Okay so, it would be my first time on an SGR train 😏 ; I know, 27 years and I have never been on a train! Oh well, you would be surprised by all the things I haven’t had a chance to do.
I was going to North Coast. This was my third time visiting this place, but in essence, it was my first time to experience Mombasa. The first time I was there, I was between 8-9 years. We were visiting my mom’s sister, and even though we did visit the beach, the only thing I remember from that trip is almost drowning. This was how my hydrophobia started. I often remember that experience like yesterday, how fast the water carried me away, how the saltwater blocked my throat, ears, and how it stung my eyes. Since that experience, I find it life-threatening to even be in substantial water bodies. I limited my water experiences to what I deal with in the bathroom and admiring water bodies and their beautiful sounds at a distance. This year, I committed to overcoming my phobias, and I am still at it.
And the second time I was there, I was barely there. A friend would pick up a new car, so we took a bus from Chuka to the Coast, slept a few hours, and the morning after picking up the car, we were on the road headed back. No one would ever call that a Mombasa experience. This time around, a friend asked to do a weekend in Coast, and I was down for it. I mean, we had just closed school – I was free, why would I say no?
My train was leaving Thursday at 10 pm; I was at the Nairobi SGR terminus by 7:30 pm. Before entering the station, we had to go through a whole security protocol program where dogs sniffed our bags, and we had body search. Inside the station, you print your ticket and then wait for your train to arrive. Luckily, there are eateries in the station where you can have a bite and a drink or read a book if you’re anything like me, as you wait to board the train. I have to say, for me, all the reading I did that night was the fun part. It helps if it’s a gripping book, and you don’t see yourself thinking of anything but that. The train left at exactly 10 pm, and the ETA was 3:30 am. By 3:35 am, I was off the train, and I could tell I was in Mombasa just from the heat alone.
I felt the temperatures shift even before we got to Mombasa. Damn! I liked the place, but I still can’t say the same about the temperatures. That place is sweltering 🥵🥵.
By 4:30, I was at my destination due for a good sleep. Though, to be honest, I barely slept in the heat. Even with the fan inside my room, it still felt like a furnace, and my body didn’t know how to adapt to it. Later that Friday morning, between 8:30 am to 12 pm…I had to address a few things (what brought me here in the first place), after which I was ready to go out, experience, and conquer the Coast.
Mombasa is different. This place has a personality of its own. The people are laid back, polite, and kind. The architecture represents the Arabic roots of the town. It is more like an old town with a fresh personality. We had lunch at a restaurant that serves the best pilau I had ever eaten in my life. Besides being delicious, the food came in generous amounts. You could spot Biriani cooking point by morning along the streets, and it turned into a street eating joint by afternoon. People flooded there, causing traffic on the road. After lunch, it was Beach time!
I used to think Thika had so many tuk-tuks until I landed here. Damn! The tuk-tuks here are many and a lot nicer than those from my town. The matatus, even though they had old number plates, they seemed cleaner and much nicer than those from my town.
On getting to Pirates beach, you are bombarded by all these different people selling you clothes and experiences; you might not enjoy this part if you lack patience. When the Coast was in view, I focused more on this magnificent body and less on what these guys offered me.
It felt like the beach was calling me. Like it was whispering to me to go inside. Luckily for us, we had picked a day when the beach wasn’t crowded. It was low tide season, so the water didn’t seem complete. I enjoyed walking in the sand. My feet felt like they were blending with the texture of the ground beneath. I walked in the sand till I reached the water. I expected the water to be cold (well, I’m more a river and falls person), so it was a pleasant delight when the waters were warm.
I didn’t want to swim in the ocean; I just wanted to walk in there, experience it, watch it, and soak it all in. I know the ocean is a big deal to most people, but I never quite understood why. This was my chance to explore that. The further I walked into the water, the deeper it was getting. What fascinated me most about the ocean was when I started to feel like I was moving in a loop but not quite. Standing in that water, I felt a force-carrying me, but I stood still in the same position. I looked out to other people on the beach, and they also felt like they were moving further and further from me. At first, this effed up with my mind. Before I got scared, a guy came behind me (his name is Makucha), and he explained the dynamics to me. He told me that what I was experiencing was the intensity of the waves. He approached me just in time for our boat ride.
Again, I had never been in a sailboat before. I was scared. Just comprehending going into those deep waters shattered my insides. Luckily for us, Captain Mandela and Captain Zaga Zuga were super friendly. I loved how steadily and carefully they eased me into being on the water. It was the way they talked about the sea that made me feel relaxed. Mandela went on and on about the sea reefs and corals and the water’s nature in different t seasons. They both had a way of making us relax and enjoy sailing on the water. Zagu Zuga had this phrase that cracked me up all the time: ‘Mombasa Raha, Nairobi Balaa, Kisumu Teargas!’ and there was a way he innocently lit up each time he said it. The deeper we went, Mandela dived into the water and got us three starfish. According to him, they are actually hard to spot, and he was stunned by how first he spotted them. According to him, that meant that we were kind-hearted people; I don’t know the science behind this, but I’m taking it and running with it.
I found myself disconnecting from the conversations and drifting into the sea. The waves fascinated me. The way they graciously consolidated each other into beautiful patterns and waves. There was a whistling sound, and the breeze made it feel like the sea had a life of its own. The reefs and corals seemed so close to the surface though it was very certain that they were deep deep into the water. From the sailboat, I could clearly spot the waves from the coral wall. It was beautiful and more so romantic. There was a touch of desire emanating from the waters and oomph of peace and tranquillity from the breeze. I loved it out here on these waves, on these sailboats, with these kind-hearted people.
An hour into the sail, the tides were getting more robust, and it was time to get off the water. We decided to sit at the restaurant overlooking the ocean and enjoy two cold beers in the breeze. The waters were getting fuller, and the waves were coming to the front; it was lovely. There is something about the blueness and occasionally the greenness of this ocean; there is just something about its aroma, and I hope to go back and learn more about it.
It was time to head out to the next destination. My friend was going on and on about this club at Nyali Center that I was apparently going to love. Hypnotica……eeeer lemme just say the name completes the setting of the club. It was here I realized that Mombasa in the day is a totally different setting in the night. To say the least, I had the best time Friday Night (I would love to get into the deets, but I like to assume this blog is PG 13 😉😂)
I went to bed a happy girl, considering I had been having the worst week yet. Being here had managed to get my mind at ease and thinking straight. I was to be here the entire weekend and leave on Monday, but I had this immense urge to go home when I woke up Saturday morning. I had gone to the North Coast to sort through the motions, and I seemed to have found a solution for one crucial issue I had been dealing with. I was to visit Fort Jesus, the Marine Park, and swim in the ocean, but I keep telling myself that these places weren’t going anywhere but what I needed sorted needed to be sorted not a day or two days later. I needed to go home; I had to go home.
I had one last round of pints and fun times with my pals on the rooftop of the place we were staying, and at 1:30 pm, I left for the Mombasa Terminus. My friends tried to convince me to stick to my original plan, but what can I say? The heart wants what it wants.
I got there in time for the 3:00 pm departure. Had I wasted more time, I would have been so late. And so there I was, wrapped up in my seat, leaving Mombasa. The heat was still too much, and quite frankly, I didn’t enjoy the heat those few hours I was there, but I did enjoy the place. It was different from what I was exposed to, and there is no better satisfaction than that of experiencing new destinations. I had come here with a heavy heart, and I left with a heart relieved and much lighter. The views on my way home were to die for, and yeah, nothing ever beats the company of a good book.