Bella bella

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Africa » Kenya » Coast Province » Malindi
October 3rd 2011
Published: October 2nd 2011
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So after some time here we are getting quite use to the idea of haggling for pretty much everything that we need to buy. Of course some things you get the idea that the price is set, grocery stores for example and museums for another. But something strange happened the other day, when we were about to go into one of these museums. We noticed the price for tourists which were 500 shillings and the locals 100 shillings. This difference in price is for every tourist attraction in Kenya and it is something you just need to put up with. Although today when we noticed the difference we were sort of discussing the topic between ourselves and said 100 shillings a little louder. We then got a response ‘400’… We were like what? 400 what? We then realized that the guy at the entrance was haggling the price. We thought this was great and got stuck into it with our few weeks of experience ending up with 150 shillings.

Is it possible to do this haggling for every tourist attraction in Kenya? We are sure to continue and try to do this in the future. Well some of the differences are quite ridicules, Masai Mara is 80,000 shillings for non-residents and 300 for the local citizens. It is fair to do this? Would it be ok to do so in Western society?!

Malindi is located just 1,5 hour drive from Mombasa and you pass really nice villages along the road. The road is quite bumpy but still it is called a highway. The matatu just holding together but flying in a high speed on the highway and it doesn’t matter that the speedometer or gas meter don’t work at all. At least we would like to have the seat belts on us but unfortunately they don’t exist here. The matatu is over packed and you’re lucky if you get a window seat since you can open the window and try to get fresh/dusty air which is better than inside in the matatu. Through the landscape is absolute amazing and it is enjoyable to admire the nature. It is really interesting to see the people on the highway.. The women who are balancing a heavy last on the head and it is hard to understand how they manage to do it. The young girls are trained to carry the last on the head from an early age. The huge pineapple cultivations are something that you don’t see every day. The small hats made of dry grass are really stylish and simple but really cool looking ones. Watamu is a small village between Malindi and Mombasa, and it is worth to stay and have a great look. Well a small paradise outside Italy is Malindi since many Italians spend the holiday here. The vibes of Italian culture is around the town and for the first time in Kenya we didn’t feel like in an Africa country. The Italian words are spreading around and from African people. Actually, we did learn Italian since we spend few days in Malindi. The kids are saying “ciau” to you all the time, the matatu driver is screaming “bella, bella” and Italians are around you. We cannot forget that Malindi has “bella spiaggia” (beautiful beach) as well and you’ll notice that many topless (which is illegal by the way), rolling on the sand women are trying to sell some services. Some beach areas are made for the fishermen and it is interesting what kind of fish they are catching in the sea. You will notice that the wild animals are five times bigger than the normal size. The ants are like a finger nail, the lizards reach 1-2 meters… Well the Italian life is boiling in this small town and it is easy to melt in with all people. Of course since Africans are used to the tourists in Malindi and it is less hassling, cleaner, absolute hot and just amazing atmosphere than other Kenyan coast’s towns. It isn’t much to do in the town since this place is based on the beaches for relaxing but by matatu is easy to get around to other small villages, beaches and places which is worth to see.

If you’ll make to Malindi than make sure that you’ll go to Marafa village. It is quite hard and long trip to Marafa if you want to do it by yourself. Of course if you’re prepared to spend much money so it becomes much more comfortable and easier. The busses from Malindi are going quite often to Marafa but to come back from Marafa is more complicated than you can imagine. The bus trip to Marafa took 3,5 hours and it is just 30 km from Malindi. The road was really bumpy and isn’t made for the tourists at all since many people have never heard about this place. The bus was literally overcrowded since people were standing, sitting, hanging out the doors, windows and on the top of bus. Actually it is hilarious experience and it didn’t worry us at all. Once again we were more than happy to sit by the window (however the window doesn’t work to close it) and get some fresh/dusty air because the smell in the bus was horrible and was stinky of sweat etc. The bus did stop every kilometer and picked up more people since not many people did get off the bus. We don’t understand how the bus is holding all people, luggage, boxes etc. Notice: take at least a liter of water per person since it is really hot place. Every time it comes like a chock when people see two white heads sticking out of the overcrowded, dirty bus. Actually it is really unusual that “mzungu” take a local bus because he/she has a bag of money and could afford a better transport than this. On the road you can see the real life which is going on in the villages and we were able to see some funerals, rain happiness and a lot more. We believe that this wouldn’t be easy to see if we would travel by a company.

In Marafa villages there is a place called Marafa Depression and also know as Hell’s Kitchen or Nyari (the Place Broken by Itself). According “Lonely Planet” this place is the most underrated site on the coast (if not Kenya), and it is real Natural Wonder, an eroded sandstone gorge where jungle, red rock and cliffs upheave themselves into a single stunning Marscape. This place has been found just 30 years ago and still is really unknown among locals and tourist. The name “Hell’s Kitchen” was given because it becomes really hot in the place and in the rainy period it could be a really dangerous place. Well about the safely we wouldn’t say that it is safe in the dry period either but this is Kenya (in Kenya standards are quite ok) – everything is a challenge and struggle to survive if you want to experience. Actually we did turn up after a heavy rain and it was a little slippery and you need to watch out there to put your feet, and don’t look down or admire the scenery – just concentrate on the small path. If you’re lucky enough you’ll see some baboons and our guide said that they have learnt to beg tourists for bananas and cookies but if they see a dark person they run away. It is incredible that they have learnt to separate the faces and know who is giving them the food since it is really hard to find any food in the dry forest. Well this place is absolute awesome and we really recommend to make there and have a great look around.

