FROM THE BLOG

A lush life in Kenya, Africa

This was one of the earliest posts I’d written – in diary form – about my first trip to Africa in 2005. Photos were taken by a Samsung digital camera so are a bit grainy and dark!

Somebody Pinch Me!

I’m in Africa! Have just woken up beneath a huge mosquito net in a massive room with a private balcony, our own en-suites and the most spectacular views overlooking a tropical garden and the ocean. We’ve been here only one day but had the most amazing time.

We were met at Mombasa Airport by a driver who took us to the bank and then the Nakumat (supermarket). Mombasa is quite crazy – very hot, noisy and crammed with cars, people and goats. Bit of a culture shock.

We also picked up Patrick, the house manager of Jinchni – a skinny, smiley man with a front tooth missing who greeted us with a loud ‘JUMBO!’. Patrick helped us choose a mountain of groceries at the Nakumat before we left Mombasa.
Jinchini

The drive to the house, located south of Mombasa in the village of Mswambeni was quite long but spectacular. We crossed over from the island to the main land by car ferry and then drove through run-down villages filled with people lying under trees or sitting on their porches to escape the midday sun. I’ve never seen so many goats, of all shapes, sizes, colours and bleatings. Once we hit the countryside, the pace became less frenetic and the surroundings were more lush and peaceful.

Jinchini is quite isolated so we had to drive down a long, bumpy dirt road to reach the property, passing huge mansions with tall walls, security notices etc along the way.

Jinchini is massive – a huge towering white house with dark thatched roof, surrounded by a lush tropical garden, overlooking the beach out the front and a peanut shaped pool out the back. There are four bedrooms and Jill and I grabbed the upstairs ones with the balconies while Clare ended up with a smaller but still exquisite room downstairs. The house opens out on to the front garden and the sea and has a sunken living room, large dining room and lots of space to sit outside under the palm trees.

We were met by the staff who immediately grabbed all our groceries from us and started peeling the carrots and washing the fruit. Pat’s youngest son, Toby, was also there and gave us a quick rundown of how everything worked before he raced off to catch his flight back to London.

The first thing to hit us was the heat – so intense and tropical but not so overpowering that we wouldn’t acclimatise quickly. We unpacked our suitcases – clothes into the wardrobe etc – so it immediately felt like home rather than staying in a hotel. Word that there were new people from London at Jinchini spread quickly through the village and within about half an hour of our arrival, hawkers with sarongs and baskets were setting up their wares beneath the mangrove trees on the beach.

We finished unpacking and then leapt into the Indian Ocean which was so warm that we got cold getting out – it was like swimming in a bath. Mswambeni beach is gorgeous with white sand and palm trees that go on for miles and miles. It reminds me of a cross between Bali, Rarotonga and Brazil. It’s beautiful hearing the sound of the wind in the trees and the waves crashing right on the beach. Absolute heaven and a world away from the madness of London!

After our swim, we sat outside on the front porch and drank vodka and tonics and Patrick, who is also the supreme cook of Kenya, served us an absolutely beautiful fish curry, made from fresh coconut, chilli, onion and coriander and tuna which had been caught off the reef earlier that day.

The Askari (night watchmen) also arrived with their bows, arrows and torches (Pat tells us the bows and arrows are mostly for show) while Omari, who works closely with Patrick, turned our sheets down and pulled our mosquito nets out over the bed! Where else do you get that kind of amazing service?

Tina loves salami

We also met Tiva, the neighbour’s dog who adopted us and Jinchini within seconds… . and who also ate all our leftover salami which we had left sitting on a table on the porch. I came outside and he had his snout stuck in the salami packet. It was the first time Tiva had ever done anything like that we later found out. He’s a cool Kenyan dog who never begs and only comes when he wants to.

