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New Year's Eve in Watamu

KENYA | Friday, 3 January 2014 | Views [2382]

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New Years Eve is an all-inclusive event at the Turtle Bay Hotel and fairly fully subscribed despite the £70 adult admission price. The buffet is massive and I can't begin to imagine the amount of work and stress that goes on behind the scenes to produce such a spread. Unfortunately something disagrees with me and the imbibed calories take their leave rather immediately and long before midnight approaches I am wishing I could curl up and sleep. However sleep doesn't make for a story and is no way to usher out a fabulous year and welcome whatever adventures 2014 may hold. We hold out until 1.30am and then leave the teenagers to enjoy Ocean Sports partying until sunrise, just like we used to do.

There are no real drinkers in our group and so no hangovers to contend with the following day. In fact the day is spent packing up, ditching clothing to make way for the souvenirs which we just can't seem to get enough of. It has been a quiet tourist season but I think we have made a valiant effort to boost the local economy. I particularly enjoyed seeing the upgraded versions of the things we used to buy, and as a consequence I have offloaded almost all my clothing to make space for 'ooh just one more thing...'. When all spaces have been jammed full, we declare ourselves ready to depart the following day. At the last minute the option to stay one more night comes up and it is a unanimous decision to do so. Were it not for the next guests arriving, I think we could happily have just kept staying on! Everything is packed and our added day is spent relaxing and topping up on a little sun. Two weeks have flown by and suddenly it is time to leave!

The house, called Maisha Marefu (meaning long life - a common New Years greeting here) has been a wonderful space to relax together without feeling cramped. The abundance of tuk-tuk's have given everyone the added freedom of independent travel. The staff have looked after us wonderfully well and I particularly enjoyed the Swahili evening when they prepared traditional dishes for us. The house is listed on Trip Advisor's Holiday Lets, and I will definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to rent a house in Malindi.

There are two route options to get to Nairobi available to us. The first is to go via Mombasa, although all the locals warn us of traffic jams almost comparable to Nairobi. The second choice is via Makindi which involves some off road driving but there are no slow trucks to contend with. Having already driven 7,000kms over all manner of terrains to get here, it is decided that the latter will be a better option. Local mechanics have improvised solutions to some of the problems such a journey has inevitably caused and there is the return journey to South Africa still to be done.

The journey that used to take us 5/6 hours, despite potholes, takes nearly 10 hours with just one short stop at Voi. The bigger roads are full of slow lorries in both directions with busses and matatus over-taking at will making it an arduous and dangerous journey. In fact someone known to my friends was killed just the day before. This is not uncommon, and really, given the choice - fly! There is talk of the old overnight train being re-established to be user-friendly again and help clear the roads. Politics are in motion and truck drivers are asserting pressure in fear of losing their work to train cargo. I'm told that there are insufficient trucks to move all the goods anyway but political pressure and cash incentives usually go some way to achieve one's objective here and the railway retains only a tenuous hope of retrieving its former glory days.

There is plenty of time to gaze out of the window watching the changing vegetation from the sandy earth, leafless baobab trees and coconut palms of the coast, to the red murram, maize plantations and leafy baobabs, stretches of rocky terrain with clumps of grasses and thorn trees, onto the vast flat, green plains of the Athi River and finally to the smoke belching traffic that crams the chaotic roads of the capital city, Nairobi. Suddenly even the traffic in Asia seems quite organised by comparison.

I meet up with former college friends and also bump into an old school friend. Time is not on my side in Nairobi and three nights was never going to be enough to see everyone. It has been a fabulous detour and a much needed rest. The last five days of my incredible journey will see me leave Nairobi, spend a night in Abu Dhabi, two nights back in Ho Chi Min City, a final night in Bangkok before arriving back in the UK. What a year it has been and how amazing to welcome in 2014 in stunning Watamu!

Tags: beaches, kenya, malindi, nairobi, new years eve, traffic, turtle bay hotel, voi, watamu

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