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Kenya's South Coast: Modern Coast

My first fully awake day since I arrived form the Coast, South Coast specifically. Having arrived yesterday morning on a Modern Coast Oxygen bus, I spend most of the day and night in bed, catching up on millions of lost sleep hours. When one is in the South Coast, you do not waste away those precious moments on sleep.

I had joined hundreds of others at Diani for the Connected Kenya conference , where in between open bar cocktails and parties by the beach I spend quality time telling the world more about what was happening in the air conditioned Dr. Meister conference room at Diani Leisure Lodge.

Tell me, would one picture this as the Aga Khan Academy ?
I have been to the coast before, once. Last year I was covering some e-learning conference at the Aga Khan Academy. We were hen booked in at Hotel Saphire on the island. One one night, we did visit the Sarova White Sands on the North Coast. The Aga Khan Academy at the coast does not deserve to be called an academy. It is instead a castle with lawns that several of the top golf courses in the country would envy. The buildings are expansive marble ones that are more befitting of a castle across the Indian Ocean. It is rumoured that the academy was built more to be a model centre than school. My humble opinion is that the architects must have mixed up their plans with that of an oil well owner's complex and the client did not bother checking up on the project till completion. I may have gone to one of the best school in Kenya, but that is where the comparison ends. Even the atmosphere at the school was more reminiscent of a resort than an actual school.

On my final day of my inaugural coastal trip, I found myself at the dilemma that I always find myself in. Arriving at the White Sands, it was a question of the cocktail or the beach, and the cocktail won. The farthest I went in to the hotel grounds was the cocktail area which was a beer-bottle throw from the gate.

Then, my experience was limited to Mombasa, and I did not even step on to the beach as I had to catch the dreary Akamba bus back to Nairobi - the trip down the coast involved the bus coming one hour late, and breaking down thrice to take almost 24 hours on the road. This is in addition to the bus branching off to Machakos to fill in our measly figure of 9  passengers. 90% of the passengers boarding the bus at Machakos were women, a few with their children. That means the husbands work at the coast. The bus broke down totally in the middle of Tsavo park and crawled on to Manyani, where a dirt black Akamba bus (they are supposed to be Yellow in colour) smoked was called in to bail us,it ended up providing spares since it wasn't fit to carry passengers itself.

The trip then was short, with no experience of the beach, the closest been Mama Ngina drive where at least I got sprayed by the ocean waters hitting into the cliff, none the less. Then , I was such a broke fella that one @MjKaranja had to pay my entrance fee at Bobs - all Nairobians have to check in to this club - and a few drinks. Apparently, I was so broke that even the hookers at Bobs could tell and allocated the oldest of them- she looked ghost white like one a common Taarab singer- to see if I needed any of their Kshs 2,000 services.

Fast forward to Monday and I find myself on the road down to the coast as fellow men of the pen were lucky, or is it unlucky to fly down to Mombasa. While, they might have been unlucky as they missed the road scenery. The road is smooth except for a stretch under construction at Athi River. However, some sections further down past Kibwezi are developing characteristic ruts for roads that see more than a fair share of trucks. This seems to be more common near bumps, and be warned if you are speeding, a small treble of bumps  means that you will be hitting a really big one if you do not slow down.

The twenty-something additional kilometres from Mombasa to the South Coast make a huge difference. For starters, there is the Likoni ferry crossing. It costs Ksh 150 for a car, while petroleum tankers have exclusive use of the ferry for safety reasons. The blue ferry is the oldest and slowest of them all, the red ones are new , faster and stable. They can do two trips in the time it takes the blue one to make one, and they even have pedestrian seats and shades.

Likoni is a stark difference from the island, less developed and more traditional. It has also been the site of tribal and political clashes in 1997 and 2007 elections. As you drive further from Likoni, the area resembles more of a rural setting with lots of vegetation and little housing.

A Beautiful morning view from one of the villas at Beach Dhow, Diani,
with a view of the reefs.
Diani town is typically just like any other Kenyan town. A road goes down from the town to a junction that joins the road that runs along the beach front properties. We were staying at the Beach Dhow Villas which are situated at the beach with 3 bedroom self contained apartments. This are typically cheaper than the resorts (for locals) and costs start at a little above ksh 3,000 (to confirm) per person for the European plan (you buy and cook your own food, but utensils and fuel provided) and above kshs 5,000 per person half board (excludes all sea food). Rooms at the leisure lodge I was informed MAY cost between ksh 8,000 to 16,000 per night depending on the season.

