© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
 

The Coast

Mombasa Ho

I rose with the sun. There was a chill in the air and a light dew covered the grass and shrubs. The cool fresh air, the first radiant warmth of the sun, and the smell of dew covered grass were invigorating.  While brewing the coffee, I called for Sheila to get up but got no answer. When the coffee was ready, I called again but still got no response. Walking over to the tent, I found one of the “Do Not Disturb” stickers from our Cathay Pacific travel pack stuck to the tent flap. After a breakfast of fresh hot coffee, buttered bread and jam, we packed up and headed off for Nairobi. Just out of camp, we saw a herd of elephant following a small creek. I drove to where I thought they would pass, parked, turned off the engine, and opened the viewing roof. As we stood, cameras at the ready, the herd flowed around our little car, passing within metres of us. We could hear the sound of grass being torn from the ground, the sound of chewing, and the rumbling in their stomachs. They behaved as though  we did not exist. It was an amazing experience.  We reached Narok about noon. In need of petrol but unable to find a petrol station, we asked a local who confirmed that there were none. However, he had petrol that he could sell us and directed us to a shed beside his house. Inside he had two, fifty litre drums and a hand pump. He pumped about twenty litres into a jerry can and from there to our car. The price was only slightly higher than in Nairobi. We asked about food and he directed us to a roadside samosa stand near the junction. The owner asked where we were from and brought a flood of memories when he responded with some pride, “Oh yes Canada, you have salmon and wheat.” His curried potato and pea samosas washed down with warm coke cost less than parking at the Intercontinental Hotel and were superb. Fortified and relieved to have enough petrol, we set off for Nairobi. The giant potholes in the sealed road made us think longingly of the dusty but much smoother gravel roads and dirt tracks that we had been using. We did not arrive at Nairobi until late afternoon.  Over an early dinner, we discussed our options.  The toll highway from Nairobi to Mombasa, we were told, was in good condition because the tolls provided money for maintenance. Since the highway was in good shape, we should be able to make it in about six hours. In a fit of insanity, we decided that we might as well gain a day by driving the 480 km to Mombasa that evening. We stocked up on snack food for the drive and left about 5:30 pm. The highway was in excellent condition and we were easily making 110 kilometres per hour. We were thinking that we might make it in under 5 hours when suddenly we hit a teeth-rattling, bone-jarring string of massive potholes. They were nearly invisible in the dusk and impossible to avoid at the speed limit. The rough stretch was relatively short and I had been lulled into a false sense of security when suddenly, bang, we hit another stretch of massive potholes. The pattern repeated until Voi. Once past Voi, the road was well maintained but it began to rain, visibility was poor, and it was difficult to see the centreline. We were suddenly buffeted by a blast of wind from a heavy lorry passing within what felt like centimetres of the car. The shock and adrenaline rush kept me jittery for sometime. We finally reached Mombasa about 1:00 am, checked into the Manor Hotel, and promptly fell asleep. I learned the next day that we had just traversed the most accident prone stretch of road in Kenya.

