Aitch and I went to Mombasa in 1995 and checked in at a hotel on Diani beach. The next day I walked the crowded streets of Mombasa looking for a cheap hired car while Aitch chilled on the uncrowded beach and pooldeck, no doubt quaffing ginless gin&tonics (She used to do that! Tonic & bitters. I know! You’re right. Search me).
I found a lil Suzuki jeep. Marvelous. I could turn round from the drivers seat and touch the back window!
Back at the hotel I went for a walk, leather hat on my head, binoculars round my neck. An old man came cranking along slowly on a bicycle, swung his leg high up over the saddle and dismounted next to me. Ah! he said I can see you are English. I didn’t contradict him. You are looking for buds, he said, also in a way that made me not argue.
There are no buds here, he said emphatically. If you want to see buds you must go to the west, to the impenetrable forest. There are many buds there. And he put his left foot on the pedal, gave a push and, swinging his right leg high over the saddle, wobbled off. After a few yards he had a thought, slowed, swung off in the same elaborate dismount and came back to me: But in this hotel over here you can see some peacocks in the garden, he informed me re-assuringly. Ah thank you sir, thanks very much I said, wishing him well and thinking of Kenya’s 1100 species of birds (the USA has 888, the UK 596).
We also got advice on the roads. We were on our way to Tsavo National Park the next day and we wanted to avoid the main road to Nairobi. We’d heard it was crowded with trucks and buses and we’d rather avoid that. On our Globetrotter map I found a little road south of the main road that showed an alternative route via Kwale, Kinango and Samburu.
No you can’t; No, not at all; There’s no way; says everyone; The bridge has been washed away by cyclone Demoina, they said. (Weird, Demoina had been in 1984 and had mostly hit Madagascar, Mocambique and KwaZuluNatal).
Usually I can eventually find ONE person to say OK, but this time I was stymied. No-one would say yes! So we headed off along the road toward Kwale anyway. Aitch, what a trooper, was right with me in adventurousness. We’ll see new places, was all she said.
As we neared Kwale a minibus taxi approaching from the other direction did a strange thing: They actually flagged us down to tell us Stop! You can’t go this way! The bridge is gone, Demoina washed it away! Thanking them kindly, we kept going.
And they were right: The bridge over the river between Kwale and Kinango had indeed washed away. But there were recent tyre tracks down to the river which we followed. Below and just upstream of the wreckage of the bridge we stuck the Suzuki in 4X4 and crossed the low river.
Then we stopped for a break, parking our mini-4X4 under a shady tree on the river bank:
And we were right: Besides being devoid of traffic, the road surface was mostly good, sometimes great:
And then we got back to the main Mombasa-Nairobi road at Samburu: Aargh!
Thanks to Google Earth we can find the place. Here’s the new bridge with the old road on the left where we crossed the drift (yellow) and that beautiful tree we rested under (red) –