Sunday, 18 December 2011

Diani Beach 17 to 24 December 2011

Report from Diani Beach
17 to 24 December 2011

Saturday, 17-12-2011

A minivan taxi car came to pick us up at noon to go to Wilson airport, a small airport for domestic flights. Each of us carried a small check-in luggage and a backpack. I was glad that all the luggage fit into the car. The driver told me that to charter a taxi minivan would be KES 10,000 a day, and for a regular car was 8,000. And to hire a driver only was 1,000. The price for daily charter was more than double of what we paid in Bali.

Oshwal Centre
The driver took the same road that |Min usually took to go downtown by driving south on the United Nation Avenue, turned west on Limuru Road, turned into Red Hill Rd at  the junction, south to the beautiful Thigiri Ridge Rd lined with tall trees, and east into Peponi Rd. Usually we would turned into Lower Kabete Rd at the end of the road and faced the congestion at the traffic bottle neck near the Westlands Matatus Stop. He avoid this by turning east into Mwanzi Rd in front of the Westgate Shopping Mall, and at the corner was a large Hindu temple and community centre  Oshwal Centre, then turned south into Ring Road Parklands, east into Muthithi Rd, south into Mpaka Rd. At this corner, there was a large tree. And then turned east into the large A109 Rd, or the Mombasa-Malada Rd. This area was the business centre of Westlands.

Large apartment complex on Arboretum Road
He went down the ramp on the road and made a U-turn, and then south into Riverside Drive. This was the first time I was on the following roads. He then turned south into Ring Road Kileleshwa and then turned into Arboretum Road. There was a large apartment complex at the corner, and a major road construction was underway. He then turned turned into the lower State House Road where the well fenced  presidential residence was located. I was warmed by the driver that it was strictly no photograph. He then turned west into Denis Pritt Rd, south into Woodlands Rd. We passed the Chinese Embassy and another sensitive and restrictive defense establishment across the street. He then turned east into Argwing Kodhek Rd, south into Valley Rd, and crossed another congested roundabout at Ngong Rd, and we were on Mbagathi Way, and at its end, south into Langata Rd. At the roundabout, there was a large T-Mall shopping centre. And nor far away was the Wilson airport. There were many new large housing complex in this area.

Safarilink checkin counter in Wilson airport
The check-in counter for Safarilink was further west from the terminal of the airport. We passed many shacks and buildings of small airlines, and many of them probably provided services for the safari, and arrived early in the small counter at 1 pm. We only waited a short wile, and the staff told us that we were ready for boarding. And a minivan took us back to the terminal of the airport. The security check was not strict, and we went quickly into the waiting area. There were about 5 small airplanes (12 seaters) parking on the tarmac. Not long after, we were asked to walk to one of them to board.

We were over the Nairobi West Estate, but the view from the airplane was like we were flying over the National Park which was not far south of the airport. And when we were over the National Park, there were so many houses and shacks. I was really confused. The number and the size of the farm lands gradually became less and smaller as we flew south. The rich land was restricted only in the valley bounded by low smoothly erode hills. The large part of the land had little vegetation except along the bank of creeks.

Large green houses on highway A104
I took photos of a large scale green house operation on the south side of highway A104 at the junction of Enkasiti Road, south of Milimani . But my GPS showed the location was about 2 km west along the pathway. The GPS showed that the altitude was 1,893 m and the speed was 219 km/hr. If the error of 2 km was due to the time error of the camera, then the camera clock must be advanced by 32 seconds. However, the clock on a camera can only be adjusted to the minute, and therefore, it is difficult to synchronize the time.

A perfect cone shape volcano in the distant
The flight path continued its course of south-east and gradually approaching A109 in the east. The mountain region in the east was starting to enter our view. There was a perfect cone shape mountain in the distant but I could not related it to any of the hills on the Google map. As we approach north-west of Salama on A109, there was a strangly looking tall tower on the top of a hill. I didn't know what it was. Soon A109 came into view. The land north of the highway was heavily cultivated, but on the south side was remained wooded. The mountains north-east of the flight path were getting closer, and the landscape became more hilly and interesting. Terraced farmland were seen in the photos.

Groups of small volcanoes with large craters
Soon a steep cliff was seen but I could not located it on the map. We flew over Sultan Hamud on A109, and soon the landscape became very interesting. Small volcanoes started to appear with its large crater in its peaks. The inside of many of the craters were densely wooded. The colour of the photos appeared to be different from most taken in other areas. It was light turquoise. Most of the volcanoes were seen as we were near and over Chyulu National Park.

Volcano with water in its crater
We then flew over Tsavo East National Park, and saw the bare rocks on the majestic steep cliff. We also saw the dirt runway of a small airport north-east of Vois (intersection of A109 and A23). The fly path then run parallel with the western edge of the park, the rail road and A109. Before we saw the town of Maungu, we saw an interesting isolated volcano with its crater filled with water. This was the only crater we saw on this flight filled with water.

