Wednesday, May 2

Tiwi Beach

When you're an ex-pat working somewhere in East Africa that's not Nairobi, they send you here for a break every once in a while. But after several weeks straight, there's a need to escape even Nairobi.

This weekend I decided it was about time I check out the coast. Indian food and beer, while delicious, is not the best meal to have before getting on a bumpy 8 hour overnight bus ride, but I did it anyway. The Coastline bus is supposedly top-of-the-line for the trip to the coast, and for $15 I decided to splurge. It's not as nice as those luxury three-seats-to-a-row buses, but it's about as good as say, the Chinatown buses, though after three months of matatus it felt much better. The road to Mombasa is mostly decent, though the last hour or so is terrible. Having waited until the last minute to by my ticket, I was stuck in back, ensuring that I was tossed around anyway.

I arrived in Mombasa at dawn. Mombasa itself is crowded and bustling, without the manicured downtown of Nairobi. On sleepless autopilot, I took a matatu to a ferry to another matatu to a taxi to the beach. I installed myself in front of the ocean, ordered a full breakfast, and gazed over the water, thinking, "shit...I forgot my camera." But thanks to Google Images, we can just pretend I took this picture.

Tiwi Beach was deserted. It's 'low season', but with constantly blue skies and no rain, I'm not quite sure why. The next beach down, Diani, is apparently the rowdier, package-friendly spot. "Diani is like Europe, Tiwi is still Africa", as my cab driver put it. Proving its Africa credentials, the main entertainment on Tiwi consists of a tide pool in the shape of Africa, complete with underwater passage to a tide pool Madagascar.

Beyond the standard beach lazing, I ran across some interesting travelers. There was a Peace Corps volunteer who works with prostitutes in Narok (Western Kenya) many of whom ran away from impending genital mutilation. Apparently the older prostitutes do ok, but the younger ones make about 70 cents a client (either that or some ugali). Given that their "lodging" can cost over $4 a night, you can do the math.

Then there was a South African who's spent the past eight months working his way up to Kenya on a motorcycle - I mean, motorbike. [GOAL! AC Milan 1, Man United 0]. Anyway, he said he hadn't come across many fellow bikers, but he had seen some long-distance cyclists, who he thought were insane. I mentioned that I knew some folks biking up South America, and that they're nuts too. He reckoned that beer was consuming about a third of his budget. (Team CP, what fraction of your budget goes to booze?)

And then there was the traveling duo of an old, portly, balding, Santa Clause-bearded man from Arkansas with a a skinny Englishman born and raised in Africa (I'm not sure what his citizenship is). It turns out they were not lovers, but rather gemstone traders ("they're not conflict stones"). The English guy makes his living buying stones in Kenya and Tanzania and selling them in Britain for 10 times the price, and he was showing the American fellow the ropes.

The Englishman was also one of the most cynical and bitter people I've ever encountered, as I discovered over the course of a two-hour conversation. Conversation's not the right word, I suppose, monologue, or tirade, would be better. He spent most of it trashing corrupt African leaders, lazy African culture, and Western aid efforts. Clearly very smart, he made some intelligent points, though the face and voice he'd do when loudly impersonating an African didn't help his cause. [GOAL! 2-0]. I started gathering up my things when he started singing the praises of British colonialism, and started getting up when he started going off on how the Somalis and Nigerians are ruining British communities. (While I do agree that many young male refugees from Somalia are probably thugs that powered their way out of the county, I work with a Somali who got asylum in Canada and who's got to be one of the friendliest people I know.) When he declared that "one man, one vote" is the stupidest idea ever, I decided it was time for bed. This decision was reinforced when he started talking about how we should drop a nuke on mogadishu. As he bid the Peace Corps guy and I good night, he left us with the inspiring advice to always look out for yourself first, and to vote conservative.

The long trek back to Nairobi, this time through the afternoon heat, was almost enough to dispel the relaxation built up over the weekend, but thankfully not quite.


Tim said...

"...always look out for yourself first, and vote conservative." Didn't I read that in some shitty Ayn Rand novel?

Three Huge Guys said...

English people are jerks.

Harris said...

Are we including boxed wine in this figure, because it approaches 70% then. Actually, we always plan to drink and then fall asleep by 9:30 because we´ve been up from before 6, bummer.