The tuc-tuc got stuck on a steep hill, and I had to get out and push. Luckily Kevita called and sent an Ascari (security guard) to find us. I stepped into ultimate luxury, once again. I met a bunch of holidaymaking expats, already very drunk. Kevita’s South African boyfriend, a Swahili-speaking trophy PH (professional hunter), was sleeping in bed trying to cope with his umpteenth bout of Malaria. I chatted about my trip to Kevita’s brother and girlfriend, a newly arrived very pale Scottish lass. I listened with great interest to the horrifying ordeals of Petra, a United Nations IT employee. She had been posted in Rwanda during the genocide and was right in the thick of things, just like in the movie Hotel Rwanda. She had been evacuated to Arusha to provide IT support to the International Tribunal of the Rwandan Genocide (war crimes court). I started dreaming of working for the UN, and was even more excited to go to Rwanda in two weeks time. It was a great evening around the rim flow pool under the stars, a mere Frisbee throw from the ocean (at high tide). I was treated to mountains of giant crab meat, pasta and REAL coffee from their own plantation, fit for a connoisseur.
In her paralytic inebriated condition, Kevita extended me a Karibu (welcome/invite) to visit them on their coffee farm. She proudly said it was ‘the last farm before you reach the famous Ngorongoro Crater’ on the way to the Serengeti.
I was thrilled and vowed to change my routing slightly.
I had a bee in my bonnet early in the morning, adamant to go snorkeling, as I felt I hadn’t make enough use of the scuba gear I had laboriously been lugging through Africa. I attempted snorkeling (known as goggling to all the Italian tourists). Once again, the visibility was shit, however I did manage to circumnavigate the local fisherman’s huge fishing drag net. All along the East African coast I kept seeing tropical colorful fish being caught and eaten, and tons of coral reef being used to build houses, and somehow I think it’s sacrilege. The locals begged to differ with me, justifying that it was their free food and building materials. They did have a point, even though it was a mute one.
My ears were aching and it seemed that my diving days were over, especially while my sinuses were blocked.
On my return to the guest house I watched an entertaining tennis match, played by the two kaaskoppies (my name for Dutch people who are almost all cheese lovers) who were staying at Malob. By 09:30 it was too hot to continue playing.
I joined the Dutchmen and we took a Matatu to the famous Gede Ruins. Hidden away in the forest, was a vast complex of palaces and mosques, mysteriously without any records of their existence in historical texts. As usual the entrance fees which were quoted in the Lonely Planet had quadrupled, so I asked to see the curator and gave him my “I’m a journalist doing research, can you show me around” routine. He eagerly agreed to give me a tour and explain the history of the place, conveniently forgetting to charge me.
The light was really bad (as it had been for the past two weeks up and down the entire coast), so sadly I had no photo opportunities, but took full advantage of the local children hanging out under the trees, grooming their hair.
On my way back, I decided to enter a pool bar down a side street. The next two hours were great fun and I was taught a new game involving three or more people. All the balls are spread out strategically on the cushions. The number 1 ball is placed in the centre of the table and each player is to pot the balls in ascending order. The skill comes into it when you are encouraged to hit another ball first (in/off) when potting your number, resulting in the value of that ball added to your score. The highest score wins and that was me, a few times. They were happy to gamble and persistently tried to hustle me. I never would have guessed I’d hustle in five Countries. I felt sorry for them and spent my takings buying drinks for the losers. After a dozen games, I had to lie to them and sneakily escape, as they refused to let me leave. I suddenly got ants in my pants, I had seen all there was to see in Watamu and headed for Kilifi.
27th – 29th December 2006
Kilifi was a gorgeous river estuary with effortlessly picture perfect views from its massive road bridge, the only stretch of
road without potholes on it, because it’s built upon a solid metal and concrete base.
In Cape Town I had met a couple in the book store, who were surprised to see their resort on Pemba Island featured in a new book of ‘1001 places to visit before you die’. I told them about my trip and asked how I would get back to Cape Town on a tight budget from their neck of the woods. They said Kilifi was the place to hitch a ride home on a yacht, free!
At this stage I was in no hurry to go home, but thought it would be a good idea to investigate the possibilities anyway.
Many white Kenyans have yachts moored in the creek, and there are numerous beach houses belonging to artists, writers and adventurer from around the globe, just up my alley!
I checked into the Tushauriane Bar and Lodge for three days. It was a bright yellow building behind the old bus station and overlooking a massive mosque. The rooms were an incredible bargain at KSh 150 per night ($2). I strolled into town and found an authentic Italian Gelateria where I bought a Straciatela ice cream for KSh 160, more than a nights accommodation. This either showed how cheap my room was or how good/expensive the two scoops of ice cream were.
I found cheap fast internet where I took most of the day updating my blog and bulk-emailing friends & family.
The next two days were spent strolling along the never-ending beaches and taking tuc-tucs around the area.
I finally had some time alone for reflection, especially at 04:00 when the entire Mosque service was broadcast via megaphones, drastically influencing my dreams. I even managed to snorkel out in deep enough water to admire the fascinating coral reef. It was the best I had seen along the Kenyan and Tanzanian coastline.
One evening I went out for some local food and returned with a plastic bag filled with the most delicious goat pilau, which I devoured with my hands, legs crossed under my mosquito net. One pesky little mosquito made it inside the net and had a feast on my sweet blood!)
E-mail to friends and family: Yes, this is a bulk mail to everyone in my address book, but I don't have time for personalized messages, so if you want some personal stuff, either check out my blog at http://www.travelpod.com/members/dcm or simply reply to this mail and you'll get the individualized reply! I am now entering my fifth week of what Mzungus do: wonder around Africa - aimlessly!
It has had its ups and downs, but on the whole I have been absorbing my surroundings and enjoying the people I meet (locals and other Mzungus) and the cultures and sights I experience. My initial plan seems to be working out just fine; I am still exactly on target with my budget - having only done the arithmetic 2 days ago - for the first time. I am in Kilifi at present, after the previous week of travelling through Lamu Archipelago, Malindi and Watamu from the top to the bottom of the Kenyan coast. The weather is unbearable, and I still wake up hot and wet (unfortunately not from steamy sex) even when sleeping naked, outside, under a mosquito net and with a slight breeze! I recently had the luxury of air conditioning, which was great initially, but now I am sick as a dog, coughing up yellow/green stuff, constantly sniffing and I can't dive as my sinus' are closed! At least the diarrhea has abated, for now, the morning sickness has disappeared and I am no longer sun burnt. My beard is now gone, I have cornrows (braids) and I'm back to travelling solo. 10 more days on the coast and then I'll be heading inland - where it will hopefully be cooler, less touristy and more African. Merry Xmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year and Happy Days to everyone (please pass this message on to everyone you know - who knows me). Wishing you a sweet, prosperous new year, with all your hopes and dreams coming true.