Wednesday, January 15, 2014

1984 - Solo to Kenya and Seychelles:Fishing and heading for home

Thursday 3 May 1984 – Mahe #5

I was up at 05.00 as I had agreed to go deep sea fishing with Richard Scholl of Swiss Re. He is very Germanic and reminds me a lot of Klaus Selmer complete with facial grimaces etc. he was at reception promptly at 05.30 as arranged and seemed to be a little surprised to see me. I even saw him glancing surreptitiously at his watch - in case he was late presumably!

We were at the yacht club at 05.50 and were off by 06.00 as arranged. I was a bit worried about being sea sick as the wind was blowing pretty strongly. The boat wasn’t very big and had twin outboards and we were soon hurtling along the coastline heading for the fishing grounds off Silhouette. I needn’t have worried about the seasickness as it was easier than the QE2.

The coastline was beautiful in the dawn light and we got a good view of all the beautiful homes we had seen on Tuesday afternoon, but this time from the seaward side. Just off the point of Beau Vallon Bay we set our lines and then were off trolling. It was about twenty minutes before we had the first strike on one of my rods and I soon hauled in a bonito of about 8 lbs. They look a bit like tunny. Richard had a strike soon after and we thought we were in luck but it was to be about two hours before we caught anything more.

During this time we went right out to Silhouette and got a good look at the island which is beautiful and uninhabited. It looks very Robinson Crusoeish. Of course in the shallower water around the island the waves were getting up pretty high and we had some interesting times. Rab might have enjoyed it but I suspect Matt would not have done – although he enjoyed the QE2 and Gloria in heavy weather.

Having tried around Silhouette for a while, with a conspicuous lack of success, we now headed back to Mahe, right in the face of the south easter which seemed to have got a bit stronger. There was a lot of spray flying about and we all got soaking wet. It was a most interesting experience though. The water was that incredible purply/blue colour of the deep ocean tipped with white here and there. Every now and then a flying fish would skim across the waves. I couldn’t believe that the first one I saw wasn’t a bird because they go quite a distance.

I was a bit worried about the sun because we had to take down the canopy on account of the wind. But I applied the Coppertone liberally and took some Silversun so I seem to be OK. After bashing through the waves for about two hours we finally spotted a flock of birds feeding and made a run through them. Richard had first strike this time with another bonito and then I had my second – and the biggest of the day at about 12 lbs. We circled the area for about half an hour without any further luck and as time was running out we headed for home.

It was quite a relief to be running with the wind and of course once we got into Beau Vallon Bay it was really quite calm as it is so protected. Richard was lying on the front deck sunbathing and I caught another couple of small bonito. About half way across the bay the line began to scream out at high speed and I thought we would be able to come back with something really good. But whatever it was broke the heavy wire trace and was gone off into the distance. The skipper thought it might have been a big tunny or a wahoo.

As we rounded the point, where there were a dozen or so boats fishing off the bottom with handlines, we realised the wind had not dropped after all and were soon battling away in clouds of spray soaking the clothes which had been drying out rather well. We got back to the dockside just after noon as planned after a most enjoyable trip. I had a silent laugh at Richard who stripped down to change into his dry clothes on the dockside. He modestly turned his back on us apparently oblivious to the fact that he was then facing the yacht club where the entire veranda was full of members and their wives.

Back to the hotel for a quick shower and a shave and a quick change of clothes, a rather nice tuna salad for lunch and a quick call to Rab. I hadn’t realised until yesterday how good the communications were from Seychelles. I had tried to call last night but there was no reply. All was well with her and Matt.

I got to the airport early – about 14.30 for the 16.30 flight to find a complete shambles. Everyone seemed to want first class seats, including those who were clearly waitlisted. It was really quite incredible the lengths some of them were going to and I regret to say  that most of the really vociferous ones were British despite their three piece suits and ties. The Swiss were pretty aggressive too and finally to satisfy this demand the first two rows of Economy were re-designated as First Class.

