Kenya Update #9 – Mombasa

So I’ve made it to Mombasa!

Rennatus’s friend Gladys and I caught a bus here yesterday; it was supposed to take about 6 hours and ended us taking 8.5 hours. I consider that an on-time success story. The ride was just fine for a bus ride. Gladys and I chatted a bit, then I plugged in the iPod and took a nap (what is it about travel that makes me sleepy?). When I woke up, we were pulling in to the halfway bathroom break. (GoodNESS those were nasty bathrooms. I really hope I didn’t catch anything…) Not only was this the bathroom break place, it also had a Mosque! I suppose this had something to do with why we had a 2 hour break there… My ignorance of other world religions is really something I need to work on. Along the way, I saw the usual sights: Rift Valley landscapes for miles; cool hornbills in the trees; a pack of baboons; a guy wearing a cowboy hat and bolo tie leaning against a truck marked “? Meat ?”… you know, the usual.

Another one of the "? Meat ?" trucks. This one, sadly, sans cowboy and bolo hat wearing guy...

We arrived in Mombasa around 6pm and I grabbed a tuk-tuk to my hotel. I was aching for a shower of any kind and had resigned myself to a warm shower instead of a hot one, but still was holding a little hope for a hot shower.  I checked in, threw my stuff in my room, called a few people to let them know I was safe and went to take a shower. Then I noticed they didn’t turn the hot water on until 7pm… Drat. So I killed another 20 minutes and took the most magnificently hot shower. Not “Kenya hot” but actually hot. I felt almost clean for the first time in 2.5 weeks. Yikes.

You know when you’re sick with some sort of sinus infection, when you can’t really breathe out of your nose and you’ve got chills and a fever, and you think to yourself “I’m never going to take being well for granted anymore!”. Well I feel like that, but with being clean. It really feels good to be clean. That shower was 10 minutes of pure relaxing bliss at the end of 18 days of feeling completely filthy. It’s a wonderful refreshing feeling that has now left me, as I have been wandering around outside in the muggy heat of the equatorial coast all day.

This morning I slept in until 8am (since hot water is only until 9am), grabbed another super hot shower and went down for breakfast. Oh boy was breakfast tasty. Fruits and mandazi (Kenyan version of French beignets), toast and cereals, hot coffee and bacon! Real bacon! It’s even more of a shocker when you remember how heavily religious this city is.

So today I ran around Fort Jesus for a few hours. It’s the fort at the entrance to Mombasa that has changed hands a bunch – originally built by the Portugese in the 1500s, it has changed hands 9 times. The presence of the Omani and Swahili peoples is really evident in certain parts in the art and architecture.

The courtyard inside the walls at Fort Jesus

More of the courtyard area at Fort Jesus

It’s actually quite pretty and interesting, and judging by the watchmen portholes and gun/cannon portholes, I’m pretty sure this was a successful fortress.

Cannons at Fort Jesus

Building walls inside Fort Jesus

My favorite part of Fort Jesus? The view from the lookout towers towards the ocean.

The picture doesn't do it justice.

Please excuse the sweatiness.

After that I walked down Digo Blvd to the Spice Market. Digo Blvd is a bustling street. I passed all of the Mutatus with their yelling Mekongas (money taker man, who yells to get more passengers) and ended at the spice market.

Wonderfully fragrant spices at the spice market.

I was planning on spending a few hours there but whoa are the vendors pushy! I would have loved to spend hours taking in the sights of every fruit and vegetable imaginable, smelling the mind-melting fragrances of cardamom, cinnamon, curries, ginger… but it appears, in this lovely city filled with mostly laid back people, all the push and irritating people hang out at the spice market. I got irritated and left after 45 minutes. My skin still smells wonderfully of those fragrances though.

Fruits laid out at the Spice Market

Grains at the Spice Market

So now I’m here, at the Blue Room Cyber Cafe and it’s only 2. I’m not sure what I’m going to do for the rest of the day. I’m thinking I’ll go wander about. Apparently there are some of the most beautiful balconies in the world here. Yes, I said balconies. I’m also going to look at all the wonderful mosques. So flipping beautiful! So I think now I’m going catch up on some world news here on the internet. I really hate this feeling of being SO cut off from the world, not getting my daily dose of world news. After I’ve gotten my fix, I’m off for a little foot tour of Mombasa.

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