Exploring Mombasa; Beach and City
January 1, 1970
The Sun and Sea
The warmth tingling on my shoulders and cheek wakes me up. I open my eyes groggily, it feels like I’ve only been asleep for two hours and I attempt to shake the haze of confusion from my head. It doesn’t work. I close my eyes for two seconds and that seems to do the trick. When I open them up again I see the medium sized Nakumatt *a common Kenyan supermarket* Nyali Branch in front of me. The bus I am currently travelling in with a group of friends slows down and it seems that the whole bus is still in anticipation for it to stop. Either that or my imagination is overworking and everyone else is simply still asleep. I’m sure somewhere at the back I can hear someone still snoring quietly. Finally the bus stops and it’s time for everyone who is getting out here to shuffle out as sanely as possible. Some people are taking the bus further into the town until the Big Modern Coast encrusted bus reaches its final destination. Our stop is here. Thank God. After almost eight hours inside with just one stop in the middle of the night our muscles are practically crying to be stretched. Already we see the unique vintage aura that this town displays
I step out of the bus and the scent of the sea hits me with full force. I inhale the morning sun’s warmth and a sense of anticipation begins to tingle in my bones. Beaches have always been my safe haven and this particular Mombasa beach has special meaning, holding memories from years of family Christmas and New Year’s Holidays spent here. –in Africa we spend our Christmas with the sun and not the snow-.
The conductor man harikishas us –hurries us up-, and so we quickly, with his help and the help of the guys in our group remove the suitcases and bags we carried. They had been tucked inside a little storage space you never would have guessed existed on the side of the bus. The Modern Coast bus leaves and we call the registration man who gives us directions to the little backpacker’s hostel where we will be spending the next three or so days. After such a busy semester this recess break is more than needed and I thank the Heavens for the person who suggested it. After we settle into Tulia House hostel we go check out our rooms. Tulia House Backpackers have the option of staying in an outdoor cabin with the beach as floor and hammocks as beds for the more adventurous ones, staying in the indoor hostels with bunk beds, or having your own private room for the sake of comfort. They are famous for being accommodating to nearly every price range. Check out their booking prices here. After the long trip the biggest thing most of us want to do is to laze about and sleep in which is how we begin our coastal adventure.
The Sun Rise Beach
Mornings are spent waking up early to catch the sun rise over the beach. Forcing my eyes to open between five and six a.m on a normal day would be torture. Here, however, on this coastal land of bliss I. Do. Not. Regret. A. Thing. We capture the moments both philosophically and literally
The warmth, the glow, the beach, the feels. This place before the world wakes up is purely magical. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and let go of every hurt, anxiety, and worry, even if it’s for ten minutes. To watch the beach boys as they do their morning workouts on the sand. Allow yourself to be fascinated by their acrobatics show for your entertainment but don’t let them get too close to you as a woman or they might be inappropriate. Run into the water and feel the waves splash about you. What’s the coolest thing about the beach you ask? Well it’s free darling. What other reason do you need.
After the God-made-natural- positive vibes from the morning beach time. It is time to explore the city. Mombasa city is a hidden gem waiting to be uncovered. The sad truth is that most tourists come and spend their whole holiday hidden behind their hotel walls, believing that all this city has to offer is its beach. This is simply not true. Within the rough roads and the rusty gates is a town littered with vintage buildings and artifacts that speak of the rich Arabic culture and influence on which the town was built. Discover, explore, and take selfies in the middle of the city.
And for pete’s sake ride a tuktuk. The experience is thrilling for one not used to open air vehicles. Not to mention a little humorous, as you watch the drivers taking their sweet time with their ‘pole pole’ –slowly slowly- attitude, yet they still get irritated with other drivers who drive slower than them. As if they are the only ones who know what they’re doing on the road. *Little tip when visiting Kenya, assume no one knows what they are doing on the road*.
For those who dare tread into the town for adventure their journey becomes worthwhile. We soon discover a thrift shop with the cutest dresses and shirts you ever did see. Everything in it was on sale for 250 KES which is roughly equivalent to 3dollars. I am not ashamed to say I played makeover/dressup as if my life was a coming of age movie.
For the Taste Buds
The random clothe shops however are not even the end of it. Walking through the streets one really can’t help but notice the street food lined up in a colorful array of pinks and purple and yellow goodies. Such that have flavors which extend from sweet, to sour, to savory, and everything in between. As if that’s not enough, little cafes also line the streets with the tempting smells of the Coastal cuisine which God knows can not possibly be found anywhere else. The food on it’s own could take up a whole post, with it’s countless taste possibilities. My top favorites, however include Cassava crisps, Mabuyu *a type of seed dunked in a chewy mix of sweet and sour spices*, Kashata *made of dried coconut dusted in sweet pink sugar and flavoring*, Viazi Karai with Ukwaju *deep fried potatoes enveloped in a spice and flour mixture before they are fried and then a sour sauce; Ujwaju, is lightly squirted onto them.* Another meal that is highly recommended is the Shawarma; a deliciously flavored type of wrap that can be found in specific street food stands.
Three days have passed and the depressing moment where you know you have to leave the little heaven you have made for yourself has come. However, it’s different this time though. I don’t just feel sad, I feel rested, somehow at peace with my departure. This city of Mombasa is an underrated adventure goldmine that welcomes any type of visitor to explore its shores. I will go back over and over again, knowing each time there will be something new to discover.