The large gray trees were the baobab trees
Once again, the landscape showed the mixture of cleared land and wooded land. And soon we saw a beautiful group of building and a large field. It could be a school. We also saw the bridge of the road C106. Then the high escarpment came into view. The land became a flat plateau, and was densely wooded. It was the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary. We flew over Shimba Hills National Park, and  started to see many baobab trees and villages among the woods. Four minutes before we landed, we saw the coast and the town with many buildings among the woods.

Arriving at the small Ukunda airport
The Ukunda airport was a small with very few flights and facilities. Min had arranged a similar taxi minivan to meet us and took us to the hotel. The road out of the airport was a bumpy dirt road similar to that I took when I was small in Padang. There were many simple shacks along the road with thatch roof made of coconut leaves. There were also a few properly built new buildings like clinics and schools. Soon we turned into Diani Beach Road which had an asphalt surface. We saw some monkeys and baboons on the road, and passed the entries for many hotels, resorts etc. More than half an hour later, we arrived at our destination Lantana Gulu Beach Diani Apartment Villa. It really had a long name.

Reception hall in L:antana Resort
Immediately one could feel the Arabic style of the architect. All the exteriors are white. We were served with a glass of cold juice while resting in the lobby. The breeze made it very comfortable. Min had arranged to rent a villa for KES 34,000 a night. It was a fully furnish two stories, 3 bedroom individual semi-detached house. The roof also had a patio with furniture. The villa  was close to the swimming pool and the beach. We all liked it, and soon all of us were in the warm water of the pool to enjoy and relax.

Building with thatch roof made of coconut or palm leaves
Limestone coral rocks were used to build this sea wall
Many of the buildings in hotels or resorts had thatch roof made of coconut or palm leaves. They looked weak and would be destroyed easily by a minor hurricane. Fortunately, the country was blessed with good weather. The rocks used to build the sea wall were very porous. It had the colour from light to dark brown and burgundy. It might be the limestone but I looked for traces of marine life and couldn't find it. The texture was very similar to the black volcano rocks.

The white, fine and soft sands on the beach
The white coral sand on the beach was very fine and soft like gypsum powder. It formed a crust under the strong sunshine, and would break when stepped, and made the feet sank in the soft part under. We could walked on the beach north all the way to Somali, and to the south to Tanzania. There were not much fishing boats on the beach, but on the road, we saw many signs saying public access to the beach. This beach had not yet attracted many visitors, and was quiet, and no commercial activities. And in the evening, I only saw the lonely light from one fishing boat.

Pool in the resort
We had dinner in the restaurant next to the pool. All menus were under KES 1,000. The food was ok but not great. Keith mentioned that he had learned on the Internet that some villas were own individually, and he asked us all to guess the price. We had many wild numbers but one of us came up with KES 25 million which was very close to the real price of 24.

Keith in front of the villa

Villas in the resort

Sunday, 18-12-2011

The ruin sea wall under high tide
I started the day by walking with Keith early in the morning on the beach. A worker was busy raking the sea weeds deposited on the beach by the high tide. The sea was reaching the ruined sea wall on the north, and we only could go south. Yesterday late afternoon when we walked on the beach, it was low tide.

A dead casuarina tree with vertical roots
We saw some baobab trees among the coconut grove. There was one dead casuarina tree, and I was surprise to see that its roots were penetrating the earth straight vertically into the ground. It looked like it was standing with its legs. We didn't walked very far, and then turned back because Keith was feeling the sun burn because he forgot to apply the lotion.

Pool in the resort
We spent most of time playing in the pool. Yesterday and today, I tried swimming a few laps, but felt pain on my right hip joint as I kicked, and stopped doing it. There were a group of about ten Indian teenagers with parents playing in the pool. They had surprising light skin colour. There were only two boys and the rest were girls. They were climbing and pushing and having a great time. Suddenly I heard some screams and saw one of the boy came out of the water with a bloody red finger scratches on his back. Everything suddenly went dead quiet and calm. They all got off the pool. One mother paid special attention to the boy, and asked him to turned around and took many photos of the scratches. I didn't know if she wanted to make any claims. Several parents also came to investigate and probably offered advice. After about 10 minutes, everything was settled down, and the party resumed.

