Monday, October 24, 2011

Beach on the central Kenyan coast

We would never have thought that we could be mistaken for Italians. Granted, for most of our time in Africa, people have assumed we were from the UK. It seems to me that in North America (US and Canada) we have one style of accent, while the UK and the related English speaking commonwealth countries (Australia, Ireland, etc), have another, but to the average African we apparently sound all the same. However, for a few days we are in the beach town of Malindi, which has the nickname of the Little Italy of Kenya. // Almost all of the tourists here are Italian, most of the hotels are owned by Italians, and most of the restaurants are run by Italians, so obviously we've been eating well. In other cities, we have had miscommunications with hotel management because of their less than perfect English, but never thought that Italian language skills would have been beneficial in Africa. Because of this, when we are walking or being driven around, the local Africans, especially little kids, will greet us with Ciao and start talking Italian to us, until we don't respond, and then they try some English. //. There was a little bit of excitement in getting to Malindi. Shortly after we boarded the plane, they informed us that the Nairobi airport was going to be temporarily closed by the Kenyan military. The Kenyan military has been mobilizing for their attacks against the Somali terrorist organization Al-Shabaab, and the air force needed the airspace. We got off the plane, returned to the terminal, and after a little more than an hour, were allowed back on the plane for our flight. But apparently, the Kenyans aren't alone in the fight. We did hear on the regional news that the US military has also participated in attacks on the terrorist organization. //. Although credit card acceptance is low here, like some other places in Africa, this is the first place that it has been suggested we use paypal. //. The weather is very good here. Warm enough to sit in the shade by the shore, but not oppressively hot. Interestingly, and luckily, it currently only rains at night. We spent most of our time at the beach or the pool. We had some classic honeymoon moments, sipping fruity cocktails on the beach under palm trees.

Before leaving Africa, we decided to go scuba diving in the Indian Ocean one more time. This was the easiest dive yet for us, in regards to the boat ride, ocean entry, etc. The visibility was also the best we've had, exceeding 40 feet. There were a lot of fish and some impressive coral, including massive brain coral that were over 15' in diameter. Could have been one of our favorite dives, but being in the water with the giants, like humpback whales, whale sharks and manta rays, like in Tofo, will always be unmatched. //. Malindi is the location of one of the first Portuguese settlements in east Africa. Vasco da Gama stopped here on the way during his first visit to India, and shortly thereafter, the Portuguese established themselves here. There is now a monument/pillar marking their visit, and there is also a church built in the late 1500s, apparently the first Christian church in E. Africa. We didn't include pictures, so you will just have to imagine how not impressive it is. The best part of making the visit to the tourist site involved the local attendant at the pillar. We were discussing with him some ideas for lunch, told him we were interested in eating Swahili food, and wanted to know where he would go. He was very excited that we wanted Swahili food, so he called a friend to watch the entry kiosk for the pillar and then walked us to his favorite "restaurant"' where no English was spoken. Some of the food was good, and some was not, but we liked the culinary adventure, and the price was clearly the cheapest meal we had in Kenya. The rest of our meals in Malindi were Italian, and we were very happy about that. A few of the restaurants served a delicious, hot platter of rosemary focaccia instead of the typical bread basket, which was awesome, and being on the coast the seafood (fish, calamari, etc.) was especially good. There were also some amazing prawns (for Hugh only) which were so long that both ends hung over the edge of the plate. However, in Betsy's classic style, she still always wanted to change what she ordered just a bit from how it was written on the menu. For example, instead of having mashed potatoes with her calamari D'iavola, she thought it would be very reasonable to request a side of pasta instead. This is an Italian restaurant after all. But NO, the Italian chef would not hear of it. There was no way pasta went with this dish, but he would agree to rice instead of potatoes. Betsy loved the calamari but still stands her ground that it would have been best with pasta. // Near Malindi, is this geologic formation called the Marafa depression. Apparently, during a drought 250 years ago, the people of a rich village were too lazy to walk for water, so they used the milk from their animals for everything: drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry, etc. The gods became angry at the village's laziness and had the ground swallow the village. And this is how we were told the depression was created. Pretty good explanation we think.

Our hotel was run by some expat Italians, and you can easily tell the Italian influence: a great building, the sense of style of the furnishings (a mix of Swahili, African and Italian); plus, the Internet operated like the Italian train system. Here we are on the balcony outside of our room.

We had one taxi driver for our entire time in Malindi, which is not unusual for us in Africa. After many times in the taxi together, our driver Omar started telling us more about his life. His wife is from England and spends about 9 months of the year there. Because of this, and because he is Swahili and allowed to do so, he decided to also have a second local wife. The local wife knows about wife #1, but not the other way around. We are curious how wife #1 will react if she ever moves here full time. //. Leaving Malindi was as smooth as arriving. Our departure was only slightly delayed but we were informed that our scheduled direct flight to Nairobi was now going to stop in Mombassa along the way. There we had to de-plane for awhile so they could refuel. We arrived only about 1-1/2 hours late, at 21:30, which wasn't so bad except that we had an early morning flight to Rwanda. Only one more adventure to go before our return to the USA. - Hugh & Betsy

Location:Malindi, Kenya

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