What they achieved therefore was to pay a couple of hundred dollars to get free drinks and sit where they would have sat anyway. In a final irony, the air-conditioning failed in the First Class section so they flew back to Nairobi at 30°C./86F. By the time I came to the front of the queue it was quite clear that since my name was not on the manifest I was not going to get a First Class seat so I settled for a refund and a nice window seat at the rear where it was cool and which enabled me to disembark rapidly. I must say I was taken aback at the time. It was amazing to see the appalling behaviour of some of these allegedly well bred, men with senior positions .

The flight across was pleasant and the service good. The only fly in the ointment that we landed in Mombasa first which meant that we had to clear Customs and Immigration there. All the baggage was unloaded and then re-loaded all of which took about an hour and a half. Matters were not helped by a party of Greeks boarding at Mombasa who took their time and finally boarded after we had been sitting, sweltering for about twenty minutes on the aircraft.

I was off like a dirty shirt when we finally got to Nairobi, my bag came off fairly quickly and pushing aside all the pawing hands of importuning taxi drivers I got hold of a Ketco cab. They are the best since they are all new air-conditioned Mercedes sedans and since they charge the same fare structure as the other rattletraps one may as well be driven in comfort. (These Mercedes had been purchased to ferry around the dignitaries and Heads of State for an Organisation of African Unity meeting held in Nairobi. The deal was that after the meeting, instead of being distributed to local favourites, they would be used as taxis.)

I was a bit weary by the time I got back to the Hilton. It was just after 21.00 local time, about ten hours since I had left the Coral Strand. I got a very warm welcome – and the same discounted rate as last week. I had an omelette and went to bed. They are letting me keep the room until lunch time tomorrow.

Friday 4 May 1984 – Nairobi again

I went on a final shopping trip this morning. I really wanted to get a clay model of a matatu which I had seen in a shop last week. It was only $10 and very well done. These matatus are Peugeot 404 pickups used as taxis and are unbelievably jammed with a dozen or more passengers hanging on wherever they can get a grip. There  is a matatu rank right outside the hotel and in my previous room I could hear them whistling and shouting and hooting as they tried to attract fares.

I asked Joe the driver where the name had come from, since matatu is Swahili for three – and there are never as few as three people in one of them. His response was that when they were first licensed the fare was three shillings so the cry was always “Matatu! Matatu!’ to attract attention.

The model was the only one I saw apart from one in Mombasa at three times the price so I got it plus two more snake boxes because they were so cheap and a sisal bag to carry everything as the suitcase is really bulging now.. and since this gave me a bit more room, I bought a few of the local chocolate bars and some mango juice for Rab and Matt. I also bought a bottle of local Papaya Wine made, as the name implies, from pawpaws. It is said by some to be not bad and by others to be awful, so I only got one bottle – for all of $2.00. (It was indeed truly awful.)

I took the opportunity of confirming my flight again only to find yet another bugger up with no sign of my booking. I finally got a confirmation but I will be going out to the airport early just to make sure I get home. I also picked up some pills for my cold from a chemist but they don’t seem to be doing any good and my nose is still dripping – damn nuisance.

So! All in all I have had a splendid time. Apart from the rain in Mombasa the weather has been good if a little hot. It will be nice to get back to the comparative coolness of Harare.

I have met some interesting people many of whom may be useful contacts for the future and I have spied out the land for potential future holidays. I think that, unless there is an incredible difference in price between Kenya and Seychelles, I would opt for the latter especially as Richard Scholl says all the resorts in Mombasa are similar to Nyali Beach. Ideally I would like to have a week here for safari and and a week in Seychelles. Time will tell if we make it.

(We never did.)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

1984 - Solo to Kenya and Seychelles: Mahe by Moke

Wednesday 2 May 1984 – Mahe #4

Slept like a log last night and although my cold is still a darned nuisance I feel much better. I decided I would explore the South and Western parts of the island. Lars decided to join me.

So we took all our swimming gear with us to the conference and on the way, after confirming our flights at Kenya Airways office in Victoria I hired a snorkel, mask and flippers from the Reef Hotel. They were free to guests so I only had to pay a refundable deposit. There was a lot of concern about the Kenya Airways flight because they were confirming all bookings without referring to any kind of records. Whilst I was pretty certain that we would all get on, I would have been happier to know definitely.