My lunch with complimentary addition
I was hungry, and last night I learned that the restaurant would serve buffet this noon. I was not sure of the time, and went there to see Ching still eating her lunch. It was supposed to started at 12:30, I was 15 early and decided to wait by seating on one of the chair in the restaurant. This was how I noticed the incident in the pool. I waited and asked the waiter, and every time I got the same answer. Finally, they brought out the soup, and we could start having the buffet at well pass 1:30. The manager probably felt apologetically for long wait and gave me a basket of 4 deep fried onions in the shape of a hamburger, and then a plate of chapati. They were delicious and reminded me of my good time in Dhaka. He should have brought these entree while I was waiting not when I already started eating. The buffet had lamb legs, chicken legs, shrimps and broccoli cooked separately with heavy curry spice. The soup was like blended squash soup with also heavy spice. All of them were delicious, but I didn't want to overfill my stomach. Soon, Min and Alex joined me, but Max and Keith decided to skip because they had a heavy and late breakfast.

Old man and his camels
A small glider airplane roaring overhead, the sound of the engine was like a noisy lawnmower. And I was thinking of trying it. An old man leading 3 dromedaries tied together, one after another in a team, like in a caravan appeared on the beach passing the ruined sea wall. He and the team, walked several times up and down the beach apparently looking for customers.

Keith, Max and Alex playing volley ball
I went back to the room to work on the computer, and Keith and the boys joined others playing volley ball on the beach.

Outrigger fishing canoe
In late afternoon nearly 5 pm, I walked up north on the beach and back for about an hour. I met the camel team, and saw some fishing boats on the beach and moored in the water. The boat was a heavy outrigger dugout canoe built in two horizontal sections. The bottom part was in one piece. The top part, about 1/3 of the total height, was another section attached to the bottom part. The beam holding the two pontoon was not in one piece. The pontoon was also made of heavy wood and was built with its own beam attached securely, and it was then tied to the beam on the boat by nylon rope. There must be some logic in doing it this way. My explanation was the pontoon was too heavy and must be carried with its own well built and strong built-in beam. It was easier to tie the two beams together by rope than trying to tie securely the beam on the boat to the pontoon directly.

Coils of sands
On the beach, I saw many piles of sands coiled like a bunch of soft noodle made on top of a cake like a decoration. Some of them looked neat with each coil turned properly, and some were a little messy. I also saw some young white females tourist strolling on the beach with some local beach boys. In the travel books, it mentioned that many tourists came here seeking some exotic experiences.

Monday, 19-12-2011

Stall for the poor locals
Shopping mall for tourists and the rich locals
Min hired a taxi to take us to tour Mombasa. It was also a minivan and came at 8:30. We took the bumpy Diani Beach Road north. There were many huts selling very few goods. It reflected the buying power of the population. As we approached the town of Ukunda, we saw many new and large stores specially for tourists and the rich locals. We passed Centre Point shopping mall where there was a Nankumatt Diani supermarket. Soon we stopped at a large roadside eating area with thatch roof to buy some local deep fried dumplings and something like oily crepes for breakfast to be eaten in the taxi. We then turned north on highway A14 or Ukunda-Ramisi Road. If we turned south, we would reach the border with Tanzania in less than an hour. There were many large commercial buildings at this junction.

Hundreds of cattle crossing the road
Along this road, houses were seen one after another all the way to Mombasa with very little vacant lands in between. Many house had walls built by limestone coral rocks and corrugated iron roof. Large mango trees on the yards of the houses were bearing large and heavy fruits. Crew were laying 6-inches steel water pipe in some section of the road along its western side. The traffic was stopped by a large herds of several hundred cattle crossing the road. Several herdsmen were waving sticks with a red flags attached on its end. Half an hour later, we started seeing more people and small stores in shacks along the road, and we were close to the ferry terminal to Mombasa Island.

Arriving passengers from Mombasa ferry
There was strict rule for not permitting taking any photo on the ramp and in the ferry. We waited for about 5 minutes, and then we saw large number of people pushing the Chinese made classic bikes and carts laden with goods up the ramp. It was the arrival of human tidal bore. And we started moving down the ramp to board the ferry. Keith got out of the van wanting to catch some fresh air. He was carrying his camera, and a security officer came and asked him to leave the camera in the car. It was a fairly new ferry made in Germany with the capacity of about 60 passengers car. On both sides of the ferry were two levels balcony like space for passengers. The crossing took only a few minutes.

Gigantic elephant tusks sculptures on Moi Avenue
Loading a truck from a warehouse
The city had wide boulevard lined with old and new buildings. The Arabic influence on the architecture was very prominent. We were on Moi Avenue, and there were several gigantic metallic white sculpture of elephant tusks on the island of the boulevard. We passed a large white mosque at the roundabout and continued on to Miji Kenda Street where the train station was located. The station was just a simple low and old building with rusty corrugated iron roof. There were many container lying on its ground. The road made a turn and became Baracuta Rd where large warehouses were lining up. It was like the street along the Arao River in Padang. Workers were carrying sacks on their back to load them on a truck. At one time, my old house in Padang was used as a warehouse. And truck loads of cargoes in sacks were  moving in and out everyday by laborers. I had tried to imitate them by carrying the sacks that I could manage.