Before we crashed into bed, Captain Ali, one of the local tour guides, came over to tell us about his programmes that he offers. His use of English is really funny and he would start every sentence with €˜we’. So if you said where are you from Ali? He would reply, €˜we from Kenya and we now live in msambweni.’ He’s very well known in the village and is also the head of the Turtle Conservation Board in Mswambeni – a good man to know.

Crabs, glorious, crabs!

I woke up fairly early and went for swim in the pool and lay in the sun. Even at 6am, the sun is fierce… not to mention all the crabs are out and slithering all over the sand… but more about my crab phobia later.

Clare and Jill woke around midday and we sat down to a fully laid breakfast outside under the palm trees of scrambled eggs, fresh mango and Kenyan coffee. We also bought a couple of sarongs from the local sellers and spent most of the afternoon reading, swimming and sleeping.

Lunch at 4pm consisted of fresh fish cakes (Pat’s speciality), salad, coffee and chocolate cake. We needed to walk the food off so wandered down the beach and met Tiva’s owner, Judy, who was in fact out looking for her dog. She lives in a gorgeous orange house down the beach and invited us for drinks at a later date.

We also saw locals catching huge bundles of fish in their dhowas (old wooden boats made from mango tree), found bright coloured, round jellyfish on the sand that looked like glass paperweights ,and watched huge, almost see-through crabs scuttling sideways along the beach like miniature tumbleweeds and disappearing down huge dark holes in the sand. In the daytime, they were cute with their beady eyes and crabby legs, but at night – well, that was another story.

The moon was so full and round that it made everything on the beach sparkle and shine.

It was dark when we got back and time for more food… this time we had marinated tuna, rice and salad. I could start to feel my body relaxing and giving into the pampering.

Husband for sale

It thundered down with rain last night and for the first night, the garden was quiet. Normally you could hear bush babies and other strange creatures sqwarking away but the rain drowned them out.

Another cruisy day swimming in the pool and lying in the sun. I saw a huge squirrel in the garden jumping from tree to tree – he was so big he would have rumbled our scrawny London squirrels.

We met two local African boys while we were sunbathing on the beach – Opa and Julius who talked to us for a few hours. Julius (23), who looked about 33, kept asking me to take him back to London as a husband so I eventually moved away from the beach and up to the pool for some peace and quiet.

Fresh lobster for lunch grilled with garlic, butter, onion and breadcrumbs. I decided it was time to start thinking of ways to stay at jinchini for the rest of my life.… tie myself to a palm tree, hide in a cupboard.… marry Julius.…

Crab hunting

I took Tiva crab hunting although she was never fast enough to grab one before they shot down their holes. The bigger the hole, the more the mess around the edge where the crab had flicked out little piles of sand as it dug. Some holes, however, looked as though they’d been dug by crabs on acid as there was sand flung in all directions, not the nice neat piles that most created.

The beach was a hive of activity and not just because of the crabs… African women in coloured sarongs walked by balancing bundles of firewood on their heads, fisherman carried fish and squid stacked in rows on sticks over their shoulders, and naked children jumped off the dhowas into the ocean.

We had another full moon again but it was very low, yellow and heavy. This was the third full moon in three nights. The soft breeze kept the mosquitos away and us cool at night. I felt like I was living the life of a character straight out of a Wilbur Smith novel.

We had prawn curry for dinner and it was just as delicious as all the other meals that Patrick has cooked for us. Fruit and seafood sellers were coming regularly to the door with pawpaw, oranges, lobster and fish, and Patrick would choose what we needed and buy it from them. Mohammad Fruit had the best fruit and Ali had the best fish.

Baboons, Turtles and Tourist Hell

I’m beginning to lose track of the date and time which is brilliant. It means I’m slowly unwinding. I’ll be so relaxed by the end of the two weeks that I’ll probably be in a coma.

Today was absolutely amazing but exhausting. We were up at 6.30am and it was so still outside and the sea was calm and sparkling. But we didn’t have time for as swim as captain Ali and his driver were coming to take us to Wasini Island to swim with the dolphins and go ‘goggling’.

