Hakuna Matata

30 Aug

I’ve just arrived back from a 5-day vacation to Mombasa – the second-largest city in Kenya located on the coast of the Indian Ocean. I brought home coconuts, a tan, and a ton of pictures!

Scott spontaneously planned the trip and we packed these 8 people (and one baby) in his minivan!

We departed on Thursday and the drive was absolutely beautiful.

Driving from Nairobi’s elevation of 5500ft to Mombasa’s 150ft provided gorgeous views of mountains.

Not too far from the outskirts of Nairobi, we spotted wild camels!

I could see native tribesmen tending to herds of animals, and was able to snap this pic.

It was quite windy for much of the drive and we witnessed some tiny dust devils developing.

This is a view we often had – stuck behind a truck/bus waiting to pass, since the “highway” is only a 2-lane road.

This picture shows a fence that covered many kilometers, but had no wire! Scott estimated that it was some kind of government project that never got completed. What a waste!

We listened to music along the way and I had many surreal moments listening to songs like “Girls Just Want to Have  Fun” on full blast with the windows down…..in Africa!

Arrival into Mombasa took awhile. As is the case many times in Kenya, selfish driving and bad traffic control led to a standstill, with three lanes of traffic heading out of Mombasa on a two-lane road! Eventually, matatu drivers got out of their minibuses and argued with the left-most lane of traffic to begin merging. We also had a rocky welcome to the city – a sneaky man forcefully grabbed our GPS out of my hands before I could react. No one in our car saw him coming or going! Funny thing is, the guy will have no idea what the device is or how to use it, and it doesn’t have the charger with it. Oh well.

We stayed at a Amani Acres, a Catholic guesthouse right on the beach. We had a whole side of a house with 3 bedrooms, a living room, fully functional kitchen and bathroom w/shower, and a porch. The cost for 8 people to stay one night? $50!!! Have I mentioned the cost of living in Kenya is very manageable?

The view from the backyard –

Here’s a pic at low tide and at high tide -a difference of about 4 meters.

At low tide, you can walk very far out into the ocean. Here is a pic of me standing about a mile from the shore on the coral reef where the waves break. We had to hurry back as the tide started to move in.

The weather was warm and slightly humid – much more humid than Nairobi. High temp was 80-85 degrees during the day and never dipped below 70 at night. The best part was the sun – clear skies the entire 5 days. In Nairobi at this time of the year, it is cloudy all the time, so this was a welcomed difference.

On our first beach day, I stepped on a sea urchin! A search for tweezers in the city was unsuccessful and I still have yet to remove the thorns – they aren’t painful though – “hakuna matata” as the Mombasians say.  Numerous viewings of Lion King as a kid prepared me to understand this “no worries” approach.

Here’s a bigger one with cool orange-red-pink coloring on the inside.

Cool-looking Sea Urchin

A picture of Scott wading in the ocean with an OWU shirt! “Ohio Wesleyan, sweetly and strong…”

Mombasa is entirely different from Nairobi. I felt like I was in Dubai instead of Kenya. There is a strong Muslim presence in the area – since it is now Ramadan you can hear the call to prayer anywhere you are! Women in veils and men in taqiyahs strolled the city streets.

Mombasa is located on a small island (called……wait for it….Mombasa Island!).

The “Old Town” of Mombasa offers neat architecture and tiny streets –

We visited Fort Jesus – an old Portuguese fort built in 1593 in the shape of Jesus. Scott convinced the ticketer to give us the resident rate instead of the tourist rate – $1 per person instead of $8! Here’s a pic of a cannon facing the northern shoreline.

We traveled to the northern shoreline a couple of nights to have dinner. After dinner, one night we went out dancing in town (so much fun!) and one night we went out on a boat to go diving and snorkeling.

I jumped in the water from the top of the boat and thought of how scared my sister Emily would be of an impending shark attack! Here’s me on top of the boat watching a sunset over Mombasa Island and the eastern coast of Africa.