Mombasa

Morning brought quite a revelation. Despite being the busiest port in East Africa, and despite being a sprawling modern city of 500 thousand, old Mombasa had retained the character of its Arab roots. The blend of African and Arabic culture, spiced with remnants of Portuguese and British influences was fascinating. The city had few high-rise buildings, and the old town had a nineteenth century personality. We left the vehicle at the hotel and walked through the old town to the abandoned Fort Jesus. Sidewalk vendors and shoppers, businessmen and labourers, parents and children crowded the streets of the old town’s commercial district. Men in flowing ankle length white or cream robes  (kanzu) with white, brimless, flat topped hats (kofia); safari shirts and ankle length sarongs; occasional dhotis; or short-sleeved and t-shirts with cotton pants; and women in long dresses with a scarf or hijab covering the head; brightly coloured kanga cloths; loose tapered trousers with tunic tops; or cotton dresses marked the strongly cosmopolitan population of Mombasa. Blankets or shawls spread on the sidewalk and decorated with small piles of fruit and vegetables were impromptu stalls for the predominantly women vendors kneeling beside them. Nearer the formal market, the large burlap sacks, plastic bags, woven baskets, tables and carts bulging with fruits, tubers, and onions clogging the sidewalks were tended mostly by men in western clothing. Inside the market building, a warren of aisles were lined with piles, stacks, and racks of merchandise and the smell of burlap sacking and overripe fruit scented the air. Many buildings of the old residential area were in a serious state of decay. Fallen plaster exposed half-timber construction with crumbling mud-brick or coral infill. The buildings and streets were badly in need of cosmetic and structural repair, bal- conies hung precariously over the lanes, in imminent danger of collapse but while there was rubble, there was little garbage. The residential streets were quiet, and des- pite the obvious poverty and decay, they possessed an air of lost prosperity but quiet dignity. The streets near the market were bustling and alive. They were occupied not by visitors, but by residents, who worked, shopped, visited friends, ate, and slept nearby, and despite my white skin and distinctive dress, I felt comfortable exploring the streets and market. Walking and photographing the quiet residential streets had made me feel a little like a voyeur because we so clearly did not belong there. We walked out to the harbour entrance and the ruins of the old Portuguese fort, Fort Jesus. Mombasa had suffered repeatedly from the Portuguese/Arabic struggle for dominance of  the Indian Ocean trade routes.  The Arabic city was burned to the ground by the Portuguese in 1501 and again in 1528. In 1593, the Portuguese attempted a permanent presence with the construction of Fort Jesus, but they were massacred to a man during a local uprising in 1631, It was reoccupied by the Portuguese in 1693. In 1698, the Omanis besieged the city for thirty-three months and eventually slaughtered all of the defenders. The Portuguese were slow to learn. They reoccupied Mombasa but were driven out for the final time in 1729. In 1832, the sultan of Oman moved his capital from Muscat  to Zanzibar and ruled Mombasa from there. Mombasa remained a part of the Omani sultanate until 1895, when Britain established the East African Protectorate and administered the Saultan’s East African possessions as part of the protectorate. With independence in 1963, the Sultan of Oman’s coastal possessions were transferred to the new republic. Walking the ramparts of old Fort Jesus provided a link to this rich, if bloody, history and the fort’s air of benign neglect gave hope that the turbulent phase of Mombasa’s history was over.

Mombasa to Malindi

I had been advised on my first trip, that Malindi was a much nicer place to stay than Mombasa. Mombasa was too modern, too western, and too tourist oriented, Malindi was quiet, more agriculture and fishery and less tourist oriented, so we abandoned Mombasa and headed north to Malindi. The drive was interesting. The Arabic influence seemed to diminish rapidly as we left the city, heading north along the coast. Building styles were traditional wattle-and-daub, thatch or tin roofed huts but unlike the highlands were square rather than circular. We passed through hundreds of hectares of sisal, their geometric pattern broken by isolated baobab trees looking as though they had ben ripped out by ther roots and replanted, top down, roots in the air. The road was poorly maintained and progress slow, but the wait at the small Kilifi ferry provided a pleasant break. The roadside food stands, locals going about their business, and a local bus brought memories of bus travel on my first trip. As I watched bus passengers chatting in small groups beside the bus, I thought that I could detect the sense of community that develops between bus travellers and I missed my Malawian travel companions. We had a chance to wander about for a while and found a small boatworks where a workman was repairing and caulking a large canoe style fishing boat. I would have like to spend more time, but the ferry departure interrupted our exploration. Back on the road, the air conditioned comfort and well padded seats of our vehicle, and eating a bag of fresh roasted cashew nuts purchased from  a roadside vendor, did much to assuage my nostalgia for local bus travel. The 118-kilometre trip with a combination of waiting for the ferry, sight seeing, and lunch took the better part of four hours.