We stayed at the conference for the first session but then left before the panel discussions started knowing what it was likely to be with endless, repetitive, boring statements being made, but very little discussion. 

Me and the trusty Mini Moke
Since we were very hot we made straight for the beach and reef at Anse Royale just near the conference centre. We were soon in the water, sharing the goggles. We didn’t go right out to the reef but saw many lovely fish anyway. We had started to head back to the beach when I saw a policeman standing by our goods. I thought I must have parked incorrectly, but when I got to him he told me that we should never leave anything unattended as there were “bandits” about.

Palms and white sand - irresistable.
After a brief stop in the village to pick up some bread and cheese for our lunch – we could not get a beer because they are only sold after 14.00 – we headed down to the Southern part of the island. What a beautiful drive it was too. The scenery is too pretty for words – lovely white beaches glimpsed through the palms; waves crashing down on granite outcrops; green jungley growth everywhere. Crossing over to the Western side we had a bite to eat at a little beach where there were some pretty big waves coming in as it faced directly into the wind which blows from the south east at this time of the year.

On we drove stopping at the house of a painter, Paul West, who has been living in the Seychelles for the past twelve years. I didn’t enquire about the costs of his works because it was all abstract, although having said that I did like some of it. By now it was past 14.00 so we bought a couple of beers and finished off our lunch in the shade of a tree at Anse la Bouche, a lovely sheltered bay where there were a number of beach cottages for hire. The Faux and Pitman parties are staying there. It is ideal for a family because the water is so safe.
Anse la Bouche

We pressed on after lunch and had a good look at the three hotels on this side of the island. All looked very nice but they were exposed to the south easter and were very windy. None of them had beaches either. There is no doubt that, at this time of the year anyway, Beau Vallon Bay where we are staying is the best place to be and I think the Coral Strand may be the best hotel. We stopped for a magnificent ice cream at the Equator Hotel – a sort of parfait with coconut and mango and Cointreau – delicious.
The view from the Equator Hotel
After going as far as we could to the North, through a very large mangrove swamp as a matter of fact, we were stopped by some uniformed girls and told we could go no further. It seems that a National Youth Service camp has been established in the reserve in the north of the island. On our way back we passed a troupe of girls jogging in step singing what were presumably revolutionary martial songs. We also saw another platoon being drilled by a couple of sergeants in uniform so perhaps the place is not as peaceful as it looks.

We got back to Victoria via the San Souci road which winds its way up to the peaks above the town before descending into the town itself. Some really good views on the way. We almost had an accident on the way down when a crazy Seychellois was on our side of the road. Fortunately he saw us in time. They are not the world’s greatest drivers I must say.

We got back to the Coral Strand about 17.00 in time for a swim and a quick drink – grapefruit juice for me – before packing and getting ready to go across to the Reef Hotel for the farewell dinner. There was also a cocktail party at the British Embassy but I never received an invitation, which suited me just fine. Lars and some of the others were all for wearing suits since the dinner was the final function, but luckily for them I persuaded them to just go casual.
A last sunset - looking across to Silhouette Island
No one ever wears a collar and tie in the Seychelles from the President down. It was said that the Minister of Education who opened the conference on Monday had been embarrassed because there were so many delegates wearing suits despite clear instructions on the conference invitations. They were mainly Poms and the delegates from ex-British colonies. Some stuck resolutely to this wear throughout the conference although most were in casual gear. It was interesting to see some of the outfits worn by the delegates. The one I liked particularly was a suit worn by one of the blokes from West Africa which was cream embroidered lace. He was about my size and I was tempted to make him an offer!

The final dinner went off very well. The food was much the same as before but with a different flavour as it was a Creole evening. The curried octopus was particularly good. There was a troupe dancing the Creole dances and they were excellent. Some of the dances seemed very similar to hornpipes and reels, which may have reflected the British influence. I can still hear some of the music in my head – I really enjoyed it. I was sitting at a nice table with a couple of Swiss Re and Munich Re blokes so we had a good evening.

