Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A glimpse of Mombasa

It started with a 16 hour overnight train trip from Nairobi to Mombasa. Despite the long time ti took, i enjoyed it. It was a sleeping train where we had a nice dinner and enjoyed breakfast overlooking nice scenary. I was with Abby and Shu my GSB classmates, and Kweeven - a nice Irish gentelemen who works for an NGO in Sudan with whome i shared my cabin. He had the most equisite Irish accent i ever heard that i hardly understand half what he said.

The first couple of hours after arriving weren't the most recreational. We hadn't arranged for our return so we had to take care of this before fun starts. We couldn't spend another 16 hours in the train on the way back, so we thought flying would be a good option. Unfourtnatly we couldn't make it to the airline office on time. A bus is now our best option, but the challenge was to find the booking office. We wondered for around two hours in the non touristic part of mombasa to know that all first class buses were fully booked. Taking a standard bus was too big a safety risk. So we ended renting a car from Sister Samia at Glory Car Agency. Sister Samia is half Kenyan and half Yemeny and is not a very pleasant person to do business with. It was around 4pm and now we had less than 24 hours in mombasa.

After a quick lunch and some clean-up in the hotel we headed to the old town in Mombasa. A blend of different cultural influences. The arabs influence was apparent in the architecture and nicely built mosques. The proteguese/european influence can also be seen through the many churches and in the standing remains of the the slave trade. Besides some indian temples, Indias' greatest signs is in the Indians that you run into in mombasa. We didn't stay long in the old town, by eight we were heading to Tamarid where we had a very nice dinner.

5:30 am we were heading to Tiwi Beach. I can't describe how spectacular the pacific ocean was by the time we arrived and how tempting a canno trip into the tiwi river would have been if we had the time! We walked by the beach and then decided to visit Shimba - an animal preservation. Now that I've gone to Masai Mara, I don't think that was a good idea.

After driving around the park for a couple of hours and pissing one of the parks elephants we headed to Diana beach. Another spectacular white sand beach. Now that the tide has cleared away it was even much nicer than when we went to Tiwi. The only caveat was that it isn't really swimmable because it's very shallow and full of reefs.

Time was running, we had to head back. By 4 pm we were on the road to Nairobi after some fighting with sister Samia over the time of returning the car. We were stopped for speeding and guess what, our driver - Rafael - didn't have a driver license. What an easy catch? So Rafeal had to got himself off the hock for 400 Ksh (~$40) and we were back on the road. Rafael wasn't a very convincing driver, especially on a one lane road that forces you to go in opposite direction to by pass slow trucks. It was even more worrying when night started. There was no street illumniation and the roads started getting worse and worse until we ended in a choas of buses, trucks, and cars jumping in unpaved roads with clouds of dust surronding them and no clear seperation between vehicales coming in opposite directions.

Additionally the fear of possible hijacking was at the back of our mind. The stories that are spread everywhere about similar incidents made this a constant concern. It didn't help to know that Rafael, our professoional driver, knew nothing about Nairobi, not even how and where to enter the city. Surprisingly, and thankfully, we managed to find our way into Nairobi at around 12am and were at our hotels by around 1am!
Again, one of my hard learnt lessens.

If you go to Mombasa the train is good if you have time. If not, take a flight and book in advance. And don't waste your time away from the beach.

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