Malindi

Malindi was a small regional centre. Local accommodation was scarce but beach resorts were plentiful. So much for being less tourist oriented. We chose the Eden Rock Hotel, as much for its price as for its amenities. The hotel had a great beach, decent res- taurant, nice lounge, good rooms, and a large, well maintained swimming pool. The long walk across the sand to the active beach was shaded by a can- opy of woven reeds to keep the sand cool to the feet, and small thatch- roofed cabanas were strategically located around the property. It was difficult to fault the facilities but somehow, it was disappointing. After a long walk along the seemingly endless beach, an hour spent reading poolside, and another hour spent playing backgammon over a gin and tonic, we were ready for a change. We attempted a trip north to the unspoiled Muslim coastal village of Lamu (ferry access only and no motor vehicles allowed). The road was in really poor condition, and we soon realized that it would take at least two more days than we had available to cover the distance and returned to Malindi. Despite its small size, the lack of facilities, poor state of repair, and scattered schlock shops catering to tourists, the town was much more interesting than the resort. We enjoyed an afternoon wandering the streets. A local seamstress sat in the last of the shade from an overhead balcony, treadle sewing machine humming, as she worked the foot peddle. A local scribe, the cuffs of his white shirt ink stained, sat in his open office taking dictation from those who could not write. Children played football and stunningly graceful women clad in colourful Kanga cloths carried heavy baskets on their heads. The streets evoked a quieter, more relaxed mood than the bustle of Nairobi or Mombasa. Stylish suits and dresses were absent, but women’s dress styles ranged from brightly coloured Kanga cloths, chadors, and veils to conservative  western style dresses. There were few tourists, and compared to the beach attire at the resort, we thought that Sheila was dressed quite modestly in her mid-length shorts and long sleeved blouse. Our mistake was pointed out to us by the hisses of disapproval for Sheila’s exposed legs coming from the older women on the street. As much as we appreciated the town, Sheila echoed my own feeling when after taking pictures she drew a parallel between our taking pictures of people in the streets with taking pictures of animals in the game parks. She had identified the element that had made my first trip so memorable, and was missing from this one. I was not making human contact, I was seeing people as images not as human beings. They were beautiful, picturesque, romantic images, but I was seeing only one dimension of one small facet of their existence.

Return to Nairobi

We had only two days to get back to Nairobi so we left early in the morning. We stopped in Mombasa, long enough for Sheila to buy some  kanga cloths and to have lunch. After lunch we headed out the C103 west to Chyulu Gate campsite in Tsavo National Park. Game was sparse, only a few waterbuck and giraffe, but the uninhabited landscape of old lava flows, rock outcrops, an scrubland provided an interesting contrast to the rolling plains of Masai Mara. Where the animals on the plains gathered in large herds and seemed to stand out against the horizon, the animals here were solitary or gathered in small groups and were dwarfed by the hills and rocks. The highlight for me was sighting a solitary Oryx (Gemsbok). The camp was pretty minimal. It had a filthy, decaying, cinderblock washroom with toilets and a water tap. Other than the remains of a few campfires and some litter, there were no other signs of human habitation. We pitched our tent, and since it was our last night on the road, we cooked up our remaining food, leaving only a package of digestive biscuits and some coffee for breakfast.  It was a moonless night, and even with our flashlights, using the pitch dark toilets was a little unnerving.

