I hired a car and driver to get from Mombasa to Watamu, which is on the Kenyan coast, further north than Mombasa. The public transportation is limited to minibuses that carry too many people and are accident-prone.
The hotel manager arranged for the driver and car, and the driver asked if he could take along his friend, an older man – they all seemed okay, so we left about 9:30 a.m. The trip takes about three hours, I was quite comfy in the back seat, and the two men had a good time talking to each other about what was in the newspaper the older man was reading.
When I was a child, we traveled by car. My sister, by virtue of being older, always sat in the passenger seat next to Mom. They would talk, and I would look at the scenery and entertain my own thoughts. I am still a quiet car traveler, looking at the scenery and entertaining my own thoughts.
I love the way Kenyans decorate their vehicles, whether they are vans or tuk-tuks. Some are flamboyant, like the blue van below, and some express some religious thought or invoke the name of Jesus, Mary, Allah, Jehovah, or a saint.
One of the sadder scenes. There are many poor people in Africa, and trash-picking is not uncommon.
These are sisal plants, used for making rope and mats and such. There were miles of these along the road. The ones below have been harvested. They are harvested with a machete by hand.
It wasn’t long before we got to Watamu, but it took us a while to find the guesthouse where I was staying. It was simple once we found it, but it was past the place that looked like the road ended.
It is owned and managed by an Italian woman, now a long-time resident of Watamu, called “Mama Zawadi.” That’s not actually her name, but it’s what the local residents call her.
I came here to see the ocean and to relax, and the relaxation part was going to be a piece of cake.
My room is to the right, behind the stairway. It came with a porch and a small, but lovely room:
I was amused to recognize the bead curtain in the bathroom – beads from Ocean Sole, the Nairobi company that recycles flip-flops!
After checking in and unpacking a little, I headed to a local eatery for an early dinner. The restaurant had upstairs seating, which gave me a nice place to watch the village as darkness fell and the evening prayer call was heard through the dusk.
I slept like a rock that evening, and woke up to the sound of birds and a beautiful breakfast.
It was lovely, sitting peacefully in the shelter of the open dining area, watching the birds at the bird feeder, and enjoying the garden.
Mama Zawadi has two dogs who keep an eye on things;
It rained one of the days that I was there, and I didn’t mind at all. It was so peaceful to lie on the porch by my room and read.
But, one can’t lie around forever! Mama Zawadi sent me off to dinner one evening at a charming restaurant, tucked into a mangrove wood by a channel that ran inland from the ocean. For gratuities, young men will pole you in their boat around the channel, and then you can watch the sunset from the restaurant itself. My poler is a student home for a visit from university, earning some money for the coming term. And, yes, I was a soft touch.
He’s majoring in business. When I have the opportunity to talk with people of his age, I find that – when they are in school – they are studying about businesses, how to establish them and manage them. The younger set, not just in Kenya, but also in Zimbabwe and Zambia, has figured out that they will have to create their own opportunities.
The restaurant itself is a project, trying to create a local enterprise to create jobs, and not tearing down the mangroves to sell. Mangroves, as you probably know, perform the same function as a wetland with cattails, filtering water as it returns to aquifers, and creating a habitat that enables smaller creatures to live and grow before entering the wide world.
The samosas were excellent, and I’m sure I had something else, too, but what I really remember is the experience – the wonderful people, the birds along the shore, watching the fishermen, and the setting sun. Mama Zawadi was right.
The next morning, I took a walk down to the beach near Mama Zawadi’s. The houses around her are mainly full time residents, and apparently more are moving in. I found an apartment complex going up. So, in case you’re interested:
The beach was beautiful in that about-to-storm way, but it never really did.
The next day was sunny, and I strolled through the village until I was pulled into the Italian restaurant there by a pizza. And, oh gosh, chocolate gelato?
Eventually, of course, I had to leave Watamu. I recommend it to anyone. But my next destination had been planned for months, and I wasn’t going to miss it. It was time to head back to Mombasa, back to Nairobi, and then to Rwanda.