It is currently 11:40PM on January 8th, 2012, and the day is coming to a close. I type on the sill of the hostel bar–a darkened, caged reception in front of me–the Barcelona game, my Danish roommate Lasse, and a few others to the right. One of the light fixtures is swaying wildly and I don’t know why because it’s not really that windy.The day began at 4:30AM, around the time I finished up my previous blog post.
4:30AM: Wake up, can’t sleep, Africa, adrenaline. Finish up some writing.
5:55AM: I grab my new friend Ali, and we head out to her aggressively attractive backyard beach to watch the sun rise.
7:30AM: Eggs, toast, bananas, mangoes on the deck. Indian Ocean provides the soundtrack.
8:30AM: Ali, family and neighbors head off to the marine park on the border of Kenya and Tanzania. I am left at the edge of the road, and am greeted by a taxi they had arranged to take me into Diani.
9:00AM: Arrive at Stilts, a highly recommended hostel, where guests sleep in tree houses. Stilts is all booked up. The man at reception tells me there is a campsite just up the road, and the driver offers to take me. I decline. I really haven’t done much walking since arriving in Africa, and I love walking. He promises he won’t charge me more money, which couldn’t have been all that accurate, but I insist on walking nonetheless.
9:30AM: I’ve been walking for a bit, and cannot find this campsite. I start asking locals, and nobody seems to know. I have all of my stuff, plus a plastic bag of pasta, pasta sauce, a mango, and some granola bars courtesy of Ali’s mother, and am sweating like Mike Lundy. If you don’t know him, well, yes: I was sweaty. I soon remember that I know of another place to stay in Diani, called Diani Beach Bungalows, and I begin asking more questions. Person 1 directs me 500m north. 500m later, I am directed 200m south. 200m later, I am sent 100m north. After more inverse exponential oscillation, I give up. The place probably doesn’t exist.
10:15AM: I stumble across Diani Camps and Cottages, and start walking up the driveway. Two men follow me, telling me they can help me find a cheap stay, and appear to motion to another man further up the road. I make my way into the hostel, which does have a room available. However, I realize it’s a bit pricier than I’d like (roughly $30 for the night) and, feeling generally creeped out, I walk back to the road.
10:16AM: I am summoned by a taxi driver for the 33rd time today. “I take you where you want to go. I give you good price.” I reply: “Sorry, I’m walking!” Him: “To where? I take you!” Me: “I’m walking to Cape Town!” At this point, as with all other drivers to which I gave this story, the man smiles, laughs, and wishes me good luck. A lot of these guys are pretty persistent, but once you smile and throw the bullshit back in their face, they turn into the same charming people that most Kenyans seem to be.
10:30AM: I meet a Dutch girl, who tells me there is a lovely village a few kilometers south. I take her word, and hop in a matatu. I thought this might be ill-advised, since I have all of my belongings, but it went pretty smoothly. Nobody has grabbed at much thus far. I am dropped off, pay my fare of 50 shillings (roughly 60 cents), walk 500m further, and arrive at Kennaway.
11:00AM: Kennaway is gorgeous. I want to stay. They are full. Like every east-facing property in Diani, it has its own beach, so I grab a much-deserved bottle of water, a chair, and recharge the batts. I meet an English guy, maybe 60 years old and also named Will, and we somehow end up talking about the US Military budget. He informs me that it’s roughly 30% of our GDP. Vomit. View of the beach–non-vomit:
11:30AM: I again speak with the receptionist, who informs me that Diani Camps and Cottages is a nice alternative. I take her word, and head back. Into another matatu.
12:00PM: I arrive back at Diani Camps and Cottages, which is now full. The room was taken, and I’m even sweatier than before. Again, I head back to the road. I strike up a conversation with a charming Danish couple across the street, who tell me that they are staying from where I had just come. They say their buddy has an extra bed. Exhausted, I try once more. I see the friend, and after grossly mispronouncing his name, am told that I can crash. Since I’m only but one bed in the room, I’ll only have to pay roughly $11. Score, score, score. The Danes turned out to be very nice as well. I ate dinner with them at the bar later on. Lasse, the friend, is currently sitting to the right.
12:30PM: Lasse and I take a matatu to the supermarket, so I can buy some wine, chips, salsa and a card for Ali and her family. After purchase, I opt for a motorbike taxi to take me back to the house in Tiwi, which is probably 15 kilometers north. I would get the most serious lecture of all time if my Mom saw me on this thing. My god. They are really fun though. When you’re on the back of a shotty motorbike, cruising through African coastal towns, palm trees for miles and villages flying by in every direction, well, it’s tough not to smile.
1:30PM: Deboard motorbike, board matatu. 10 more minutes up the road, and I’ve arrived in Tiwi. The entrance to the house is a long dirt road which, after having driven it a few times, I pegged at roughly a kilometer. I decide to walk. The taxi drivers insist that it isn’t safe, that the road is 6km long, and that they should take me. I decline. There’s a couple very small villages and such on either side of the road, maybe 9 or 10 people in each, and not much else. I don’t see how this can be particularly dangerous.
2:00PM: 30 minutes later, and I haven’t arrived. Clearly, my initial estimation was wrong. I meet a man along the road, maybe 65 years old, who tells me that the road really isn’t safe after all. He tells me that teenagers hang around in the bush, often mugging the unsuspecting anybody just for fun. He also said that a few men that I had just passed were whispering about doing something similar to me. The man is with a boy, maybe 7, who is on a bicycle. He insists that I ride this kid’s bike, with the kid on the back, all the way to from where I just came, and then take a taxi to the house. At this point, I’m confused. It all seemed very shady. Now, I’m just asking a lot of questions, like why the road isn’t safe, why he is trusting me with this boy, and so on. Shortly after, a car pulls up, a uniformed driver behind the wheel, a very elderly woman in the front seat, and a slightly less elderly man in the back. They say that they are driving to the beach resort adjacent to the house, and that they would take me the remaining ~2km.
2:15PM: 20 questions later, and I feel pretty stuck. Walking in either direction doesn’t seem advisable, and getting in the car with strangers none the more. I just wanted to drop off wine. I like doing nice things for people. In the end, I decided to get in the car. It seemed like the least awful decision I could make. It wasn’t much further up the road, and the couple did seem to be old, weary, and possibly hopefully genuinely heading to this beach resort. I get in the back, hand on the now-locked door, fully ready to barrel roll out if necessary. For real. All passengers end up being rather pleasant, and I am dropped off at my desired location.
2:30PM: I arrange the gifts at the house, and the housekeeper calls me a motorbike taxi. I take it all the way back to Diani.
3:00PM: Back to the hostel, where I currently sit. There’s a patio bar, a nice collection of huts and stone paths, and a pool. I eat a suspiciously unbelievable hamburger, go for a quick swim, realize I’m sunburnt as all hell, and nap.
6:00PM: Sunset walk along the beach. Full moon, white sands, azure waters. These beaches are nothing short of world class, and there is definitely no shortage of these beaches. I began my walk just before sunset and, consistent with today’s theme, make my walk back in almost total darkness, the beach lit only by the moon; it’s not a great idea to be outside at night here, in general. Heart was beating a few clicks faster than usual, but I made it back safely.
7:00PM: Dinner with the Danes. Margherita pizza.
8:00PM: Blogging and lethargy.
12:18AM: Done writing, and heading to bed. Cliff notes of today are as follows: sorry Mom, and motorbike taxis are awesome.
Beach day tomorrow, and more about the wildly eclectic circus of color, resourcefulness, haggle and smile that seems to be Kenya in a later post.
Kili in a week,