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A Year Without Ice Cubes One year through Africa and Asia

I'm baaaack...

KENYA | Friday, 21 November 2008 | Views [796] | Comments [6]

I feel like I’ve become a stranger to this blog, but now that I’m done camping I’m going to try to update more frequently since I’ll presumably have more internet access.  Let’s see how it goes…but for now, I’ll try to make up for my long absence by writing a crazy long novel of an entry (feel free to simply glance through it, it’s really not all that fascinating but like I said, I’m trying to make up for lost time…)

SO, after our crazy fantastic overland camping trip ended in Kenya on November 13th, we spent a couple nights in Nairobi saying goodbye to our fellow travelers and figuring out our upcoming plans.  We decided to go with Becs (our tour leader from the trip) for a few days to Mombasa, a city on Kenya’s east coast.  Becs has 8 days off before she starts her next tour and she wanted a place were she could relax and feel like she was on vacation before she went back to work leading a bunch of (often clueless) tourists around Africa.  Michelle and I are planning on volunteering for 2 or 3 months in Kenya so we thought it would be nice to have one last vacation off of the truck before we stopped playing the tourist role.  Becs’ friend had taken an overnight bus to Mombasa a while back and had raved about it as a fantastic beach town, so Becs thought it would be a great place to unwind.  Without doing extensive research the three of us left our big backpacks in storage in Nairobi, hopped on an overnight bus, and found ourselves in Mombasa early in the morning without a hotel booked nor much of an idea about what Mombasa was all about.  Well, it turns out that Mombasa itself is not a beach town, it’s the largest coastal port in East Africa located on an island without any beaches, but if you travel north or south of the city over its bridges you get to nice touristy beaches…this was all told to us by one of the bus company workers, and was news to all three of us since none of us had bothered to read the guidebooks in much detail.  After this revelation we decided to stay in Mombasa for one night and then find a beach that hopefully wasn’t too far away.  So after we checked into a decent budget hotel we called up our tuk-tuk driver, Makau, who had offered to take us around the city and show us the sites.  Turns out that calling Makau was one of the best things we could have done!  He is probably the nicest man we’ve met so far in Africa and we’ve more or less adopted him as our kaka (brother), and he calls us his sisters.  Makau is 25 years old and has been driving a tuk-tuk for 2 years, and he took us all around Mombasa.  While touring the city we talked to a Kenyan tour guide at a Hindu temple (I’ll get to that…) who recommended a beach resort that was only 8 kilometers north of the city (still haven’t figured out the conversion to miles…can’t be bothered), had a nice dinner at a nice Chinese restaurant (again, I’ll get to that…), and went to bed with the plan that Makau would pick us up in the morning and take us to the 8-kilometers-away beach in the morning.  But back to the Hindu temple and nice Chinese restaurant in Kenya…

Mombasa is an incredibly diverse city, as tends to be the trend in coastal port cities.  Its population is made up predominately of African Muslims, but there are “a remarkable range of races and cultures here, from Africans to British expats, Omanis, Indians and Chinese.”  Yep, finally got around to reading the Lonely Planet guidebook…there are plenty of Muslim mosques and Christian churches, but also Hindu temples and even one Jewish synagogue outside of town, which we visited since Michelle is, you know, Jewish, and, you know, hopefully going to write about in her, you know, Jewish blog…

Anywho, Michelle the Jew had been craving Chinese food, so Makau took us to one of three Chinese restaurants in Mombasa, the New Overseas Chinese-Korean Restaurant & Bar.  As soon as we entered the restaurant we felt like we had been transported back to a Chinese restaurant in the US of A, specifically Chinatown in DC, where Michelle has been working for the past 4 years, complete with gaudy Chinese interior design and an ethnically diverse clientele.  There was a table of Chinese diners, an Indian family, a group of Arab Muslims, us mzungu (white) tourists, and a few other decidedly non-Kenyan customers.  Mombasa is a great big melting pot!