Baboon Troubles

We slept well enough that night. The next morning I made a pot of coffee and walked over to the tap to refill the water pot. As I returned to the car, a large baboon emerged from the back of the car with our last package of biscuits in hand. I yelled and gave chase. He must have weighed forty kilos, and as he ran, he tore open the package with his teeth and began stuffing biscuits into his mouth. His large canine teeth were well displayed, and I suddenly realized that actually catching him would be a mistake. Returning to my senses, I stopped.  Seeing this, the baboon stopped, turned to face me, sat down, and insolently finished eating the biscuits one by one.  After my dispute with the baboon, the return drive to Nairobi was uneventful, although the sight of Kilimanjaro’s summit rising above the clouds that surrounded it was more than I had seen on my first trip . Much of the drive was through a rather desol- ate volcanic landscape of lava flows and cinder cones. A traditional Masai camp, still occu- pied, was evidence that government efforts to assimilate them were not completely successful. From here, it was a long gravel road stretching to the horizon until we picked up the A109 and headed back to Nairobi. Arriving late, we treated ourselves to one last indulgence and checked into the New Stanley Hotel. While extensively renovated and remodelled, it still retained a little of its old colonial aura.

Last Day

Our flight was not until late afternoon, so we booked a room at the Terminal Hotel to store our luggage for the day and give us a place to rest before going shopping. We visited the African Heritage store specializing in good quality African folk art. I found two magnificent West African Dogan bronzes and a beautiful copper appliqué mask. The fact that they were not East African makes them no less effective as touchstones for my memories of East Africa, and they still occupy pride of place in my home. Remembering our flight in, we left for the airport with some trepidation but to our great relief, we were on a new Kenya Airways Airbus. It was immaculately clean, the food and in-flight service excellent, and the seats comfortable. We were again ensconced in the comfort of western culture, the safari over.

Retrospective

My first trip into Africa had a profound effect on me. This second trip did nothing to change my opinion and so here I repeat the retrospective from my first trip. For years after I believed that everyone should experience what I had experienced. I believed that it would make them appreciate what they had, that it would make them more tolerant and understanding of other people and cultures, and that it would let them see that all people and all cultures have something of value to teach us. I was naive. Now, when I think back on the Aussies who accompanied us on the bus from Nairobi to Arusha. I suspect that their journey did nothing more than convince them of their own cultural superiority and enhance their disdain for cultures and people other than their own. I think of the two Americans who trashed a car, hoping to find the valuables of an Indian family forced to leave Uganda and nearly all of their possessions behind, and I doubt that their travel experience made them better human beings. However, I know that my experiences made me more conscious and tolerant of other cultures and of my own incredible good fortune, and I would encourage others to travel, whatever they may take from the experience. I became aware of the contrasts in human nature, what black Africans did to Asian Africans in Uganda, the attempted tribal genocide of black African Tutsi by black African Hutu, Hitler’s attempt to exterminate Jews and Slavs in Europe, Christian Slavs attempt to eliminate Muslim Slavs in the former Yugoslavia, and I know that no race holds a monopoly on intolerance and atrocity. I think of the hurt felt by a young African Asian woman when suffering discrimination in England and the disdain she exressed for her African staff without recognizing the irony. I remember spending a very uncomfortable night in the Arusha bus station as a large African man harangued us and then having our fellow bus passengers pass food down the aisle to us because we were not eating. I remember a man, crippled as a child so that he could beg, being grateful to his parents for having the courage to give him a future, and I remember a ridiculously dressed man on a lake steamer who’s dignity and compassion made me feel morally shabby. I learned a lot about travel,  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned that I could cope with adversity, hardship, and danger, and my self confidence grew accordingly. I experienced both hardship and luxury and discovered that luxury is wonderful but that my strongest and most nostalgic memories are associated with difficult conditions. I also learned that it is difficult to meet locals when travelling in a car and that shared hardship can dissolve cultural barriers. Most importantly, I learned not to judge other cultures by my own and that genuine respect for, and interest in, local culture engenders mutual respect and hospitality.
Street scenes, Mombasa
A traditional Masai camp.
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
 