I got back to my room about 23.00 and finished packing. I also finally got around to writing the postcards which I had bought, complete with stamps on Monday to make sure I got them off.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

1984 - Solo to Kenya and Seychelles: Tour of Mahe

Tuesday 1 May 1984 – Mahe #3

Unfortunately I left the air conditioner on cold all night so I woke up with a rotten throat which rapidly developed into a streaming cold. Of course I felt like death warmed up too but I battled on.

There were good views from the Moke
I had my Moke delivered this morning and off I thundered with a very nice Swede named Lars Bengtsson who was with Skandia and a young lady from his London office – Jo Navarre. Driving the Moke put a different perspective on everything and made the journey seem much shorter. The vehicles have a canopy over them, but this can be lowered quite easily for even better and more fun driving.

Once again the papers presented at the conference were quite good in the first session, but after the coffee break there was a discussion. Among the delegates present was one Madame Massignane who was one of the most boring and windy speakers I have ever heard. Most of the questions addressed to her were from the Francophone West African delegates who were also verbose to the nth degree. All in all a most boring two and a half hours.
View from the Reef Hotel
We went back to the Reef Hotel again and I gave the two lads from Swaziland a lift one was Charlie Faux whose brother used to work with me in Durban and the other was Ian Pitman who used to be with British Engine in Harare.
Another view along the way
The lunch was very similar to yesterday except that the flavours were different and there was a delicious pork stew. I ate very little because I was feeling crook with my cold. I went back to the hotel with the Skandia people and although I had organised a scuba diving lesson, I had to cancel it because of my cold. Instead we went for a drive around the Northern part of the island which was really lovely. It is a pretty high class residential area and some of the places have to be seen to be believed.

The sight that led to Lar's remark
Lars and I had a swim when we got back and had a beer at the beach bar. He is a really pleasant chap and I got on well with him. He made me laugh when he said quietly, apropos some of the topless swimmers, “I think if I had a choice between all wearing bras or none wearing bras, I would rather all wore them.” There certainly were some awesome  sights including, we were told, Madame Massignane who the American Pedro Petrocelli described as “…looking as if she had two flight bags around her neck.”

Since I was still feeling grim I decided to take the Moke over to the Reef Hotel where the dinner was being held as I could then leave when I wanted. Jo and Lars came with me. I only drank grapefruit juice – in vast quantities as it was very hot. The meal was again enjoyable. This time there was a variety of fish salads and so on so I was able to eat lightly again. A local band of singers and dancers put on a very good show of Sega dancing. Lovely music and then the Nightshades came on again – they were the group from the previous evening. It was a good evening’s entertainment and I enjoyed myself despite my thick head.

We left at about 23.30 so I was in bed just after midnight, making sure the air-conditioning was off!!.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

1984 - Solo to Kenya and Seychelles: Mahe Day 2

Monday 30 April 1984 – Mahe #2

We all left bright and early at 08.00 on the busses to go to the conference. I had of course got up at about 06.30 for an early morning swim – like a warm bath it was. Chrystal clear too and no waves – just what Rab would love. I didn’t have breakfast, just an excellent cup of coffee.

The journey to the conference centre, which is right on the other side of the island, took about an hour as we had to pick up other people from the next door hotel – Beau Vallon. The road is narrow and bumpy and full of twists and turns. Definitely not Matt’s scene, especially in a bus. I think he might enjoy it in a Moke with the top down.