We had a quick breakfast of watermelon, cereal, toast and Kenyan coffee and then jumped in the van for the one hour drive to Shimoni to meet the boat. We nearly didn’t make it when we came across a whole lot of workers near Jinchini rebuilding the holes in the dusty road with concrete that they were smashing up with jack hammers. As a result, the once flat road was now a mountain of broken concrete.

While the solution of how to get past the roadworks looked obvious to me, there seemed to be a lot of heated discussion in Swahili between the driver and the workers. Then everyone just stood there holding their jack hammers and staring at us as though we were aliens, before an older looking African man guided our unhappy driver around the roadworks by making him drive over a ditch and through the vegetation.

On the journey we stopped at several checkpoints where armed police were stopping vehicles to see if all their passes were correct as Msambweni and Diani are the last villages on the main road to Tanzania. Their roadblocks were two large rows of metal spikes that were pulled across the road and through which you had to navigate your vehicle through. We also passed families of Kenyans walking along the road, pushing bikes laden with baskets of coconuts, sugar and smashed concrete, saw lots of small huts that had been thrown together with more smashed concrete, bits of vegetation and thatch and waved at lots of small children who yelled €˜Jambo’ at us at every opportunity.

Baboons in the trees

We even saw a tree filled with grey baboons which were grabbing handfuls of long, pod shaped flowers from the branches. One of the bigger baboons ran across the road in front of us but when we jumped out to take a photo, he had disappeared into the bush. We turned our attention on to the smaller ones in the trees but they decided they would come and investigate us instead and began leaping down the tree and crashing into the undergrowth as they made their way towards us. We leapt back into the car and took off. I could see the headlines: English tourists attacked by baboons…

Shimoni

We arrived in Shimoni – a nothing of a place beside the sea. And, much to our horror, it was filled with tourists – mostly German – who had invaded our private paradise. But our jealousy quickly passed when, in front of all the tourists, we were taken to our private Dhowa with driver and tour guide and driven away. Ha ha! Take that!

Our tour guide was Captain Dee, who greeted us with flawless but incredibly formal ‘tourist’ English. He welcomed us on board, greeted us with a big jolly jambo and at one stage I swear he spoke in olde English. ‘We welcome thee on board and we hope that thee doth enjoy this fine experience that we have doth laid on for thee.’ It was all I could do to keep a straight face.

Our dhowa was much larger than the ones off the coast of jinchini and was also lined with a woven flax that reminded me of the Maori designs in New Zealand. We bounced through the choppy channel until we reached Kisete Marine Park where we joined about four other dhowa, packed with tourists, that had come across a pod of about four dolphins. They were really beautiful (the dolphins that is) but impossible to photograph although I managed to get some great video footage of them.

We left the dolphins, still being chased by the tourist dhowas, and motored through a shallow channel where the water was turquoise and clear as cling wrap. Islands, scoured out by the sea, flanked the marine park and we even saw herds of wild goats clattering along the edges of paper-thin, rocky cliffs as though they were glued on. I kept waiting for one of them to fall off the cliff and land in the sea but they just ran along the edge like maniacs, munching on bush and bleating away.

Our private aquarium

We motored along for another twenty minutes and came to an area where we could snorkel. We threw on t-shirts, put on our goggles and flippers and dived overboard with Captain Ali into a completely new world filled with colour and amazing fish of all shapes and sizes. I had only seen fish like these in books and aquariums.
We saw black trumpet fish that flapped their fins like wings as though they had accidentally fallen into the sea from the sky; angel fish, parrot fish, huge schools of white squid, beds of coral including one yellow lump that looked like a giant’s brain and a purple coral splodge that stretched along the reef like the huge fungi shelves you see in kauri forests in New Zealand.

