A Forest Without a Spirit, a Beach Without Water

Our driver, Dennis, was ready for us at 8am. The owner of the agency came with him and wished us a pleasant journey and also asking that we spread the word. His agency needs business, tourism is really down. They are all struggling for work. As most of our excusions have borne out, the scenery leaving the city is interesting, but not beautiful. With every mile, you are confronted repeatedly with the poverty that abounds, yet the people all look content. As I look at the roadside businesses created in shacks, huts, and tin buildings, I cannot help but wonder how they raised the money to even stock a store. Most of the areas look desolate, not buyers in sight, so it boggles my mind how they can stay in business. Yet, the Coca-Cola delivery man is everywhere as well as their logos.

Driving for close to 2 hours, we finally reached our first destination, the forest. Dennis led us to the office to buy our tickets from the Kenya Forestry Service. At $20 per person, we were official to hike the trails, but if we wanted to drive them, it would cost more. We had thought we were heading for a ‘kaya’, a spiritual place where we could only be led into by a holy person from the reigning tribe of the particular kaya. Instead, we met Jonathon, our guide for our hike. Jonathon was quick to respond to our questions about this being a kaya, saying it was only part of the National Forestry Service and not associated with any kayas. Our first disappointment in the day’s adventures.

I was set to have a spiritual experience, but I was destined to have trees identified for me, butterflies named, and bird watching here and there. Jonathon also found some elephant shrew, but neither of us could spot where he was pointing, so we missed them. The longer we walked the hotter it became. At the end of an hour, Jonathon said, “Wow, is it hot!” My response was that if he thought it was hot, then imagine how we felt. He said the temperature was hovering around 98 degrees and the storm clouds above proved that the humidity was just as high. We walked to the elephant trail, passing through an electric fence to keep the elephants in their own area. Part of the forest is a sand quarry where they mine the sand for making glass. It is the finest, silkiest sand I have ever felt. He took us to a tree house for a look-out point. It was too high for my taste, so I stayed behind, not having an appreciation of heights. Ron climbed up, but did not return with exaltations, so I guess I did not miss much. It turned out Jonathon was in a hurry to leave early today to attend a friend’s wedding. We told him we saw enough trees, so we could return to the office. There were a splendid assortment of butterflies, but as their nature is, they do not stay still long enough to pose for a picture. I did not take a single photo during this forestry venture. There were also no spiritual experiences to be had either.

The next stop was a special beach with a boardwalk. However, when we arrived, we found that there was an 800 shilling (8 euro) admission charge per person, so we decided to forgo it and moved on. It was deserted, so I think the entrance fee was dissuading visitors. The final stop was a premier beach in Mombasa. It was littered with vendors selling drinks. Each had about 20 bottles of soda or water to offer, the extent of their stock. The beach was empty, but the sand went for a mile before reaching ocean. Seaweed was decorating the sandy beach brought in during high tide and left there. Some seashells were interspersed with the green leaves, but nothing is allowed to be removed from shores, leaving me helpless as a collector.

Ron decided he needed to dip his feet in the water, so I waited with Dennis. Ron had a long walk ahead of him, but finally reached his thighs. Dennis said that at 4pm, the beach would be filled, because this is when the water returns. All those that were arriving early with their inner tubes and water toys were in for a disappointment for a few hours to come.

With the beach half way back to the hotel, the ride to return was shorter, but once we reached the hotel at 1:30pm, there was not much to do.  It was too hot to explore Fort Jesus again, so we stayed in the room and read or wandered down to the patio for a cup of tea. With non-stop air conditioning, the hotel is a welcomed refuge, unlike Zanzibar, where the electric goes off and on. There are often entertainers on the patio also, usually a trio playing all of the golden oldies of the American music. One singer joined in for some time and sounded like Louie Armstrong.

One thing that I cannot fault anyone for in our experience is the service we have received. Everywhere we have been the service has been excellent from top to bottom. A couple of times, we have walked in on the maid cleaning our room. Each day, the furniture is polished, the sheets are changed, and the floors are mopped, in addition to all of the usual cleaning duties one would expect.   

Behind the hotel is a Chinese-Malaysian restaurant. We gave it a try for dinner. The food was great, but it was curious to see an all Black staff in a Chinese restaurant.

To read more about a Kaya forest, go here.
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