The opening session of the conference was not bad and after that we all went for lunch at the Reef Hotel. I was glad that I had decided not to stay there because, as the name implies, it is right on a reef so there are no beaches handy and it is very exposed. The food was excellent and spicy and included items such as octopus, sausages in lentils, pawpaw chutney and curried “flying foxes” – i.e. fruit bats. The legs of these were served looking like small chicken legs – or large frog’s legs and I had to laugh at one of the British gentlemen in his three piece suit reacting in horror when I explained what they were. He wasn’t too keen on the octopus either.
A corral of Mokes ready for hiring
I was restrained and had small servings of octopus and fruit bat with salads and half a spoon of rice. After lunch we all embussed again and began the long trek home. It was as hot as hell and I couldn’t wait to get into the sea. I also decided to hire a Moke to avoid the awful business of sitting on the bus waiting for stragglers. It will cost me about $75.00 for three days and will, I think be worth it.
Walking along the beach at Beau Vallon
Having had my cooling swim I decided to go parasailing. Richard Scholl, the Swiss Re man I had met in Zurich had told me it was available, although at this stage I hadn’t seen anyone go up. Off I went and agreed with the Creole lads who were in charge of the boat and parachute to take a flight. I must admit to a little trepidation as I got into the harness, which barely fitted. Once I was all rigged up and hitched to the boat it headed off and I ran flat out across the beach until I was lifted by the chute like a kite. Of course with my weight, I almost didn’t get off but I was soon high above the water – and what a lovely view I had.
Flying high above Beau Vallon
The normal ride had the boat towing the flyer along the length of the bay to the corner of the bay where there is a gap in the hills. The wind blows through this gap and provides an additional lift before the boat turns to go back down the bay to the beach where you slowly drift back to land. Unfortunately in my case the engine of the boat stalled at this point and with the additional pressure of the wind, I started pulling the boat out to sea – and lifting it's stern.

To stop this, the crew took the simple step of freeing me from the boat by untying the tow rope. The result of this action was that I descended at a fairly rapid rate – and backwards too. Once I hit the water the strength of the wind kept the parachute from collapsing, so there I was being dragged out to sea on my back towards the island of Silhouette. I released myself from the harness just as they got the boat started and came hurtling after me, full of concern. I declined either to pay them or to take up their offer of another ride. If time had permitted I would have gone up again but this time I would have used the Beau Vallon Hotel equipment which seemed much superior.

A 'normal' landing - unlike mine.
I set off a bit of a trend with the conference people and most of those staying in our part of the island having a ride. All available windsurfers were out so I could not do any board riding so I just swam and sunbathed until it was time to get ready for the dinner, which was to be a fish barbecue at the Beau Vallon, next door. The bus was a little late, so I walked along the beach whilst the others waited, including a couple from Kenya – the Foxes. She was a real pain in the arse expatriate wife. Always moaning about something while swanning it on expenses.

It was a very good party with some terrific fish, including shark and octopus and once again I ate carefully. I fell among thieves somewhat as far as drinking was concerned however and we landed up having a very happy time indeed. There was an excellent local band and towards the end of the evening they were playing the local “Sega” music which is terrific, rather like the carnival music from Rio in many ways. Of course there was a shortage of women but I had a couple of dances with the women who were organising the conference and who were all employed by the State Insurance Company. The husband of one of the girls was the rhythm guitarist and the lead singer – a very nice chap. There are some very formalised steps in the Sega and I found it rather difficult at first, but enjoyed it.

After the pub closed I walked back to the hotel with a couple of the lads and then crashed after another good day.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

1984 - Solo to Kenya and Seychelles: Mahe

Sunday 29 April 1984 – Mahe

I am here! Despite all the last minute dramas!! And what a place it is. Absolutely marvellous. Even Rab and Matt would, I think, be happy despite the lack of shops and burgers.

I wasn’t sure I would make it last night. In fact not only last night. Everyone had warned me that Kenya Airways would make a mess of my bookings: they always overbooked: a confirmation wasn’t worth anything etc etc. I had confirmed my flight in Nairobi on Tuesday. They told me what Mitchell Cotts had told me in Harare – I was waitlisted for first class but confirmed in economy. So far so good.

