Kenya, March 6, 2003
Mombasa is the Mack-Daddy
|Mombasa. The name just rolls off the tongue full of exotic connotations. Go ahead, say it slowly out-loud. See, I told you it even sounds cool. Moreover, unlike Dar, although it should have the exact same climate, it actually is cool too. Or at least cool for Africa.
My first night here was anything but cool, though. Tanzania gave me a parting gift as I took the bus here, in the form of bad fish and spinach at a roadside restaurant, so last night was rough. After twelve hours curled up in a ball on the floor of the hotel bathroom, surviving bowl movements that you don't want to imagine and I don't want to remember, I'm now up and about again, though it will be a bit before I'm back to solid foods or beer.
Still, it's good to be back in Kenya. The difference between Tanzania and Kenya is striking for me, as here in Mombasa English is everywhere, as is a feeling that while the locals can tell in a heartbeat that I am different, I'm usually not treated as such. Or maybe its just that after Tanzania's 'screw the tourist' mentality, the low level of rip-offs here seem too insignificant to matter.
Here too, I get to see my favorite vehicles in all of East Africa, Kenya's matatus. As the local form of short-hop buses, they are usually tricked out Nissan Caravans, complete with wild paint jobs, pumping stereos, and at night, full neon lights. Some days I sit at a cafe near where they congregate, just to check out all the different styles.
My personal favorites have great paintjobs that would make any tagger envious, rims that blind with polished chrome, reggae pumping out from massive speakers under the seats, drivers decked out in shades and style, and touts doing aerial and verbal gymnastics to attract your attention.
At around fifteen cents, they are the proletariat passenger vehicles, which I try and use daily, sometimes just hopping in a particularly cool one for the ride. If they weren't left-hand drive, and beaten to a pulp, I'd love to have one to cruise around DC. Yeah, they are that cool.
And so is Mombasa. I'm gonna chill here for the weekend, resting up after that night-o-fun in the bathroom, before taking the time and money I budgeted for a Mt Kilimanjaro climb and buying a flight and a week in Ethiopia. Cool, eh?