The Coast

Mombasa Ho

I rose with the sun. There was a chill in the air and a light dew covered the grass and shrubs. The cool fresh air, the first radiant warmth of the sun, and the smell of dew covered grass were invigorating.  While brewing the coffee, I called for Sheila to get up but got no answer. When the coffee was ready, I called again but still got no response. Walking over to the tent, I found one of the “Do Not Disturb” stickers from our Cathay Pacific travel pack stuck to the tent flap. After a breakfast of fresh hot coffee, buttered bread and jam, we packed up and headed off for Nairobi. Just out of camp, we saw a herd of elephant following a small creek. I drove to where I thought they would pass, parked, turned off the engine, and opened the viewing roof. As we stood, cameras at the ready, the herd flowed around our little car, passing within metres of us. We could hear the sound of grass being torn from the ground, the sound of chewing, and the rumbling in their stomachs. They behaved as though  we did not exist. It was an amazing experience.  We reached Narok about noon. In need of petrol but unable to find a petrol station, we asked a local who confirmed that there were none. However, he had petrol that he could sell us and directed us to a shed beside his house. Inside he had two, fifty litre drums and a hand pump. He pumped about twenty litres into a jerry can and from there to our car. The price was only slightly higher than in Nairobi. We asked about food and he directed us to a roadside samosa stand near the junction. The owner asked where we were from and brought a flood of memories when he responded with some pride, “Oh yes Canada, you have salmon and wheat.” His curried potato and pea samosas washed down with warm coke cost less than parking at the Intercontinental Hotel and were superb. Fortified and relieved to have enough petrol, we set off for Nairobi. The giant potholes in the sealed road made us think longingly of the dusty but much smoother gravel roads and dirt tracks that we had been using. We did not arrive at Nairobi until late afternoon.  Over an early dinner, we discussed our options.  The toll highway from Nairobi to Mombasa, we were told, was in good condition because the tolls provided money for maintenance. Since the highway was in good shape, we should be able to make it in about six hours. In a fit of insanity, we decided that we might as well gain a day by driving the 480 km to Mombasa that evening. We stocked up on snack food for the drive and left about 5:30 pm. The highway was in excellent condition and we were easily making 110 kilometres per hour. We were thinking that we might make it in under 5 hours when suddenly we hit a teeth-rattling, bone-jarring string of massive potholes. They were nearly invisible in the dusk and impossible to avoid at the speed limit. The rough stretch was relatively short and I had been lulled into a false sense of security when suddenly, bang, we hit another stretch of massive potholes. The pattern repeated until Voi. Once past Voi, the road was well maintained but it began to rain, visibility was poor, and it was difficult to see the centreline. We were suddenly buffeted by a blast of wind from a heavy lorry passing within what felt like centimetres of the car. The shock and adrenaline rush kept me jittery for sometime. We finally reached Mombasa about 1:00 am, checked into the Manor Hotel, and promptly fell asleep. I learned the next day that we had just traversed the most accident prone stretch of road in Kenya.