Akamba Handycraft workshops
Workshop for craftmen 
We cross the causeway. On one side was a huge garbage dump site, and very soon, there would be enough material to build a second causeway. We were on Mombasa Rd or highway A109 going to Nairobi. The driver told us that this road had changed name recently to Barack Obama Road. Soon we turned into the Airport Rd, and the Moi International Airport was not far away. Our first stop for today was to visit the Akamba Handycraft Industry Ltd. It was a co-operative society, and had about 3,000 members working on wood carving. A large post was put before we entered the work shacks, and informing visitors that they were not allowed to purchase any carving directly from any person working in the compound, and all purchases must be made in the store in the compound.

He was shaping an object
Making a hard selection
There were many rows of low shacks among the shaded trees. Despite the shack had no walls, the light was not bright due to the low roof and the shade of the trees. These were where the craftsmen work. Some senior craftsmen were shaping an object using various kind of expensive and fine woods like ebony, mahogany, teak, rose wood etc, but I had the feeling that they were making the same or similar objects all the time. This was probably the main difference between an artist and a craftsman. And he had other assistance to help him finish the products by adding the detail, filing, sand papering, oiling etc. Other craftsmen worked on a sculpture all by himself. Most of the carvings were masks, animals, human and legendary objects and utensils. The size varied from large to tiny, and there was an almost full life size elephant carving on the ground. There were many large giraffe carvings on various stage of finishing. There were only a few women in the shacks, and their works were mostly tied to fabric. The men were more on the skinny side. There were many carvings sold in the store, and their prices seemed slightly less than the price in Indonesia. Of course, it was almost impossible to compare the price of two different art object. We made some purchases as a contribution to our visit.

Swaminarayan Temple
We drove back to town to meet a guide that Min had arranged in a large Hindu temple Swaminarayan Temple on Station Rd. It was a 4 stories rectangular building with a courtyard in the middle. The prayer halls were on the left wing of the courtyard, and the right wind was for residence. Inside were many paintings on the walls depicting the horrible punishments received in the hell for not behaving according to the Hindu rules, and many of the popular legends. I asked the guide of how one could become a Hindu, and he took this personally, and immediately responded that he was a Christian.

McKinnon Market (old slave market)
Vendors on the alleyway
Kitchen utensils
Next he took us for a walk tour of McKinnon Market on Nehru Rd, the old town and fort. We were warmed to be careful of our wallet and other valuable before we left the car. First, we went to the meat market. It was the female slave market in the old day. Since the population here was 60% Muslim, they only sale mutton and camel meat. We then moved quickly to the vegetable market next to it. Originally it was the market for selling male slave. The atmosphere, the products sold and the arrangement of the stalls and goods were very much like that in Indonesia. We saw a big pile of slice betel nuts in one stall, but we didn't see any place selling the siri leaves for eating with betel nut. The variety of fruits and vegetables was less than what was available in Indonesia. We saw the raw saffron in a stall special in spices. The market was overflowed into the side street. And vendors were displaying their goods on the side of the street. Large nangka (jack fruit) were available, but the fruit inside was rather small. Red scallion must be a popular vegetables, and it was stocked pile high in all the stall. I didn't know that baobab tree had fruit, and the nuts inside were eatable. The coconut here was elongate and was much smaller than that in Indonesia. It was interesting to see a woman tailor busily working on the side of street. We saw a small stool with a long neck the shape of a duck. A semi-circle sharp iron disk scraper with teeth on its edge was attached at the end of the neck. It was used for scraping coconut. The guide said that it was used by the women only. We used something similar in Padang, and I had been using it since I could help in the kitchen.

We saw five mosques in the old town, and all of them had large loudspeaks mounted on its minaret. We were touring the area from 11:50 to 13:08, and the Muslim pray time on that day in Mombasa was 12:20. However, I didn't hear any  large calling for pray from those loudspeakers.

Swahilli door
House built in 1932
We passed many narrow alleys, and again the feeling was like back to Indonesia. There was a lack of drinking water in the household, and people was using plastic containers to fetch running water from small water tabs on the street. Some of the old mansions had beautifully carved wooden balcony, and we saw some house dated in the 1930 era. Some of the houses still had the beautifully carved big wooden front door. The guide explained to us that there were three different style of doors: the Indian style had many studs on the door; the Arabic style had beautiful figure carving and some Arabic script on the lunette of a door; and the Swahilly style which was like the Arabic with no Arabic script.

The old fort
We finished our tour at Old Fort built by the Portuguese. It was also known as Fort Jesus because of its shape. We didn't enter into the fort, and only looked at its exterior. According to the guide, this was where the slaves were kept before being shipped out of Africa. We passed the old courthouse and found our taxi to take us for lunch in a coffee house downtown. Like other business catering for foreign tourists, the prices of meals and drinks were like in Canada.