The highlight for me though were the green turtles which swam breast-stroke along the edge of the reef, their heads moving from left to right checking for fish traffic. Captain Ali managed to get close to one that snapped its head in and out and even swam on its side to avoid bumping into Ali or myself. It then swam up over the reef and I was neck to neck with it. I touched its shell and it turned its head and looked straight into my eyes before I backed off and let it soar away. It was so graceful and moving that I still haven’t been able to stop talking about it today.

Wasini Island – Don’t Go!

Thousands of granny wrinkles and tired muscles later, I reluctantly returned to the boat to continue the journey to Wasini Island for lunch. We arrived at the island, home to about 900 Africans, and were treated to a smorgasbord of sweet potato, grilled red snapper, coconut rice, seaweed goulash and chipatis all set in a beautiful surrounding with the sea at our backs and the thin cliffs and bleating goats to our left. After coffee and coconut ice, Captain Dee asked us if we would like to have a look at the local village… I wish we had said no! But we were up for anything so we said yes … if only we’d been better prepared.

First mistake: Don’t buy pencils or sweets for the village children…you will be mugged! Stupidly we did and were then taken through a gate into a dusty courtyard where about 15 children, baring their teeth and the whites of their eyes, leapt at us and began to rip everything from our grip. The sheer determination on their faces and the force they used was worse than the time I got mugged in Barcelona. At least the mugger gave up when we shouted at him. But not here… I had five children hanging off one pencil, and no matter how loud I shouted or how hard I tried to shake them off, they stuck like glue. The adults just watched from the sidelines grinning at the melee. If the children hadn’t been so heavy I would have swung them around like Wonder Women and scattered them.

One little boy, of about ten, was actually carrying a white, plastic pencil case stuffed full of pencils that he had no doubt wrestled off other unsuspecting tourists in the past. I called him every bad English word I could think of, including some French swear words thrown in for good measure, but he just laughed at me, poked out his tongue and pretended to imitate me.

The worst thing is that Clare was mugged first by the kids but I thought I would try and reason with them by handing out one pencil at a time. Fool!! It only whipped them into an even wilder frenzy.

If the children weren’t bad enough we were then herded into small huts run by aggressive sellers, where we were forced to buy bags of carved animal heads and wooden salad spoons that we didn’t even want. If we tried to take photos the children demanded money and everywhere we went, they yelled Jumbo at us and stuck their hands out while staring at us with pleading or menacing looks on their faces. Clare, Jill and I were freaked out and overwhelmed and wanted to leave but Captain Ali and Dee seemed oblivious to our terror.

Captain Dee wanted to show us the Wasini Coral Garden and he was so well-spoken, we couldn’t let him down. The ancient coral formations on the other side of the small village rose from the mud and surrounding mangrove swamps and reminded me of a miniature Stonehenge. The coral gardens filled to the top of the structures at high tide and provided homes to millions of crabs. These crawly critters were different from their coastal cousins and had one large pincer that they carried high in front of them… I wondered why they didn’t topple forward from the sheer weight of the claw.

After a quick tour of the garden, we decided it was time to leave this strange little village with its menacing inhabitants and strange tourist attractions. Even the ruins and gravestones of two arabs which were supposed to be the island’s most historic part, looked unkempt and unloved. Plus there was the smell of rotting flesh near some of the houses that made us gag. We couldn’t get back on the boat fast enough.

We motored back to Shimoni and then hopped in the car to wind our way back to Jinchini. We had a bit of a fight with the car hire driver who produced a list of extra fees such as petrol, extra kilometres, VAT, driver surcharge and extra money to take the vehicle back to Mombasa. The car ended up costing us over sixty pounds which isn’t much in London but a fortune in Kenya. Still it was an amazing day and our first venture outside the safety of Jinchini. It was lovely to be back €˜home’ however, home to Patrick’s cooking, gin and tonics on the porch and early to bed. Fabulous!