Mombasa

Morning brought quite a revelation. Despite being the busiest port in East Africa, and despite being a sprawling modern city of 500 thousand, old Mombasa had retained the character of its Arab roots. The blend of African and Arabic culture, spiced with remnants of Portuguese and British influences was fascinating. The city had few high-rise buildings, and the old town had a nineteenth century personality. We left the vehicle at the hotel and walked through the old town to the abandoned Fort Jesus. Sidewalk vendors and shoppers, businessmen and labourers, parents and children crowded the streets of the old town’s commercial district. Men in flowing ankle length white or cream robes  (kanzu) with white, brimless, flat topped hats (kofia); safari shirts and ankle length sarongs; occasional dhotis; or short-sleeved and t-shirts with cotton pants; and women in long dresses with a scarf or hijab covering the head; brightly coloured kanga cloths; loose tapered trousers with tunic tops; or cotton dresses marked the strongly cosmopolitan population of Mombasa. Blankets or shawls spread on the sidewalk and decorated with small piles of fruit and vegetables were impromptu stalls for the predominantly women vendors kneeling beside them. Nearer the formal market, the large burlap sacks, plastic bags, woven baskets, tables and carts bulging with fruits, tubers, and onions clogging the sidewalks were tended mostly by men in western clothing. Inside the market building, a warren of aisles were lined with piles, stacks, and racks of merchandise and the smell of burlap sacking and overripe fruit scented the air. Many buildings of the old residential area were in a serious state of decay. Fallen plaster exposed half-timber construction with crum- bling mud- brick or coral infill. The buildings and streets were badly in need of cosmetic and structural repair, bal- conies hung precariously over the lanes, in imminent danger of col- lapse but while there was rubble, there was little garbage. The residential streets were quiet, and despite the obvious poverty and decay, they possessed an air of lost prosperity but quiet dignity. The streets near the market were bustling and alive. They were occupied not by visitors, but by residents, who worked, shopped, visited friends, ate, and slept nearby, and despite my white skin and distinctive dress, I felt comfortable exploring the streets and market. Walking and photographing the quiet residential streets had made me feel a little like a voyeur because we so clearly did not belong there. We walked out to the harbour entrance and the ruins of the old Portuguese fort, Fort Jesus. Mombasa had suffered repeatedly from the Portuguese/Arabic struggle for dominance of  the Indian Ocean trade routes.  The Arabic city was burned to the ground by the Portuguese in 1501 and again in 1528. In 1593, the Portuguese attempted a permanent presence with the construction of Fort Jesus, but they were massacred to a man during a local uprising in 1631, It was reoccupied by the Portuguese in 1693. In 1698, the Omanis besieged the city for thirty-three months and eventually slaughtered all of the defenders. The Portuguese were slow to learn. They reoccupied Mombasa but were driven out for the final time in 1729. In 1832, the sultan of Oman moved his capital from Muscat  to Zanzibar and ruled Mombasa from there. Mombasa remained a part of the Omani sultanate until 1895, when Britain established the East African Protectorate and administered the Saultan’s East African possessions as part of the protectorate. With independence in 1963, the Sultan of Oman’s coastal possessions were transferred to the new republic. Walking the ramparts of old Fort Jesus provided a link to this rich, if bloody, history and the fort’s air of benign neglect gave hope that the turbulent phase of Mombasa’s history was over.

Mombasa to Malindi

I had been advised on my first trip, that Malindi was a much nicer place to stay than Mombasa. Mombasa was too modern, too western, and too tourist oriented, Malindi was quiet, more agriculture and fishery and less tourist oriented, so we abandoned Mombasa and headed north to Malindi. The drive was interesting. The Arabic influence seemed to diminish rapidly as we left the city, heading north along the coast. Building styles were traditional wattle-and-daub, thatch or tin roofed huts but unlike the highlands were square rather than circular. We passed through hundreds of hectares of sisal, their geometric pattern broken by isolated baobab trees looking as though they had ben ripped out by ther roots and replanted, top down, roots in the air. The road was poorly maintained and progress slow, but the wait at the small Kilifi ferry provided a pleasant break. The roadside food stands, locals going about their business, and a local bus brought memories of bus travel on my first trip. As I watched bus passengers chatting in small groups beside the bus, I thought that I could detect the sense of community that develops between bus travellers and I missed my Malawian travel companions. We had a chance to wander about for a while and found a small boatworks where a workman was repairing and caulking a large canoe style fishing boat. I would have like to spend more time, but the ferry departure interrupted our exploration. Back on the road, the air conditioned comfort and well padded seats of our vehicle, and eating a bag of fresh roasted cashew nuts purchased from  a roadside vendor, did much to assuage my nostalgia for local bus travel. The 118- kilometre trip with a combination of waiting for the ferry, sight seeing, and lunch took the better part of four hours.