Feeding the giraffe
Marabou stork
The hippo
The eland
The Defassa waterbuck
Our final stop was the animals in Haller Park. The park was originally an abandoned limestone quarry. It was then rehabilitated into a park. The most popular  activity for the visitors was feeding the giraffes. It would lick the feed from the visitor's hand, and left its saliva on the palm. We also saw a banded mongoose and many velvet monkeys on that ground. We then moved on to the visitor centre where we saw the giant tortoises. Everyone liked to touch them. We followed a guide and he took us to see the cages for exhibiting snakes and big lizard liked a small  commodore. We then moved on to see the warthog. It was covered with long hair on the front half of its back. We saw a Marabou Stork on the trail, and a Defassa Waterbuck in a shady bush. We then moved on to see the buffelo and the eland. There were also many monkeys there sharing the food of the host animals. Two hippos were in the pond showing their faces above the water. A worker came carrying some hippo food in a  bag. He dumped it on the ground, and made some noises or gestures to get the attention of the hippo. They seemed like had been trained and responded to it. They started making movement to float up from the water. Soon we could see the whole of their giant body. They walked slowly to the pile of food. A monkey walked beside it. When the hippo stopped, so did the monkey. The small one, probably female, came up first, and then the larger one. The food was not much and in a few gulps it was all finished.

The crocodile in frenzy trying to catch the meat
The giant Nile crocodile
The Nile yellow crocodile
We passed many large water tanks filled with young tilapia. Many years ago, the park raised this fish commercially and could produce 52 tons a year. Now the park only raised the tilapia fingerling. Finally we arrived at the major attraction in the park, the feeding of the Nile crocodiles. One of them was an extra large one measured over 3 metrre long. A rope had been tied to a pulley across the pond. A staff came with some pieces of meats. He tied it to a rope and push the pulley rope to the middle of the pond. Somehow, like the hippo, the crocodile knew that it was time for them to perform. They jumped out of the water in a frenzy trying to catch the meat. The giant crocodile was too lazy to join, and just waited near where the staff was standing. he knew that sooner or later, the staff would bring the meat to its mouth. When its chance came, it was too heavy to jump like other smaller crocodile, and could only raised its neck trying to catch the meat. It made a large noise like hitting two palms real hard when it tried to bite. After playing a little games with the staff, it finally catch the meat. The guide told us that the crocodile was regularly fed once a month with a lot of meats. What we had seen was just a show and was not the real feeding. Finally we saw the yellow crocodiles which were a mutation of the normal one. It could not survive in nature because of its light colour which made it an easy prey.

People going home after got off the ferry
We must take the ferry again to go back to our resort. Most people on the side walk were walking toward the ferry terminal. We saw a rush of people pushing bikes and other coming toward us, and we knew that the ferry had arrived, but the queue line for the car didn't move. We waited for 15 minutes, and finally the traffic started moving. When we reached the ramp, we saw the deck of one ferry which was ready to leave was fully packed with people. The heads were like packed mushrooms in a big package. Only a few cars were seen in the front of the ferry. The driver told us that during the rush hour, the security guard could not effectively control the crowd, and let the human tidal bore rushed to the ferry when it arrived. It was free for the passenger to ride the ferry. And the ferry was operating 24 hours a day with less frequent service in late hours.

Shopping at Nakumatt
We made a quick stop at the busy Nakumatt supermarket at Diani to get some groceries. Max and Alex were running around to find the items we needed in the store. Keith commented that this was the fastest shopping he had experienced. We arrived at the resort at about before 8 pm.

Min ordered some take-out from restaurant outside. We had curried chicken, fried pan fish, and many other dishes of vegetables and rices. They were all quite plain to my taste.

Tuesday, 20-12-2011

On the first two days when I tried to swim, my hip join was very painful when I tried to kick the water in breast stroke, but this morning, I was glad to find out that the pain had disappeared. It was good that I refused to take any pain killer, it seemed that I only had to do more exercises.

A monkey on a villa balcony
The day before yesterday when the cleaning staff was in the villa, he advised me to close all windows and doors when we are out because there were monkeys that would take things away. I was not certain whether he meant the human or the animal monkey, because I had not see any real monkeys in the premise. This morning while I was working on my computer next to the window, I saw a monkey on the balcony of another villa across the courtyard.

A scuba diving lesson
Min said that an instructor was coming to give instruction on how to do scuba diving. This would help them to decide whether to do it or only do the snorkelling. The instructor came with his assistant and carried with them two sets of equipment. The actual instruction was actually given by his assistant. Each of them took turn to dive in the pool with the instructor. The whole exercise took half an hour.