But I digress…so the next morning we called Makau to start our great adventure to the beach.  But first we had a few errands to run…we needed breakfast, we needed to visit the Jewish synagogue, and we needed to set Makau up with an email account!  The previous day we had exchanged contact information for future contact, but Makau only had a P.O. box, and I decided that was not acceptable (pretty much because I don’t think I even remember how to affix a stamp to an envelope…).  So the four of us went to an internet café and while Michelle and Becs went on facebook and checked email I sat with Makau and set him up with a yahoo account.  He had never used a computer before, so I showed him how to use a mouse and it was slow going for him to figure out where the letters on the keyboard were.  It’s funny how it’s so easy to take things for granted, watching Makau struggle to double-right click the mouse definitely put things in perspective for me…

After internet we searched high and low for the synagogue and eventually found it (again, I’m going to assume that Michelle will be writing about it relatively soon and people can read about it on her blog…).  Then our great beach adventure officially started.  We drove for a while down the main road, stopping at the Nakumatt grocery store to pick up some water and snacks, and eventually found the Bamburi Beach Chalets the tour guide in Mombasa had recommended to us.  The place was pretty nice but it was pricier than we thought it would be, we had almost decided to book it when we took a look at the beach and saw that it was veeeery low tide and the sand was covered with seaweed.  We decided to travel further along the coast to hopefully find a nicer beach, so we drove a bit longer and looked at another place, but still the beach is crappy, so we drove a bit longer and looked at another place, but still the beach is crappy…etc., etc.  Along the way we picked up a friendly Rasta (who is only Rasta in his heart and in his dreads, not with weed, according to him…) who knew where the nice but inexpensive hotels/resorts were and got commissions from the hotels/resorts for bringing them tourists.  We also got a flat tire, which about 7 men who came out of nowhere helped change, and we took another look at the Lonely Planet guide book which informed us once again that we were very uninformed and during this time of the year the beaches north of Mombasa we were looking at were covered in seaweed and not very lovely.  By then we were feeling really bad for Makau (and our uninformed selves), but he kept saying he was happy and enjoying the company, and we kept yelling “ma-KAU!”, which never failed to make him laugh.  Finally, after over 2 hours of driving around we settled on a super nice resort that we had stopped by earlier and which had offered us a great discount but at the time we still thought we could find a nicer beach…this, obviously, was before reading the guidebook.  Checked into the resort (where we were the only guests besides a group of school girls from Nairobi who arrived later that night on a school trip), Makau gave Becs a tuk-tuk driving lesson (video will be updated asap), then we bid adieu to Makau, got settled, and spent the next 2 days relaxing by the beautiful pool and avoiding the ugly beach.

In the end the resort worked out great (thanks to the beautiful pool), and Makau picked us up and spent our last day with us in Mombasa before we caught the night bus back to Nairobi.  And that, my friends, is my fascinating novel of an entry about Mombasa.  Goodnight.

Tags: mombasa




Wow, you must be leaving a whole bunch of heavy footprints wherever you go! It's hard to tell who's having more fun, you and Michelle or the people you run into!

  Zen House Nov 22, 2008 3:36 PM


You are so cool! What fun!
...I am convinced you are surrounded by the angels!
Glad you are back to the journal.

  gail Nov 23, 2008 5:37 AM


I'm looking at the map above to see where you've been so far. Looks like you've traveled almost half way up Africa since arriving in Johannesburg 2 months ago. You have much more to explore and I can't imagine what awaits you in Asia. Enjoy!

  Sylvia Mom Nov 23, 2008 1:03 PM


I'm looking at the map above to see where you've been so far. Looks like you've traveled almost half way up Africa since arriving in Johannesburg 2 months ago. You have much more to explore and I can't imagine what awaits you in Asia. Enjoy!

  Sylvia Mom Nov 23, 2008 1:05 PM


Hi Sylvie, glad you're still having fun...Flea II is on the way to the Eldoret address. Dad

  Sylviadad Nov 25, 2008 4:52 AM


Welcome back and thanks for another fantastic update!

Must be tough taking the time to keep this blog going amid all you are doing.

It was so great to hear about the celebrating of Obama's election over there---though I think he has kind of a Sisyphus task getting things back in shape. But, just having that optimism ALL over the world is wonderful...
Wonder if you'll be celebrating an American Thanksgiving anywhere?(not with American food....your OWN version)I imagine you have a unique take on "thanksgiving" with all that you have seen (and will see). Will be thinking of you as you continue your most amazing adventure....A hug, Aunt Lynn

  Aunt Lynn Nov 26, 2008 7:28 AM

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