Beach Dhow Villas have a large treble of pools and also beach frontage. The Lesiure lodge itself has been built in to great features (where is my once great Geography) left as the Ocean receded. Our 3 day stay saw Safaricom throwing a great party by the beach side. The tide was out in the early night allowing us to wade through pools and walk in the reef till we got tired.

The night was graced by great performances by Nameless , Eric Wainana and the Homeboyz DJs. The Homeboyz were so good that even those of us who were shy and could not dance were shamelessly doing things on the sandy dance floor, maybe the beer helped. Later in the night, when Mike Rabar's boys refused to play any more music, it was a time to see the tide coming in and covering the reef. Unlike the Pacific, our side of the Indian Ocean is favoured with a number of reefs. Unfortunately, I decided to catch some sleep rather than go see that Sharks disco that everyone had been praising. Even more unfortunately, going to sleep was all in vain as few people turned up for the conference the following morning, with most preferring to catch up with their beds.

Well, the great thing with this is that the conference closed earlier. This gave us more time to enjoy the many swimming pools at Diani Leisure Lodge. At some point, been a non swimmer, I accidentally drifted into the deep end as I practised my skills. Getting tired mid way across the pool, I decided to rest, only to discover that the pool was deeper than I perceived,crisis. There was nothing to clutch on, the pool was too deep to stand in and I did not know to swim, what to do for a drowning man? As I flapped my hands frantically amidst swallowing water, I noticed that if I pulled myself, I could make it to the side, and that is what I did. It may seem long, but all this took a few seconds, and the life guard arrived just as I made it to the side. He dispatched and restricted me to the children's end, though recommended me for not panicking. There I "swam" till I nearly missed the last bus to the main land.

The ride to the mainland was predominated by a heated argument over land issues and IDPs, with some civil servant passionately chairing the argument. She questioned why IDPs were been allocated land if they had not owned land before been displaced from their businesses. She claimed that those who owned land before the 2008 post election violence had returned to their land, and only the wives and children remained in the camps eyeing to be allocated additional land. The rest of the IDPs had never owned land and instead owned small businesses that were destroyed, she said. She added that allocating the IDPs land set a precedent by which all landless people in the country should be allocated land. She however dismissed our argument that we put too much value in real estate in Kenya, and that we should work towards policy that dissuade this. Bloggers have no business owning land if they are not farmers.

Modern Coast Bus Oxygen1
One of the "luxury" air conditioned, hydraulic suspended
 Modern Coast Oxygen Scania Higer A 80 buses
This time round, I chose to hang around the Modern Coast passenger terminus as I had heavy luggage that I could not wander around with.  Furthermore, I did not want to encounter the many Nairobians arriving in Mombasa for Easter, if only they knew of the South Coast. Modern Coast charges kshs 1600 for an air conditioned ordinary seat and ksh 1700 and ksh 1800 (might be khs 1800 and khs 1900) for VIP seats. The air conditioned bus is comfortable enough if the passenger in front does not lean their seat too much into your space. The leg room is enough and the journey is enjoyable as the Swedish - Chinese combination in the Scania Higer A 80 results in hydraulic suspensions absorbing all those bumps and uneven surfaces. I happened to have forgotten my sweater ,or rather sleeping scarf with my bags which were underneath in the baggage compartments, but the air conditioning kept temperatures between 19 degrees and 24 degrees, with slots for colder fresher air if I liked. However , newer buses, unlike the one above have "OXYGEN" written across all the windows obstructing the view outside, wish they did not have to do that. The buses have beautiful lighting round the windows, though this are switched off away from urban centres at night as they tend to attract highway robbers.

Dear reader, you are missing some of the best on earth if you have not sampled the South Coast of Kenya.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Gud to knw u had fun travelij in that modern coast ocygen bus. I found their services pathetic..they charge their customers a thousand shilings when late yet their bus arrives one hour late. 30 minutes afta depature it breaks down n have to wait for a mechanic to travel frm msa n fix it. They cant mantain their buses?? Nkest!!!!

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