Eight glorious days and seven warm nights in Mombasa on the East Coast of Kenya.
We stayed with family in Mombasa, over the Nyali bridge from the island. Mombasa is a strange place (well, to me as I hadn't been before)...
You land at the airport on a Western Boeing aeroplane (other makes are available) and step out into the terminal building. The air is warm, there's a breeze, and you walk down some steps into the main customs/arrivals area. There you find a couple of desks where you should be able to grab a form to fill in to present to officials in booths further into the building. You need to stop at an intermediate desk to get a visa stamped into your passport, and hand over a completed arrival declaration yellow card (given to you on the plane). Then you should queue for one of the 6 final booths to pay your fifty dollars (US $50) visa fee, hand over the form you got when you'd entered this hall area, and say "Jambo!" with a h-u-g-e smile on your face as you see the sunlight streaming into the baggage collection/customs checking hall....
B U T
This is Kenya. You walk from the plane into the arrivals hall where there are no forms to collect. Eventually the 300-odd of you see two people holding forms walking towards the first desks. Everyone piles in to get their forms. We had pens. Others do not, so you get the noise of people trying to get pens to fill in these forms. We then walked to visa-stamp-providing man, and he took our yellow forms, stamped the passport and waved us onto the queues at the final booths. Ah yes, the queues. Never, Never NEVER assume a queue of about 20 people in front of you will move in less than an hour. IT WILL NOT. We waited for about 30 minutes, and two or three couples were allowed through. Then the chap in our booth walked away. And never came back. Eventually we were ushered to another booth where we queued for about 40 minutes before (get this..) a 2 minute chat about our trip, monies paid and we fetched our suitcases. TWO MINUTES!!! And here's the thing: A lot of the delay was from people NOT GETTING THEIR PASSPORT STAMPED WITH THE VISA STAMP.
SO: IF THERE IS A DESK IMPEDING YOUR ROUTE TO LUGGAGE COLLECTION, VISIT IT BECAUSE YOU NEED TO!! DO NOT JUST WALK THROUGH!!!!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?
So pick up your luggage, chat with the suitcase inspectors, and leave the airport building.... Wham!! The heat hits you and you are properly in Mombasa! At this point it's OK to take the polar fleece off, by the way :)
Rupal's parents picked us up from the airport, and we drove out of the car park, and that's when it hit me : Kenya is Poor. That's a capital 'P'. I'm not big on those 'word' thingies, but let's just say that if you are reading this, you are likely much much much better off than many people I saw in Mombasa. Our route took us past makeshift buildings that were to their occupants permanent structures with rusting corrugated sheet roofs, adults and children alike went about their business of carting items that to you and I may have seemed worthless but to our destination's residents were their lifeblood. It put a bit of a downer on the mood.
At the end of this road, things stated to look a little better. Turn right towards the coast, and we start to pass petrol stations as we drive down the very-old-tarmac roads with dirt edges which drifts up as the cars and over-laden lorries drive towards and away from the Town. All the concrete buildings look very old. But they are battered by the diesel/petrol fumes and the salt air. Not many people paint the outside of their buildings as then they'd stand out and may be targetted with those owning less... Driving whilst avoiding people walking in front of you in Mombasa is an experience you HAVE to have. It is said that the people of Mombasa are more scared of rain than they are of cars. How true! Then there are the Matatus - the taxis the size of small vans that corner shop owners in the UK are sometimes seen driving. These people think they rule the road. Don't trust their indicators. Or arm signals. They will drive off the tarmac onto the dirt strip to the left of the road, then just pull back onto the tarmac again. This is normal. Nothing to be scared of. Hmm.
Anyway - there are photos of buildings, landmarks & roads included below.
First day (Monday)- We slept. Arrived at about 13:30 local time (GMT + 3 in Mombasa), ate and collapsed. The heat got to us!. In the evening we were visited by Rupal's Bhai - "brother" & their family. We ate cake.
Second day (Tuesday) - in the morning a visit to an ex-Bamburi Cemement quarry that's been taken over by Dr Haller - a German chap who has converted what was once barren wasteland into a nature reserve containing birds, tortoise, giraffes, alligators, fish, and many other animals - see this website on the nature reserve. On the way back home we stopped off to do some shopping at the local supermarket. Boring? Not really when I realised that the security guards present for the onsite bank's money transfer were weilding AK-47s. And looking at me.
Third day (Wednesday) -
Fourth day (Thursday) -
Fifth day (Friday) - Trip to the Tsavo (East) safari park - The park was fantastic, but the road there.... Well, let's just say that a pothole or two in England is nothing to complain about...
Sixth day (Saturday) -
Seventh day (Sunday) -
Eigth day (Monday) - Fly home :(
Would I go back? YES. Would I have stayed if I could? Oh yes.