Leaving Mombasa turned into a nightmare! We were ready to leave at 2pm but the car wouldn’t start. We called AA (much like AAA in the states) and had the battery replaced. We departed at 5pm and encountered THE WORST traffic jam in the history of the world. A traffic diversion re-routed us through a slum, driving over piles and piles of smelly trash. In this pic, a matatu gave up hope and turned around to back track.

What you are looking at is the highway connecting the two largest cities in Kenya. Hard to believe. We stood completely still for over 2hrs and in a jam for another hour. By the time we got on the open road, it was past 9pm! It is not safe to drive at night and we debated staying another night, but we trucked on and arrived home at 3am.

I enjoyed hanging out with Scott and my other friends so much. It’s really fun to learn more and more about the culture here (and there are many different kinds here!) and how they are similar and different to mine! Joking around with the gang shows me that humor can be translated pretty easily.

I’ll end this post with conclusive, indisputable evidence that I got quite the tan on my trip to Mombasa. Hakuna matata.


8 Responses to “Hakuna Matata”

  1. macmcnair August 30, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Looks like you guys had a great trip! Amani Acres where you stayed is where we stay when we are in Mombasa. No frills but very comfortable and an amazing location. We also really love and enjoy the staff there. Especially our African friends. Thanks for the travelog. How are things at Maono?



    • Ben August 31, 2011 at 12:52 am #

      Hey Mac, Amani Acres was the perfect place to stay. Like you say, the staff is awesome – especially Patrick, what a nice & funny guy! Things at Maono are going well – although I haven’t been in the office in awhile. I’ll be back to work on Thursday since tomorrow (Weds) is Eid. I’ve completed my three weeks in the field visiting borrowing groups so now I’m going to start working on projects in my job description! Thanks for being such a consistent follower of my adventures. Best, Ben

  2. Ahlam August 31, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Don’t you love the beach in Mombasa? We actually stayed near/almost in old town Mombasa and would walk to Fort Jesus all the time because there were students from Yale we knew who lived in one of those big old houses by the water.
    Eid is today in Kenya? Eid Mubarak! We celebrated Eid yesterday here and so did my family in Ethio. Well enjoy your day off!
    Just watch, by the time you come back from KE, you’ll look like a local. You’ll be very tanned. 🙂

    • Ben September 1, 2011 at 10:49 am #

      Hey Ahlam! The beach was amazing – white sands, light-ish blue-green water, constant sunshine! Cool to know that you’ve been to Fort Jesus / Old Town area frequently. Yes, Eid was yesterday (Wednesday). I think the end of Ramadan has to do with a new moon, so it must be a different day in different areas. I don’t think I’ll come back black but brown is a possibility! Being back in Nairobi I’m missing the sun of Mombasa. Isn’t Nairobi supposed to be the “City In the Sun”!!?!?

  3. JEA September 4, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Sounds like you have a very, very strenuous life in Kenya. First you have to feast on all kinds of new meats and then you have to go on a 5-day vacation to the Indian Ocean. How are you ever going to survive living in Kenya?

    I especially enjoyed the pictures of Kenyan farmers herding their animals as we just went to the African Safari outside of Port Clinton. Actually not too much similar but still kind of ironic.

    • Ben September 5, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

      Hey now! It’s not all blue skies and sunshine here in Kenya – my minibus commute to work costs 20 cents and my host family has a lovely traditional meal cooked for me when I get home from work. Hmm….it seems I picked two bad examples there haha.

      That late July weekend I spent up at 660 Lynn with the Aeschbury crowd, I was disappointed I didn’t get to go to the African Safari – I had even printed out a coupon from their website. But then I realized, I’m going to Africa! I don’t need to go to a pseudo-safari. And September is the prime safari month since the wildebeests are migrating – I hope to go on one soon.

      • JEA September 6, 2011 at 12:16 am #

        Cool. Have fun.

  4. Nia September 15, 2011 at 3:26 am #

    Hey Ben,

    Nice blog! Next time you travel can you get me a camel and ship it Fed-Ex to Wisconsin? Ha ha ha.

    I just wanted to say, ‘I love your photos and sense of humor’ keep enjoying life.


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