Blob City

Following out trip to Shimoni we spent most of the time lazing around the pool and sunbathing. We found a whole family of bush squirrels in the garden this time with a home in huge hole in the trunk of the tree. They were running around carrying tree fronds into the hole, well actually the female squirrel was doing most of the work while her male companion ran up and down the trunk, flicking his big bushy tail up and down, chattering and showing off to Jill and I. Ah, typical! J I don’t know how mother, father and baby squirrel all managed to fit into the hole, giant bushy tails and all. The baby was obviously learning how to jump from tree to tree, as it crashed into a couple of branches and nearly fell off a couple of others.

We went for a quick swim in the sea which was like being in a tepid bath again. More prawns and paw paw were delivered to the back door and Patrick whipped up an amazing feast of prawn curry and rice. We had a good chat to Patrick who told us he has many children and a wife who lives in a village located on the outskirts of Kenya. He sees his family about once a year as he’s employed at Jinchini all year around except for a month off in the UK summer. He’s been with the Orrs for nearly 15 years I believe and absolutely loves his job.

We went for another long walk on the beach and than after dinner, sat outside on the front porch drinking red wine, listening to the twittering of night finches, coconuts falling from the trees with an almighty crash, the wind in the trees and the sea pounding the beach… and the crabs.

Women cry… that’s what they do

We decided to leave the safety and relaxation of Jinchini and spend the day at the resort up the other end of the beach called Diani. This was where all the tourist hotels and bars were, we were told. We decided not to use the car hire company in Mombasa after the Shimoni fiasco so ended up using a driver friend of Patrick’s called Paul – a beautiful, young African with shining eyes. We drove for about an hour past rows of coconut palms, fields of cashew nut trees, old thatched buildings, people walking along the road and even saw another baboon crossing the road.

Diani, like Shimoni, was a bit of a culture shock although we managed to find a tour operator who could take us to the Masai Mara by plane! Whee hee! So we ran around from bank to bank getting the money together (the machines would only let us take out about 30,000 Kenyan schillings at a time) and then booked our trip. The tour operator even gave us a safari hat to wear.

We did a bit of shopping – I bought a beautiful white heart made from soapstone and a dark, tear-drop shaped ebony bowl. The heart is exquisite, full and rounded and looks divine with the dark wood. The shopkeeper also convinced me to buy a very ugly boyfriend doll made from ebony with protruding teeth, a small penis and huge round buttocks for 350 kenyan schillings. The shopkeeper said it would help me find a boyfriend because the carving was ugly therefore my boyfriend would be beautiful. We’ll see.…

We then ran around the supermarket stocking up on provisions and a small vegetable and fruit stall where we bought paw paw, mango and pineapple. A white Italian man was chatting away to the African stall owner in Italian which was quite surreal and then Clare disappeared into a craft shop next door. She came out twenty minutes later, flustered, carrying three wooden animal masks and being pursued by four sellers with dreadlocks who were all trying to get us to come back into the shop and spend more money.

Paul, who waited in the van the whole time, drove us to Diani Beach where we sat in Ali Baba – a beachfront bar similar to the ones you find in Bali, and ordered vodkas, beer, calamari salad and prawn cocktail. The bar was filled with fat, white middle-aged foreigners, young pretty Kenyan girls all wearing heaps of makeup and short skirts, a group of tall, gangly white boys and an obnoxious Italian man in his late 30s, who sat behind us at a table surrounded by young Kenyan women and sang and played his stereo very loudly as it slowly ran out of batteries. €œI am the man’, we heard him say at one point. Agh, bring me a bucket.

Jill befriended a young Masai girl called Ana who came and sat with us and told us she was a catwalk model who was recruiting girls for a show in Kenya. She was really beautiful with an amazing figure, long neck and long arms except her teeth were covered in a brown tinge which we later found out to be from a type of drug that the Africans chew called Khat. I’m not sure whether that is what caused her brown teeth but we saw photos of other Africans who had the same markings on their own teeth.

