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Posts Tagged ‘Mombasa’

Our Colonial Routes

Sept. 17, 2007

The tea in Kenya is milky and delicious, and the Nairobi Java Hut on Kenyatta Avenue is our favourite haunt. Our bags are tucked neatly out of sight in the corner and we have come here for respite from sweaty backs and dust-filled throats. We kill a good 45 minutes here, and the 2 hours before were taken up by watching “Disturbia” at a local cinema. At $4, a movie seemed like a splurge – consider that we try to keep our daytime activities under 100KSh (about $1.25). But we are stuck today, held captive by the shoulder straps and hip pads of our backpacks. Time passes slowly.

At 5:30pm we are at the train station. We try to buy snacks for the ride but although the supermarket stocks rugs and TVs and toiletries, there is little by way of food. A package of nuts and some custard creams suffice, along with plenty of water and toilet paper. The best advice I ever received: always carry your own toilet paper. After lending out some white gold sheets to a French woman in desperation, we board our ancient looking train with hundreds of other backpackers. There is no electricity at first, but we are some of the lucky and streetwise few who have brought torches.

With two loud blasts of the horn, the train chugs out of the station and we wave goodbye to Nairobi from the dining car. An unimpressed German lady is eating with us; she is not amused by our cheerful giggles at the incongruity of trying to eat a bowl of mushroom soup on a rickety train. But we are impressed. We made it through “Nairobbery” unscathed and even – God forbid – enjoyed ourselves as well.

To quote every traveller’s bible “Lonely Planet”: There’s absolutely no reason why a streetwise traveller can’t survive… Nairobi.

Well, we survived and perhaps, even, we grew.

Sept. 18, 2007

For all that I have heard about “Africa Time,” I think that they are trying to trick us. The guidebook tells us the train ride should take 14 hours. Our ticket has 17 hours scribbled on the front. In reality, it takes us 16 hours almost exactly… I am sure that this is a plot to make us believe that African trains are always early as opposed to late!

I barely sleep at all on the train, thanks to an extremely noisy cabin next door. As it gets light, Jason and I watch the dusty red earth fly by. Then at 7am we are fed breakfast. We spend the rest of the train ride relaxing, reading or staring out the window and waving at the gorgeous children standing by the train tracks. We pass by rich towns and shanty towns, although far more of the latter. We see goats and cows and Sarah even saw a monkey, but no wildlife beyond that. We pull into Mombasa and grab a taxi to the New People’s Hotel. It is conveniently located next to the bus station to Lamu… and it is just as basic (if not more so) as our hostel in Nairobi.

Mombasa is home to Fort Jesus and the Old town. We spend some time walking around with our guide, Jamal. He is Muslim, and explains to us about Ramadan. We are travellers, so it is acceptable for us not to fast (also we are not Muslim), and we eat some red bananas at the Market. In Mombasa, we have had more trouble with people harassing us than in Nairobi. But we are in a very touristy part of town, and once we selected a guide, we were not bothered any more.

Tomorrow will be another long day of travel. Excitement is building for Saturday, when we will meet the rest of the Oasis Coast-to-Coast crew. Hopefully they will have good books to read…. I have finished my backpacking murder mystery and am anxious to swap for some new reading material!

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