A man playing polo on the beach
There seemed to be more people and activities on the beach this afternoon. I saw two ladies coming back from their trip on a fishing outrigger canoe. A man was wearing proper attire on a horseback hitting a polo ball on the beach, and later two girls also wearing proper clothes and caps were riding with a local instructor. All the horses were chestnut in colour and were strong and beautiful. I took photos of a strong man struggling to hang on to the ropes of a kite to control it. For the first time, I realized how strong that wind was blowing. A fisherman came back on his canoe, but I didn’t go to see what his catches of the day was.

The two section of the bow
One piece stern section
I went back to check on the construction of the fishing canoe. The beam was inserted in a hole on the pontoon, and the joint was fastened by driving a bolt or wooden pin on the beam. The bow of a canoe was usually made of two sections to take care of the curving up high prow. The stern and the lower section of the bow was in one piece. The two sections at the bow were joined by screw or wooden ? glue? I saw several simple canoes on the beach, they had been turned up site down, and the flat bottom of the canoe was blackening by fire. On the beach were remained of burned wood. The fisherman probably used fire to remove the marine life attached to the canoe. A lady was wading in the water to her hip. She was pushing a floating plastic basket in front of her. And from time to time she would pick something from the bottom and put it in the basket. Further north, local boys were playing soccer on the beach. It was like what I saw in Padang.

Beach crap
After it was dark, Keith suggested that we should go out to the beach to watch the crabs. I took a camera, but it was too dark to catch any photo of the crabs. They moved very fast and quickly plunged into their holes in the sand as we came near. In the dark, they looked like large cotton balls being blown by the wind. We gave up and back to the villa. Min ordered pizza from outside. The price was only KES 500 and the price in the villa restaurant was 750, The taste was just as good.

Wednesday, 21-12-2011

A fisherman equipment
We went collecting shells on the beach this morning. I saw a fisherman sorting his equipment laying on a small styrofoam floatation getting ready to go fishing. He seemed suddenly remember that he had forgotten something; he left all his equipment on the beach, and ran very fast along the beach to the south. I looked at his equipment that he had left, they were a spear gun with a spare spear, and both spears were rusty; a bag, and floatation liked half of a squash, some ropes and a net. For the first time, I saw a Masai walking on the beach wearing a red robe. There might be more of them further north where there were more tourists.

Old fisherman
his catches
An old fisherman was returning from his fishing trip. He was pushing his simple canoe with a long pole. Aftr landing his canoe on the beach, he took down a large crap trap and pulled it up to a resting hut on the head of the beach under a wild pandan tree.  I went to see his catch, and he  had one basket full of fish and some more lying on the canoe. It seemed plenty for a day meal. His wife wearing a shawl and niqap suddenly appeared from nowhere, she came to fetch the fish. She walked back to the hut. The oldman continued emptying the water in the canoe, and then took the pole with him to join his wife.

Four men were bending to fill their bags with sea weed which had been raked on the beach. They then marched on a file and dumped it about 20 metres away on the same beach. Three men landed heir fishing canoe on the beach, and walked up the beach. Only one of them carried a small bag. I wodered if they didn’t have a good day.

When we returned to the villa, we found Alex had a haircut. In Taiwan we call the style pingtou (flat head). I might consider that when the time came.

It was hard to decide what to discard
We were walking on the beach again late this afternoon, and Ching decided that she would not pick any more shells. But at the end she could not resist the temptation, and had her hand full of shells. We passed two beautiful private houses, The stretch of beach in front of their house was completely littered with broken shells, and was painful to walk on without shoes. That layer of shells was deep, and must have been accumulated over a long period of time. I wondered what force was causing this deposit.

Thursday, 22-12-2011

Mansion with traditional roof
Today, we were going to Shimoni to do snorkelling. A minvan came to pick us up at 7:30. The wind was blowing real hard last night, and we were worried if we could make it today. Fortunately it was calm when we left. The driver took a shortcut by turning into a dirt road to join the highway A14. We saw many village houses and large mango and tamarind trees, and a mansion with its traditional high pitch thatch roof. The road was in a much better shape than the heavily used Diani Beach Road, and was not bumpy.

Pile of small coconuts on the ground
Fifteen minutes later, we turned south into A14. The scenery was much more pleasant than our trip to Mombasa. We passed a major new road construction, and the driver told us that it was built for a Chinese company who had a new operation deep in the wood. I wondered what could that be. The driver said that the Chinese might be mining for precious stone, but the geology of the area was limestone coral, and there would be impossible to find this stone in this geological formation. We saw a large coconut grove, and large piles of the small fruit on the ground. We passed a sugar cane plantation and a small sugar factory. But there were not enough canes to run the factory full time. It was originally own by an Indian Kenyan who had fled the country, the government re-established it to provide some employment opportunity for the locals. 