We decided to go for a walk down Diani Beach which was crowded with tourists, locals trying to sell dope, jewellery and even squid and stingray if you were hungry. Masai warriors dressed in bright red blankets and sarongs walked along the beach talking to tourists. We met two very tall Masai called Latari and Simon, who were employed to dance at the local hotels along Diani beach. Latari’s hair was tightly braided with coloured beads in front and down the back and parted across the middle of his head from ear to ear rather than down the centre. He said it took him three days to plait. €˜But I wouldn’t plait your hair,’ said Latari to me. ‘Your hair would break and then you would cry. Because that’s what women do – they cry all the time.’

We left the boys on the beach and returned to Paul and began the drive back home to Jinchini. It was an interesting drive back… we drove past a very packed and bustling market street of Ukunda and came across an accident where a huge, articulated truck and trailer unit and completely jack-knifed on the side of the road. Paul said accidents like this were common and were usually drivers on their way to Tanzania or vice versa who hadn’t slept for days and then lost control of the wheel. If the injured driver didn’t have any money, then he would have to be taken by car to the nearest hospital as ambulances wouldn’t come for people who didn’t have any cash. That was quite a shock to us as you can imagine.

When we got home, Patrick cooked us ANOTHER amazing meal of mango, salsa, beans and feta salad and cold meat. Heaven again!!! After dinner, I went for an amazing night swim in the pool. It was pitch black and the pool lights glowed like kryptonite. There were zillions of stars in the sky and night finches kept darting in and out above my head as I sat in the pool. It was so warm and you could hear the sea crashing in the background and the twittering of the finches. Sometimes they came so close to you that you could almost feel their wings brush your face.

Malaria and the Belgians

This day started like all the others, breakfast on the lawn under the coconut palms. We had to be very careful not to be hit by falling coconuts which landed with a thud around us. Fortunately the cracking palm fronds warned us of imminent danger before the coconut hit the ground.

We decided to book ourselves some massages from Arthur who is the local physiotherapist at Msambweni Hospital. We stacked up the beach loungers on top of each other for height and Arthur massaged us in turn underneath the trees. It was paradise being massaged with the sound of the sea crashing right beside us.

After the massages, Arthur joined us for a coffee and began to tell us about his life at the hospital. He said that two children a day did from malaria at the hospital because there isn’t enough quinine to treat them because it’s too expensive – 160 Kenyan schillings per 2mg of quinine – that’s £1.50 per child! We couldn’t believe it and I immediately had visions of myself waltzing up to the hospital and saving ten children’s lives by handing over the £15 I had in my possession. But Judy from down the road later told us that even if we gave the hospital money, they wouldn’t be able to buy quinine as it’s very difficult to get hold of and sometimes never makes it into Kenya.

Judy works at the hospital trying to raise money for medicine but says the bureaucracy is a nightmare. She also says the mosquitos in Africa have mutated and become stronger because so many tourists (like ourselves) are taking anti-Malaria tablets. The mozzies have developed a resistance which means when they bite the local Africans, especially the children and pregnant women whose immune systems are under developed, the local people don’t stand a chance. So what can we do? Nothing, says Judy. ‘it’s nice that you are concerned but the individual is powerless to make any changes.’ So children carry on dying on a daily basis… it’s sickening.

So we were sitting in the garden listening to Arthur’s stories when Patrick suddenly delivers a note to us from Judy inviting us for beers and €˜bitings’ at the Belgian neighbours’ place who have just moved into Mswambeni. Judy’s driver was waiting to take us immediately so we quickly bid farewell to Arthur, put some pretty dresses on and jumped in the land rover with stevie, Judy’s driver. He drove us to the other end of the beach – I have no idea which direction is which in Mswambeni but it was near all the seaweed and the crab rocks that Tiva and I encountered during one of our walks.