While I was in town with Freddie on Friday he went to confirm his flights, so I thought I’d re-confirm mine while I was there although I didn’t have my ticket with me. The office could confirm the Mombasa/Nairobi flight but not the Nairobi/Mahe leg. I left it at that. Then last night, just as I had finished my shower prior to turning in, the phone rang. It was Kenya Airways to tell me that my flight had been cancelled but that I was booked on the 08.40 flight instead. On the basis that it had taken us 90 minutes to get to Mombasa, I concluded that it might take 90 minutes to get back to Nairobi. That meant we would land at 10.10 just twenty minutes before the Seychelles flight was due to take off. I pointed out what I thought was a rather pertinent fact to the lad but he assured me there would be no problems. The plane would, if necessary, wait for me. Not bloody likely I thought!

Well there was not much I could do (except worry) so I ate my dinner, read for a bit and went to sleep only to wake in the early hours – about 3ish – worrying about all the things that could go wrong. I finally went back to sleep using the technique I had learned last year at Ashridge and slept like a log until the alarm woke me at 06.00. it was still raining – but not so hard – so at least it looked as if we would be able to take off. Promptly at 07.00 the porter turned up for my baggage and waiting at the door of the hotel was the taxi I had organised.

I must say that I found everything very well organised here and matters were dealt with promptly and efficiently in contrast to what I had been told. My taxi driver was a dear old soul in an equally old Mercedes which made some alarming noises as we headed through some enormous puddles on our way to the airport. It turned out that he had been an askari in the KAR (King’s African Rifles) and had visited Salisbury before the War. (KAR personnel from Rhodesia and Kenya had served in Malaysia and carried out joint anti-terrorist exercises before the start of the War) his son was now a Brigadier in the Kenya National Army! And, said the old man, no one had better criticise the British when my son is around – he will cut their throat!

We got to the airport in one piece and found that the reason no one was concerned about my making it to Nairobi in time was that the aircraft was a DC9 which only took 50 minutes. I also got my Mahe boarding card when I checked in and they confirmed I had a first class seat. I was still not convinced, but after another very pleasant flight, which took off and landed on time, I made my way across to the International Departures. There my seat was confirmed and I was given an invitation to the First Class Lounge. A first for me, not that there was much to write home about the lounge.

I had the prime seat on the plane – right in front with yards of leg room and an excellent view. Champagne and French wine all the way and a very good meal of smoked trout and lamb ragout followed by cheese and topped off with a glass of Benedictine and a cup of coffee. That’s the way to travel, without a doubt. Once again the coffee was excellent and I’d say that Kenya Airways coffee is second only to SwissAir.

In full island gear
The islands looked great as we came in to land and I could see the coral reefs very clearly. As we came off the plane all the delegates were greeted by a couple of local girls with frangipani leis – lovely gesture. We shot through Customs and Immigration and before long were on our way to our hotels. I don’t know why, but I had always thought the Seychelles to be fairly flat coral atolls, but they are not. They are massive lumps of granite which tower up steeply and which are, of course, covered in palms and miscellaneous tropical greenery.

That lovely bay
The hotel is right on the beach at the high tide mark, the bay sweeps away on either side, the water is warm and calm and clear and the sand is white. A real tropical island paradise. I wasted no time in getting into the water and then strolling along the beach. I found that windsurfing is free to residents so plan to have a go tomorrow – I felt my balance might have been a bit disturbed today by the wine consumed on the plane.

The busses called promptly at 18.30 to take us to the opening cocktail party which I enjoyed, drinking wisely in moderation – and then we were whisked back here. So ends a pretty good day. Only two things missing – my Rab and my Matt!!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

1984 - Solo to Kenya and Seychelles: Mombasa Day #2

Saturday 28 April 1984 – Mombasa #2

I slept like a log until about 07.00 this morning. The day looked more promising so I went for a run along the beach.

On the way back I fell into conversation with one Joseph, the proprietor of a wooden hulled mini dhow who offered to take me diving on the reef for $3.50 for one and a half hours. I accepted and we were just pushing off when Freddie turned up so he joined us, although not for the diving. The boat’s rigging and construction was pretty primitive but as it was low tide and the average depth of water was about one metre it didn’t worry me too much. The mast was an old forked tree trunk, the fork serving as the pulley to hoist the mainsail which consisted of old fertilizer sacks stitched together.. I was sorry I didn’t have my camera.