Taking charcoals to market
There were many people carrying charcoals on bikes, they were taking them to market. I saw power lines far away from the road, and asked the driver. He told us that the original plan of the road was next to the power lines, but it was later changed. Some politicians must be making a lot of money for making this change. A matatus was broken in the middle of the road. Some branches were scattered on its side and on the vehicle to warm the passing traffic. Three Masai were walking along the road, and I wondered where they were going to.

Sign to Shimoni
After half an hour on A14, we saw the sign for turning to Shimoni. We drove on another dirt road. I noticed that there were many tiny mosques along the dirt road. They were built by the government according to the need of the people. But I could hardly see any large number of houses. The drivers said that many people lived deep inside the bush, and they would walk to their mosque for the daily pray. The Muslim prayed six times a day, and would be very impractical for them to walk a long distant frequently every day. The driver said that they usually came to pray and then stay to socialize instead of going home or work immediately.

Goats on the road
In less than half an hour, we came close to the town. A group of about 40 goats were lying lazily on the road like they were in a sit in demonstration. They ignored the approach of our car and didn’t move; the driver was probably used to this, and just manoeuvred slowly in the narrow spaces between them. Most of the stores on the road side were also made of simple thatch huts. Soon after the car parked in a lot, several other minivans arrived with their full load of tourist passengers. Next to the parking lot was a sign advertising the old slave cave. The town had an ugly history of being the centre for transporting slave. They put the slaves in the cave while waiting to be shipped. They were really being treated like domesticated animals.

tourist boat (left) and cargo boat (right)
Guide leader gave some instructions
We walked to the pier. It was low tide, and on both sides were large and small boats stranded on the beaches. Some people were working to fix the bottom of a boat. There were many tourist boats and cargo boats in the water. We boarded a small tender boat and then transfer to a bigger tourist boat. There were 18 tourists on our boat and 5 crews. We soon left the harbour, and the leader of the guides gave introductory speech. We were travelling east in the middle of a narrow strait separating a large Wasini Island from the mainland. The swell became stronger as we got closer to the entrance of the strait. We saw that the wave had carved deeply the limestone coral bank of the island. We saw many large baobab trees in the island. They seemed to like that kind of soil and climate.

Welcoming dolphins
We turned around the island and went further south to the Kisite-Mpunguti National Marine Park. Many of us were not feeling well due to the strong swell except Keith and a few others. Ching and I lied down most of the time to fight against the seasickness. A school of dolphins came to greet us. We all got excited to watch them. There were two other boats also in the area, and we were all watching the sea surface for any sign of the return of the dolphins.

Crocodile Island
Going snorkelling
We passed a long island. It end was deeply carved out by the sea, and looked very much like the head of a crocodile. I called it the Crocodile Island. We then passed a chain of small islands looked like mushroom. In one of these islands, the sea had carved out a big hole through it, and left a piece of rock in the middle of the hole like a hermit meditating. The boat was not allow to moor too close to the park, and everyone soon got ready to put their equipment on. There was a young couple, and the lady was seriously seasick, but she also went snorkelling. Ching and me were the only two left in the boat resting. They swam in a group toward the island in the distant where the park was. They came back 40 minutes later with some excitement. Keith saw a moray eel and a flash of a big fish later suggested might be a large barracuda. They rested and had cookies and drinks for half an hour, and then started to take another trip for another half an hour. Most people were tired as we headed back to Wasini Island to have lunch in a restaurant.

Our restaurant on Wasini Island
The western end of the island had beach and was populated. And the rest was mainly wood with a large number of large baobab trees. Our restaurant was in the middle of the wood. The wave was probably too strong to let us land on the pier in front of the restaurant, the tender boat sent by the restaurant took us to another pier further away from the restaurant, and we had to walk through a narrow trail cut through the woods. The trail was covered with sharp coral rocks. One could easily get a serious cut falling on to it.

The main hall of the restaurant
Restaurant staff holding the dishes in the basket
A lot of sands and soils must had been brought in to build a beautiful garden surrounded by a large and tall thatch main hall with no wall, and several other smaller walled buildings. We took seats in the main hall, and soon a line of 8 female staff came in each carrying a basket high on their hands with a dish in it. They stood behind the head table. The head waitress started to introduce the dishes. One by one, the staff would bring the food she carried and gave it to her, she explain it to us and then put it on the head table. The foods were all Swahili and looked good. They were steam mangrove crab, brown fish ball, quick fried green local seaweed, fried potato and corn, plantain in coconut cream, skewered octopus in dense curry sources, and rice cooked in coconut cream. I sampled all of them but found the taste was a little plain. It was probably due to my prefer taste of using more coconut cream in cooking. The only local specialty was the sea weed. It was good but not as crispy as that from Korea, and the sea weed itself was of different kinds.

Water reservoir in the garden
We rested on the pavilion in the garden and enjoying the view and breeze from the sea. I noticed a big hole covered by strip of woods, and thought that it might be a water reservoir to collect the rain water. The owner moved into the island with his family 17 years ago, and now they spent more time on the mainland due to children schooling. There were other two or three boats with us at the same time, but ours was the only one came to this restaurant. The competition must be very keen on this island. 