On the way back from Marafa we couldn’t find any busses or matatus. We asked some locals what time the matatus usually are coming to pick up people and we did get a really interesting answer: “Well, you never know when they’ll turn up and sometimes they don’t turn up at all, we don’t have any times, we just are waiting and hoping for the best”. Actually we did wait for 2-3 hours and the day was going to the end, and we knew that in a short it will be dark. The dark cloths did come over the village as well and people were really happy since they haven’t had some rain for the weeks… people were dancing, singing, clapping the hands… amazing atmosphere. For the first time it didn’t worry us at all to wait and admire the surrounding, take some pictures, talk to the locals. At home we would go crazy and call the bus company, and demand a taxi instead the bus if a bus wouldn’t turn up… well this Africa – Hakuna Matata (no worries). We did surprise and we got know something new about ourselves. We were considering what we should do while the night was close and it isn’t really safe to be in the darkness. But the people were just amazing in the village and we did fell in love with this small place. Some guys were passing by motorcycles and the back-up-plan was to take a motorcycle back to Malindi. We got really good price and first time we did feel that they didn’t try to rip of us. We have seen like 4-5 people on the same motorcycle before so we decided to take one motorcycle (three people on the same motorcycle). You know, it was an unforgettable experience and we never regret this choice. We think the people in this village have never seen white people on the motorcycle and they were screaming, singing and clapping when we left the village. The road was still bumpy but everything went smooth and nice. The red and dusty sand on the road, passing small villages, happy and surprised looking people (some people have never seen a mzungu before) and the heavy rain washed out the road and we were over wet but in the short time the sun was going down and the scenery was just amazing. Since the road become a little hard to drive so our driver decided to take another road (or it was no road almost).. and happy kids were running out of the huts and screaming “ciau ciau”.. the eyes were full of surprise and fascinated. Pole pole (slowly) and we were on the main Lamu road in 45-60 minutes. It was already dark when we did change to the matatu to get home. Than we begin wonder if the driver actually have a driver license but hakuna matata… The matatu were full of people and luckily we got front seats as usual. Often in the matatus, you can feel that someone is touching your hair or skin because they are really curious on you. But this time when we did turn around and we did see two small girls were sitting with a real hen each… actually we couldn’t stop laugh because this was absolute hilarious view… the Kenyans begin laugh as well.

We were thinking to go and spend few days in Lamu but recently have happened two kidnapping and a murder of tourists. Lamu is a popular destination for many tourists and it has been known of the calm and relaxing surrounding. But unfortunately the Somalia people began to kidnap the tourists and nobody knows why yet. The last kidnapping did happen yesterday night and now Lamu and the places around it have been published like the most dangerous areas for tourist. Malindi is really close to it and we did decide don’t risk the life and go to the Masai village in the South/West Kenyan. Actually the North/East part of Kenya is really dangerous now days. We really wanted to go and help in the refugee camp in Dadaab but unfortunately to get there is more than dangerous. To Garissa says it is “ok” (well this Kenyan description of “ok” as well) to get there but to Dadaab is 50/50 chance that something will happen and this including the police in the car. We did have contact with Swedish organization and the situation is really bad for them as well. They would be more than happy to get help but they are risking to be kicked out by themselves since so many refugees are coming, and it means that it isn’t much place to camp either. We did decide to avoid these places and doesn’t risk our lives since it is big chance that something will happen. It is better to explore the unseen part of Kenya.

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3rd October 2011

Hi Chris, Hi Diana, Got you at last! Kept postponing and I guess I should have visited this blog sooner. Just to recap, we met very briefly in Diani as you were checking out of the Camp site, remember? What an amazing account of your trip... Even more amazing is the camera work. The pictures are fantastic. Congrats to both of you. You depictions of your adventures are so real and very credible; you paint a very honest picture of my country. It makes a wonderful read and you guys are very very interesting. Your account of the visit to Marafa is very hilarious, ha ha ha... I wish was in the background to watch it all. Anyway, hakuna matata!! I am very proud to have met the both of you, even if for a couple of minutes only. After Diani I came back to Lamu! Yes, Lamu!! This is where I work - in a Community Development project giving technical assistance to Government departments. (Details later, if you don\'t mind) My home is in Eldoret in the Rift Valley, towards western Kenya. Well, I haven\'t read the whole account of your voyage (quite a compilation) but believe me I will spend sometime every evening to trace your trip from start to present. A little about Lamu, just an update... Its really sad that things got out of hand. The government has shut down all links with Somalia along this frontier, sea, land and air and intensified patrols - a little too late, I might say. The French hostage is reported to have been rescued while two Kenya Navy officers are missing after the rescue mission. We are all advised to keep away from potentially dangerous situations. Well, so much for now. Please feel free to get in touch at any time. I\'ll be glad to address any queries and offer opinions while you are on your adventures. Most of all, God Be with You, Diana and Chris, Cheers!! Kizito

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