I spent a very enjoyable hour or so scooting around watching the very beautiful little reef fish which are so brightly coloured. Freddie couldn’t dive as he has a perforated eardrum but the water was so shallow that he could walk around and see the fish. When our time was up we headed back to the shore and there I met Selima. I had a quick half hour lesson before another squall blew up and forced me out of the water. The lesson was again spent mostly in the water but my balance was much better and I learned how to handle the mast and sail.

It was 10.00 by the time I shaved and showered and after such an energetic start to the day I decided that a bit of brunch would be in order. Nice breakfast – I had plenty of fruit plus some delicious bacon and sausage with not too bad scrambled egg washed down with several mango juices and some excellent coffee accompanied by mini doughnuts. Not bad at all and if I had been trying, I could have had a deal more.

Back to the beach after breakfast to finish my lesson, I landed up getting an additional hour on the house. I really battled to get the darned thing going and was finally getting the hang of it when I decided to take a break because I felt buggered. It is amazing how tiring it is scrambling onto a board, falling off, getting back on the board, pulling up the sail, falling off again and so on and so on.

I had an interesting chat with the white Kenyan in charge of the beach franchise and then decided, foolishly, to have another go. That’s when I discovered that my recovery time was somewhat longer than one hour. So I came back to my room and it was pretty hot as the sun was shining. – making the beach very much less disappointing as the tide came in. I think I may have been right about the cooling effect of the rain too – it was 26C when I woke this morning and the temperature went up over 30C during the day.

I finished off Michael Bentine’s biography which I picked up here second hand for about $1. while I was doing so, the rain and wind came back in. I strolled down between showers to say goodbye to Selima and to thank him for his efforts and had a delicious coconut ice cream for tea. I was torn between the mango and passionfruit. They did some other fairly unusual flavours including lime and mulberry and of course Matt’s favourite – dark chocolate.

I bought a couple more books for $1.20 and came back here to pack and get things sorted out for another early start tomorrow. I hope we get off OK as there is a terrific storm on now with thunder and lightning. It will be a bit of a blow if I miss the Seychelles flight. I had a bit of work to do, but found it  difficult to drum up any interest, so I ordered the same room service dinner – and once again it was very good.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

1984 - Solo to Kenya and Seychelles: Mombasa

Friday 27 April 1984 – Mombasa

I packed my suit etc and very efficiently laid out my clothes for the morning and went to sleep like an angel until about 02.30 when I woke up feeling awful.

I had taken my two malaria pills (the disease is said to be rife on the Coast, although I haven’t seen or heard a mozzie up here) just before retiring – the chemist was insistent that I should only take them after a heavy meal. I’m pretty sure that was the problem because when I read the pamphlet it said that one of the side effects might be a feeling of nausea. I even tried to vomit but couldn’t, so putting it down to the pills

I tried to get back to sleep. I dozed on and off until finally I got up at 04.00, shaved, dressed and read my book until 05.30 when I checked out, having been told that I should be at the airport one hour before the 07.00 takeoff. There was no one at the airport at that ungodly hour apart from a bunch of disgruntled Arabs from Saudi whose flight to Mombasa had been diverted to Nairobi where they had been offloaded at 02.00.

Staff members and more passengers started trickling in about 06.10 and, surprisingly, we took off on time at 07.00. it was quite a circus getting the Saudis aboard as they had about twenty pieces of hold luggage plus umpteen bits of hand luggage and were 105 kilograms overweight. Asians are not the most popular people in Kenya and the ground crew gave them a bit of a hard time before relenting.

It was a very good flight down to Mombasa with some lovely views of Kilimanjaro which of course was in full view. The countryside is very flat however and looked pretty dry as we headed towards the coast. There was thick cloud over Mombasa and it was raining pretty solidly when we touched down. The hot humid air really hit me as I got off the plane. Mombasa is surrounded by mangrove swamps and the tide was out. So the fresh air was not quite as fresh as I had hoped it would be after sitting surrounded by Saudis who smelt rather strongly – dirty bums was the predominant odour – and who were smoking rank tobacco. I was in two minds to remind them about Allah’s views on the subject but thought better of it.

