Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Debacle, Part 2

Lisa and Angie studied the laughing planet Kenya and recommendations from friends and came up with a great plan. We would take a taxi to see Fort Jesus in Mombasa and visit the old town for a walking tour.

Fort Jesus was built by the Portuguese along the island of Mombasa to protect a shipping route to India in the 16th century. It has changed hands several times throughout its history and is apparently one of the best standing examples of 16th century Portuguese architecture in the world.

It was here that the Lonely Planet let us down again. It clearly said that there would be a guidebook for purchase (only about $1). Of course, we should have known that the guidebooks are kept quite safe from the hands of evil tourists making sure that they aren’t sold. Instead, there are vulture tour guides hovering around the car drop-off who are more than willing to assist for a “good price”. Having paid our entrance fee we wandered around a bit and took a few photos.

After getting our fill of Jesus, we decided to go on the self-guided walking tour of Mombasa old town as laid out in our trusty guidebook. We saw some amazing old buildings with beautifully carved ornate doors and balconies. Mombasa is decidedly more diverse than the rest of Kenya.  The entire coast was dotted with green and white painted mosques.  Several of the mosques in old town had been there for centuries. 

The roads were quite narrow and twisty, lined with cute girls running around in burkas and cats everywhere. Unfortunately trash was ubiquitous throughout the streets as well. Through some miracle we managed to stay on track for about half of the tour. Things went off the rails when we tried to stop for lunch. Again the LP let us down, the restaurant that Lisa and Angie had diligently researched no longer existed. Likely replaced by a Bata shoe store. At that point we were on one of the busiest streets in Mombasa and were beginning to be hounded by people asking for money, including one guy who screamed at us as we walked away after politely saying “I’m sorry”. We ducked into a supermarket and decided to buy our lunch there. Rolls, coke, Fanta, and chips with a few “date newtons” would round out our lunch. We walked our haul back to Ft. Jesus and ate by the ocean.

We had been recommended to try the Ooh! Ice Cream parlor that wasn’t far from the Fort. Typically Kenyan ice cream doesn’t have the rich flavors and dense texture that Americans expect, but we heard that Ooh! was different. It didn’t disappoint. Lisa picked a sweet, tangy, smooth passion fruit sorbet Angie picked a butterscotch toffee affair, and I had mint chocolate chip.

When we sat down to ice cream we tried to call the hotel driver to come and pick us up again. In true Kenyan style he didn’t arrive for almost two hours after we had called despite many phone calls where he indicated he was “just around the corner”. We finally retired to the White Sands exhausted.

Mombasa has a protected reef sanctuary and one of the featured attractions at the White Sands is snorkeling. We booked a reservation for the next morning, enjoyed another walk on the beech and stopped by the swimming pool outside our room. After washing off the funk from Mombasa proper, we enjoyed a nice dinner, and retired to our rooms for some R & R.

For the most part we have been extremely lucky when it comes to weather throughout the trip. We only had a few power outages in Eldoret, and I only had to walk back from the hospital in the rain a few times. Our luck ran out with snorkeling. A storm front rolled in off the coast bringing with it waves that were undoubtedly stirring up sand limiting visibility. We decided to scrap the snorkeling and retired to our room looking through all of the great safari pictures and authoring the blog post blitz that you’ve been reading.

Angie spent nearly the entire day poolside, and Lisa and I went to rouse her for our only activity for the day – jetskiing. A little history - Lisa and I shared our first-ever magical jetskiing experience on our first trip to South Carolina in college. We had spent half a day exploring numerous inlets and jetties in the search for porpoises. We booked from our hotel’s watersports office hoping to explore up and down the coast. Unfortunately, after booking we were told that we would be only in the open ocean within the view of our hotel. The aforementioned waves were still in effect and were a stark contrast to the smooth inlet waters that we had previously traveled. We had a great time, including when Lisa said “this is what our pasta water is supposed to taste like” and I heard “this is what our faucet water is supposed to taste like”.

After the jet skis we retired to the pool to enjoy our new favorite cocktail – pimms and ginger ale. It’s a riff on the classic pimm’s cup minus the cucumber. We had learned from our last pool visit that plastic hurricane glasses would allow us to enjoy our drinks in the water. As we enjoyed our cocktails in the pool, we attracted the attention of four English ladies who were seated poolside, and enquired what we were drinking. After sharing a sip, they decided to have their own. Maybe we’ll start a trend….

Our last evening was topped off by another good dinner and a restful night’s sleep before the long journey home.

No comments: