Friday, November 6

A Year (or Two) in Kenya: The beginning of Mombasa adventures

In less than a week I will have been in Kenya for four months. In that same time, I have spent four days in Pokot and eight days in Nairobi. Both these tallies include time spent traveling to and from. Every other day has been spent in Nakuru, working or hiding away from the kids in the room or a cafĂ© in the city. Not that this is a bad thing. Nakuru isn’t a terrible city, and we’ve grown comfortable with it, but when I make it back to the States, I would like to be able to talk about a bit more of the country than just the capital and my little slice of the Rift Valley. Beside, a vacation, has been a long time in coming. We could have done much worse than Mombasa to start these travels off with. Much worse.

There are direct lines from Nakuru to Mombasa that would have saved us a night’s stay in Nairobi, but those had the disadvantage of not allowing us to stop in Makindu, a small town along the highway, almost directly halfway between Nairobi and Mombasa. I was a bit leery of this visit since it was to meet a Peace Corps volunteer we had only known through email and had been introduced to by a friend from Gonzaga, but by the time we left early Wednesday afternoon, Makindu had jumped near to the top of my favorite places in Kenya. Firstly, it is a small town, and it was very much a relief to be able to walk along the streets and not have to periodically glance over my shoulder to make sure there weren’t any tuk tuks or matatus bearing down and expecting me to jump out of the way. Secondly, we were able to meet other American volunteers and learn how they too were trying to make the world a better place. Last of all, and potentially most importantly, the Muslims and Sikhs in the town are apparently in a competition to impress the locals. Both have built hospitals and compounds which take up entire city blocks and have spared no expense in their construction and upkeep. As far as I’m concerned, the Sikhs have won this one cold. Mostly because we had lunch at their center. There was this wonderful fruit rice and spiced chickpeas and a cauliflower and green pea curry and apples and fresh vegetables and cool water and glazed sweet rings. And we were allowed to for seconds. And the toilets had seats and the sinks towels. And it was all available for a free-will donation. If we had wanted to, we could have even spent the night there, too. Every city deserves a Sikh temple.

Anyway, we made it to Mombasa late Wednesday evening. It was dark, so we went straight to the hotel and only ventured out to grab a small snack and fresh fruit juice. Thursday morning we spent wandering the streets, getting the lay of the city and generally being noticed a lot because these wanderings did not always involve the most tourist-oriented parts of the city. On the advice and with the directions of our Peace Corps friend, we made our way north to visit Pirate’s Beach and the coast of the Indian Ocean in the afternoon. There was no need to be concerned about raiding Somalis when we arrived, though. The shore extended out a good four hundred meters minimum from the kiosks selling forgotten suits to those who had left theirs behind, and even once we made it to the water, it wasn’t possible to do much more than wade. This was a disappointment. A rather drastic one. With the temperatures somewhere in the high 80’s, we were expecting swimming. Demetra already had her suit on under her shirt and skirt, and mine was stuffed in my backpack. We opted to sneak into one of the classy shoreside resorts instead of turn back to the city immediately. Not that the management cared so much when we ordered their mango juice and orange Fanta at prices five times anywhere else you could find them. Nursing our drinks for the better part of an hour, we from the inland United States realized we had forgotten something important. The tide can radically alter the coastline. By the time we were finished, we couldn’t have stood where we had once waded. We went straight in, and it was beautiful. The water was neither too hot nor too cold, the waves neither too rough nor too mild, and we were certainly not fighting with others for our patch of water. Absolutely wonderful. Beside the Sikh temple, every city deserves a piece of the Indian coast, too.

Further plans before leaving on Sunday include touring the Old Town, going through Fort Jesus, checking out Bumburi where there’s some manner of nature preserve and crocodile park, and spending two more afternoons in the Indian Ocean. Ought to be fun. I’ll let you know.

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