The breakfast on the plane was nice – fruit salad, rolls and croissants although I stuck to the fruit and the coffee, which was surprisingly good. (I’m not sure why I was surprised. Did I not know that Kenya was a major coffee producer?) the luggage came off quite quickly and I shared a taxi with another passenger – a Belgian named Freddie Finch – since we were both going to the Nyali Beach Hotel.

Nyali Beach Hotel
We went through the most squalid area of town with badly thatched mud huts apparently sinking into the mud which surrounded them, wrecks of cars and everywhere an air of desolation. The hotel foyer was pleasant however and our welcome was warm. Since I was on a “special” at $25 per day for dinner, bed and breakfast I was in one of the rooms furthest but four from the foyer – 250 metres to be exact and up three flights of stairs. The room looked a bit sparse at first glance, having no carpeting, but of course it is a beach hotel and the local sand is very fine. The reason for the long walk to the room is fairly sound too. The hotel has obviously grown over a period of time and as expansion northward is not possible it has spread slowly south – and thus ensured that every room is sea facing. The view from my room is rather exotic with an old wreck on the reef being framed by waving palms.

Nyali Beach
It continued to rain the whole day. Mainly a fine drizzle but occasionally a heavy squall would sweep in from the sea. It seems that this may have kept the temperature down a bit because it was only about 28C today. I went  down to the beach however to have a snouse around and a swim. That was also a little disappointing because it was dead low tide – which meant there was a bit of a smell about. Maybe that was from the weed which covered much of the beach and the bottom of the sea. Not that any of this  really bothered me, but I could see any chance of persuading Rab and Matt to accompany me on a return visit fading rapidly into the distance.

There were all manner of water sports available so I had my first lesson in Windsurfing. A very pleasant little lad – Selima – was my tutor and he did the job pretty well I thought. I spent all my time in learning how to balance on the board. Actually that is not correct. I actually spent most of my time in the water having failed to balance on the board. My lesson was cut a little short by a squall but Selima continued the basics of sail handling on land before grabbing the board and hurtling off at high speed, making the most of the wind.

I was torn between another lesson in the afternoon and a visit to town. I finally decided on the latter so I could give a full and accurate sitrep on my return home. I bumped into Freddie in the foyer. As he had finished his business a little earlier than he had expected, he was also heading into town. He offered to share the taxi fare. I would really rather have gone on my own, but it was awkward to decline his offer, so off we went in a dilapidated Peugeot 404 taxi which I thought would cease to function any moment. It didn’t however and the driver carted us around pretty well, all things considered.

Prices in the shops here are higher than Nairobi so I didn’t buy anything except a Muslim fez which you can’t get up there. Freddy and I had agreed to meet the taxi back at the Castle Hotel so I made my way there. I bought Rab a rather unusual T-shirt with a sequinned leopard on it in one of the shops at the hotel which surprisingly enough were more reasonable. It is not much of a town I must say. It reminds me of the poorer Indian quarters of Durban. Very tatty and dirty and rather smelly.

There were plenty of pretty flash local girls hanging around with the tourists at the hotel and some pretty awful looking blokes who were presumably pushing drugs. I had a couple of offers in town and at the beach for marijuana or cocaine. We had a drink at the hotel while we waited for the taxi. Unfortunately mine came with ice which I whipped out rapidly as our hotel brochure had said that the local water is suspect. I couldn’t have been quick enough though because b y the time we got back to our hotel I had the gripes and the trots. By this time Freddy, pleasant as he was, was getting on my nerves a bit, so I used this as an excuse to return to my room.

I did feel a bit grim actually and just lay and read, replacing my lost liquids with tonic and bitter lemon from the mini bar being reluctant at that stage to even try the drinking water supplied. By 20.00 I was feeling a little better and rather peckish not having eaten since the previous night so I ordered a very pleasant meal from room service – prawn cocktail, grilled kingfish and fresh fruit. And so to sleep at about 21.30.