Sign for the slave cave
We were back to Shimoni before 4:30 pm. The driver Ali had told us that in Diani Beach, there was a giant baobab tree with 200 ft circumference. He was a driver and must be familiar with measurement and therefore, his statement should be reliable. I liked to see this giant but it might take too much extra  time and we didn’t go. We also a little in a hurry wanting to leave and didn’t visit the slave cave despite the driver already mentioned that he would wait for us to visit the cave.

The crooked coconut tree
On the way back, we passed the sugar factory and saw many people leaving. Many male workers still wearing their blue mechanic coveralls were carrying a large plastic bucket clumsily on their shoulder walking along the road. On the other hand, their female counterpart could easily carry them on their head graciously. When we passed that large coconut grove, I notice that one of the trees had a crooked trunk. It was not as spectacle as the one I saw in Batusangkar near Padang.  

It was a great day, and I still felt the rocking of the boat after we were back in the villa.

Friday, 23-12-2011

Ali Barbour's Cave
Today, we just relaxed and enjoying our time in the pool. Alex had made new friends and they were together all the time. Tonight was our last night on the trip, and Min had arranged something special as a surprise for us. A taxi came to pick us up at shortly after 7 pm, and it took us to Ali Barbour’s Cave restaurant. Along the Diani Beach Road, we saw several groups of Masai walked hurrily. The driver said that they were business Masai. They sold small souvenirs to tourists and also performed dances on requested. They lived and mixed with other Swahili residences in the area. 

The restaurant
Our table
The bar
A tall Masai greeted us at the door. The main hall had nothing special, and then we walked down a stairs and entered a large underground natural cave decorated with beautiful soft lighting. It had bar and tables, and several waitresses were busy serving the customers. Min said that it was French style, and they staff were very careful in selecting the proper knife and fork etc for every dish. Ching didn’t want to have a big dinner and order a spaghetti, and we were shocked to see a tiny little bit of noodle curling at the bottom of a giant plate. Keith ordered an oyster entrĂ©e for all of us. The oyster was small not like what we had in Canada. Some were fresh and others were baked with cheese and herbs like what Shyan’s friend had cooked in Shyan’s house. They were good. I order crab meat, and it tasted good too. The most attractive specialty of this restaurant was its atmosphere. There were three additional hole like sky-light that were open on the ground and we could see the stars in the sky. We were wondering what did they do when it was raining. Later we found that there was a sliding roof built beside each hole.

While we were waiting for our taxi, on Min’s request, the Masai guard took her and me to see a bar on the beach not far behind the restaurant. We passed the security guard without any check, and enter the bar. It was big and crowd and was set up right on the sand. There must be at least more than a hundred people there. It had very bright light lighting up the beach front. Not far away must be another bar with loud life musical band playing. We didn’t stay long and quickly left. We saw a white lady was being searched by the security guard as she wanted to enter.

For once more time, I went to the beach in search of the beach crab, and I finally got a good photo of it.

Saturday, 24-12-2011

Early morning sun
We were returning to Nairobi this morning. For the first time, I got up very early and went to the beach. The tide was probably high last night and had washed up the beach completely clean like a tile floor. I hesitate to put my feet on it as I didn’t want to damage its purity. The sea was very calm with almost no wave like a giant pool. There were some fishing boats with their sails on, and the sun was hiding behind the early morning clouds. Its rays exploded like a giant chrysanthemum. The temperature of the water was just perfect, and I could not resist the temptation of submerging into it. It was great.

Masai on the road
Mawensi (left) and Kiro (right) peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro
We left the resort at 9:30, and saw 4 Masai on their clean clothes walking on the road. They waved at us when I took their photo from the car. We took AirKenya, and it provided some light meal on the flight. It was a bigger plane and was more comfortable. The great excitement on the flight was seeing Mt. Kilimanjaro. First we saw only the large flat rim of the crater of Kibo peak surrounded by clouds like wearing a ballet dancer short skirt. Gradually, the jagged peak of the Mawensi emerged from the cloud. It started from a small appendix south of Kiro peak, and gradually became completely of its own. The Kilimanjaro volcano was much gentle than I thought, and its base must have covered a large area. Again, we saw the many small volcanoes and craters in the Chiulu National Park east of Mt. Kilimanjaro. My GPS showed that the flight first went south crossing the Tanzania border and then went straight north to Nairobi. I didn't understand why the flight path was like that.

The taxi driver took a direct route through downtown without any traffic jam and arrived home in half an hour. Min and Keith went out shopping in the afternoon.

More photos can be seen by searching "lku99999, photo" in Google.

No comments:

Post a Comment