Malindi

Malindi was a small regional centre. Local accommodation was scarce but beach resorts were plentiful. So much for being less tourist oriented. We chose the Eden Rock Hotel, as much for its price as for its amenities. The hotel had a great beach, decent restaur- ant, nice lounge, good rooms, and a large, well main- tained swimming pool. The long walk across the sand to the active beach was shaded by a can- opy of woven reeds to keep the sand cool to the feet, and small thatch-roofed cabanas were strategically located around the prop- erty. It was difficult to fault the facilities but somehow, it was disappointing. After a long walk along the seemingly endless beach, an hour spent reading poolside, and another hour spent playing backgammon over a gin and tonic, we were ready for a change. We attempted a trip north to the unspoiled Muslim coastal village of Lamu (ferry access only and no motor vehicles allowed). The road was in really poor condition, and we soon realized that it would take at least two more days than we had available to cover the distance and returned to Malindi. Despite its small size, the lack of facilities, poor state of repair, and scattered schlock shops catering to tourists, the town was much more interesting than the resort. We enjoyed an afternoon wandering the streets. A local seamstress sat in the last of the shade from an overhead balcony, treadle sewing machine humming, as she worked the foot peddle. A local scribe, the cuffs of his white shirt ink stained, sat in his open office taking dictation from those who could not write. Children played football and stunningly graceful women clad in colourful Kanga cloths carried heavy baskets on their heads. The streets evoked a quieter, more relaxed mood than the bustle of Nairobi or Mombasa. Stylish suits and dresses were absent, but women’s dress styles ranged from brightly coloured Kanga cloths, chadors, and veils to conservative  western style dresses. There were few tourists, and compared to the beach attire at the resort, we thought that Sheila was dressed quite modestly in her mid-length shorts and long sleeved blouse. Our mistake was pointed out to us by the hisses of disap- proval for Sheila’s exposed legs coming from the older women on the street. As much as we appreciated the town, Sheila echoed my own feeling when after taking pictures she drew a parallel between our taking pictures of people in the streets with taking pictures of animals in the game parks. She had identified the element that had made my first trip so memorable, and was missing from this one. I was not making human contact, I was seeing people as images not as human beings. They were beautiful, picturesque, romantic images, but I was seeing only one dimension of one small facet of their existence.

Return to Nairobi

We had only two days to get back to Nairobi so we left early in the morning. We stopped in Mombasa, long enough for Sheila to buy some  kanga cloths and to have lunch. After lunch we headed out the C103 west to Chyulu Gate campsite in Tsavo National Park. Game was sparse, only a few waterbuck and giraffe, but the uninhabited landscape of old lava flows, rock outcrops, an scrubland provided an interesting contrast to the rolling plains of Masai Mara. Where the animals on the plains gathered in large herds and seemed to stand out against the horizon, the animals here were solitary or gathered in small groups and were dwarfed by the hills and rocks. The highlight for me was sighting a solitary Oryx (Gemsbok). The camp was pretty minimal. It had a filthy, decaying, cinderblock washroom with toilets and a water tap. Other than the remains of a few campfires and some litter, there were no other signs of human habitation. We pitched our tent, and since it was our last night on the road, we cooked up our remaining food, leaving only a package of digestive biscuits and some coffee for breakfast.  It was a moonless night, and even with our flashlights, using the pitch dark toilets was a little unnerving.

Baboon Troubles

We slept well enough that night. The next morning I made a pot of coffee and walked over to the tap to refill the water pot. As I returned to the car, a large baboon emerged from the back of the car with our last package of biscuits in hand. I yelled and gave chase. He must have weighed forty kilos, and as he ran, he tore open the package with his teeth and began stuffing biscuits into his mouth. His large canine teeth were well displayed, and I suddenly realized that actually catching him would be a mistake. Returning to my senses, I stopped.  Seeing this, the baboon stopped, turned to face me, sat down, and insolently finished eating the biscuits one by one.  After my dispute with the baboon, the return drive to Nairobi was uneventful, although the sight of Kilimanjaro’s summit rising above the clouds that surrounded it was more than I had seen on my first trip . Much of the drive was through a rather desolate volcanic land- scape of lava flows and cinder cones. A tradi- tional Masai camp, still occupied, was evidence that government efforts to assimilate them were not completely successful. From here, it was a long gravel road stretching to the horizon until we picked up the A109 and headed back to Nairobi. Arriving late, we treated ourselves to one last indulgence and checked into the New Stanley Hotel. While extensively renovated and remodelled, it still retained a little of its old colonial aura.

