Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mombassa

















On the bus trip down I was reminded how small people always strangely seem to take the most space. Seated next to a freakishly small boy, I was awakened several times to a pointy elbow in my back or side, a knee or shoulder encroaching heavily on my space. All in all he was rather cute and aside from waking up one time by him coughing in my face, I didn’t mind the elbows. We arrived in Mombassa around 7:30am. I was delighted to see my first baobab tree since coming to East Africa. After 12 hours of sitting I wanted to walk to my hotel. The bus station conductor thought I was crazy, especially since I had never been to Mombassa. Aside from the early morning hustle and bustle of any city, it felt good to wander if a bit aimlessly. Besides the best way to find your way around I always say is to get a little lost first. My first set of directions led me very far off course but fortunately I asked someone who directed me first right then left and then right and finally left to get to the hotel. It’s a miracle I made it. J

So Fort Jesus was my first excursion. Mombassa is very much a tourist town and as a single muzungu walking down the street every potential tour guide is ready and insistent on showing you around. I wasn’t really in the mood and was successful at brushing most of the guides off except one who adhered himself to me by just following me around and not saying much. He was knowledgeable and I was glad to get a little more information about the “Swahili” people and learn that the language is about 70% Arabic. Mombassa was a major port long before European influence settled in East Africa and there is a lot of historical and cultural influence from trade with India, Persia and the Arabian Peninsula. The architecture has elements of Arabic, Swahili/Bantu and Portuguese styles. The old town kind of reminded me a bit like a mix between New Orleans and Lisbon. My guide told me it was the Portuguese who brought the Baobabs to Eastern Africa. I’m curious if this is indeed true.

Later my first day I made it to the beach and had my first dip in the Indian Ocean. The water was about as warm as the outside air temperature which was quite hot. I couldn’t help but think about how far I am from home. At least when I swam in the Atlantic Ocean while in Senegal I could imagine the US on the other side, this was not so much the case here.

Anyway, as my adventure continued I found that all the tourists in Mombassa to be not friendly. I did make a lot of Kenyan ‘friends’. They were mostly young boys working hard to pull one over on the na├»ve American girl. It was fun to chat with locals and get some attention. I did get to see some animals in a kind of reserve/park/zoo. I fed a giraffe and waited for the hungry hippos to get their evening meal.

The trip was good and aside from losing a ring, forgetting my umbrella and not getting any sleep on the way back to Chogoria, I was happy to return. It was the break I needed and though it would have been more fun to share the experience with someone else I am glad I had it.

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