The maiden voyage

4 Dec

Day one

Jana (Janet) is a Kenyan born Norwegian. More importantly though, Jana is the biggest ‘Michael’ fan I’ve ever met*. Something I learnt while sitting in Nairobi airport in the earliest hours waiting for flights to Mombasa.

Jana teaches me a bit about Norway (£45 to have your nails done) but nothing about Mombasa. The Kenyan News scrolls are more useful: ‘The government is committed to eliminating mother to child HIV transfer by 2015’ ‘Kenya is seen as World’s 27th most corrupt country’.

The cashiers at the exchange desks try to rip us off. One tries to give me £5 less worth of Kenyan Shillings (KS) than he should have (out comes my best impression of big Grandaddy Flynn: ‘nice try, pal.’) and Jana has a bolshy mama cashier succeed in nicking about £12 off of her. Still, the reality of being in Africa still hasn’t hit home quite yet.

I arrived in Nairobi at 8am and took a taxi to Berecha Guesthouse. Bloody hell. You know in films how getaway drivers drive if they’re being chased by the police? Imagine the getaway driver had drank a bottle of vodka 30 minutes before the heist and that’s how everyone drives in busy Mombasa. And when the traffic gets impossible, they just careen down the pavements. We arrive unscathed and I lug my luggage up to my room and splay it all over the place ready for assembly. I put the bike together, unpack my bags and ziptie my bike to a TV cage (because I have forgotten to pack the flippin bikelock key).

Outside, I withdraw some more KS, walk around and buy a sim card, snacks and water. Text mum. Crash out for a bit. Have chicken curry with chapatis for dinner which is delicious. Then I call Phil from Couchsurfing.

In terms of Couchsurfing, Phil is ‘the man in Mombasa’. He’s an effortlessly generous, ridiculously well travelled, charismatic Irish NGO worker. He looks like Willy Wonka (the blond guy not Jonny Depp).

Within the hour Phil and another traveller who he has taken in, Dalia, and I are the only mzungas (foreigners) in an upstairs pool bar having a Tusker beer. Within the next hour we have taken a matatu (local bus**) and are drinking sangria and eating tapas at a pool party with a group of local mzungas who live and work here. Something like 9 hours and lot’s more Tusker later on, or at about 5am, Phil falls asleep in a club called Tonga and we call it a night. Frederico and I and the two remaining girls carry Phil to the taxi rank and Phil and I get a taxi to his place. But Phil falls asleep in the taxi and when we needed directions neither the taxi driver or I could wake him up. Slapped him and everything. So we head to my guesthouse.

 Then we have a brilliant idea. Why don’t I pack all my bags now and ride the bike over to Phil’s place with him and crash there? So we do, and Jill‘s maiden voyage in Africa is – fine.

We get there in the end and Phil’s place turns out to be a massive three bedroomed apartment with a spectacular panoramic view of Mombasa. Great first day in Africa.

* Interesting fact about Jana: She insisted on listening to ‘Dirty Diana’ when she gave birth to her daughter, who she named, thankfully, Malaika (‘angel’ in Swahili).

** Tiny 12 seater disco bus the locals use to get around, there’s loads of them, they’re always packed and they whizz around the streets like various 3-tonne fireworks.


One Response to “The maiden voyage”

  1. Jack Morris December 5, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Gosh, didn’t take you long to find your feet……all sounds like a lot of fun 🙂 xx

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