Last Day

Our flight was not until late afternoon, so we booked a room at the Terminal Hotel to store our luggage for the day and give us a place to rest before going shopping. We visited the African Heritage store specializing in good quality African folk art. I found two magnificent West African Dogan bronzes and a beautiful copper appliqué mask. The fact that they were not East African makes them no less effective as touchstones for my memories of East Africa, and they still occupy pride of place in my home. Remembering our flight in, we left for the airport with some trepidation but to our great relief, we were on a new Kenya Airways Airbus. It was immaculately clean, the food and in-flight service excellent, and the seats comfortable. We were again ensconced in the comfort of western culture, the safari over.

Retrospective

My first trip into Africa had a profound effect on me. This second trip did nothing to change my opinion and so here I repeat the retrospective from my first trip. For years after I believed that everyone should experience what I had experienced. I believed that it would make them appreciate what they had, that it would make them more tolerant and understanding of other people and cultures, and that it would let them see that all people and all cultures have something of value to teach us. I was naive. Now, when I think back on the Aussies who accompanied us on the bus from Nairobi to Arusha. I suspect that their journey did nothing more than convince them of their own cultural superiority and enhance their disdain for cultures and people other than their own. I think of the two Americans who trashed a car, hoping to find the valuables of an Indian family forced to leave Uganda and nearly all of their possessions behind, and I doubt that their travel experience made them better human beings. However, I know that my experiences made me more conscious and tolerant of other cultures and of my own incredible good fortune, and I would encourage others to travel, whatever they may take from the experience. I became aware of the contrasts in human nature, what black Africans did to Asian Africans in Uganda, the attempted tribal genocide of black African Tutsi by black African Hutu, Hitler’s attempt to exterminate Jews and Slavs in Europe, Christian Slavs attempt to eliminate Muslim Slavs in the former Yugoslavia, and I know that no race holds a monopoly on intolerance and atrocity. I think of the hurt felt by a young African Asian woman when suffering discrimination in England and the disdain she exressed for her African staff without recognizing the irony. I remember spending a very uncomfortable night in the Arusha bus station as a large African man harangued us and then having our fellow bus passengers pass food down the aisle to us because we were not eating. I remember a man, crippled as a child so that he could beg, being grateful to his parents for having the courage to give him a future, and I remember a ridiculously dressed man on a lake steamer who’s dignity and compassion made me feel morally shabby. I learned a lot about travel,  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned that I could cope with adversity, hardship, and danger, and my self confidence grew accordingly. I experienced both hardship and luxury and discovered that luxury is wonderful but that my strongest and most nostalgic memories are associated with difficult conditions. I also learned that it is difficult to meet locals when travelling in a car and that shared hardship can dissolve cultural barriers. Most importantly, I learned not to judge other cultures by my own and that genuine respect for, and interest in, local culture engenders mutual respect and hospitality.
Finally up, Sheila ate breakfast. Our final encounter in Masai Mara, the best for last.
Street scenes, Mombasa
Old Mombasa, Kenya Old Mombasa, Kenya North entrance to Mombasa harbour Fort Jesus, Mombasa, Kenya Family compound, north of Mombasa. Baobab in a sisal plantation
Waiting for the Kilifi Ferry.
Fisherman caulking his canoe. Eden Rock Resort, Malindi, Kenya Main street, Melindi Seamstress, Malindi Grace and beauty, Malindi Oryx (Gemsbok), Tsavo National Park Baboon canine teeth (Stock photo) Mt. Kilimanjaro shows above the cloud, Tsavo NP A traditional Masai camp.