We arrived at a tiny cottage and were met by a young Belgian man called Frederick who took us down to the beach to see where he and his family are building a huge hotel. He took us through all the rooms, including one that opened onto an enormous sunken swimming pool. We also watched a local man carving special designs into the concrete. Judy and Frederick’s father Mark were in the building. Frederick runs a boutique hotel in Antibes near Nice with his younger brother and he and his family have been coming to Kenya for years and bought this huge plot of land. Judy said they would have to take extra care of fires and snakes in the surrounding bush. Snakes? I had been dancing around the garden without any shoes on… this was the first time I had ever heard of snakes.

On the way back to the cottage we noticed the American neighbours had lined the top of their walls between the two properties with broken glass… apparently to keep the monkeys and snakes out. But the monkeys had learnt how to tiptoe over the glass and the snakes would find other ways of getting in.

We spent five days in the Masai Mara, arriving by small plane from Diani to an outfield in the middle of the desert.  I also nearly walked backwards into two rare, but apparently quite aggressive, white rhino in the middle of the Mara.
The Safari was incredible – we saw rivers of hippos, huge crocodiles, giraffes wandering around the landscape like walking ladders, lions, hyenas, huge herds of elephants drinking from waterholes and warthogs. The landscape was like nothing I’ve ever seen – flat, dry, endless with plane trees dotted like art across a canvas.

We went to a Masai Mara village where we learnt that the Masai live on a diet of blood, milk and meat yet I have the most beautiful healthy skin and white teeth. We were treated to a bush dinner outside and danced with the local Masai women. An incredible experience.

November 28, 2005… our last day in paradise. I’m not one to normally write in dates so I’ve condensed the past few days into this one entry. Since we returned from the Masai Mara, the days have zoomed by. we’ve done lots of sunbathing, swimming, eating and lounging around. we also discovered a tennis court down the road that belongs to Judy. So we’ve been playing tennis every afternoon at 4pm surrounded by tropical gardens and then retiring for a gin and mango juice on Judy’s front balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Judy’s house is really beautiful with dark timber shutters and large, airy rooms. She has a very colourful, lush and tropical garden similar to the one we are staying in. And if we get too stiff in the joints from all that running around, and tennis playing, we get fabulous massages from Arthur who irons out our aches and pains beneath the coconut palms. The only worry we have on these lazy, hazy days is whether we’ll get conked on the head by a falling coconut, but Patrick says we’ve got more chance of being eaten by a hippo.

I’ve been waking up as early as possible to savour the days left and have spent hours walking up and down the beach searching for these amazing Kowri shells which the portuguese used to use as currency when they first came to Africa. I have grand dreams of turning them into art and jewellery but in all honesty, they’ll probably sit in a bag beneath my bed for the rest of their lives. Still I have started the blog which is a start.

I’m not sure if I’ve said it enough but this really is the most amazing adventure of my life. I actually can’t believe that I’m in Africa and I’ve seen what I’ve seen. They say you fall in love with the country and I certainly have.

November 29, 2005.

Our trip is over and we’ve had to leave Kenya. Nooooo.

Unfortunately the trip out wasn’t as great as the trip in but then I can only blame myself. Turns out collecting those Kowri shells and taking them out of the country is illegal. Frederick had ironically warned us the week before to always offer money if we ever got into trouble with any officials. Money is King in Kenya, he said.

We were late to the airport on our last day and for some reason, the customs official only opened my suitcase (Jilly was carrying a whole backpack of beautiful shells she’d bought from a market but he never checkedæ mine were free!)  he found the shells and told me I would be arrested but that if I gave him money to make him forget he’d seen them.

I wasn’t about to let those longs hours of collecting morning and night go to waste not to mention the fact that I seriously didn’t fancy spending the rest of my life in a Kenya prison cell. So I grumpily handed him the rest of my kenyan schillings and the customs official said he would put the shells back into my suitcase.

Sadly, when i returned to london i found my camera with all the kenya videos missing  from my suitcase. However, considering that was the only bad thing on our holiday (apart from the pencil grabbing children of Wasini Island), I really didn’t have much to complain about.

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