Mombasa – Christmas with the Faheys
We woke on Christmas Eve tired and sweaty after a very stop start night on the train and we determined (mainly through luck as the train guard did not have a clue) we were still around 6 hours from Mombasa so we filled the day taking in the vast green flat landscape of southern Kenya and playing backgammon. We had descended from the heights of Nairobi and where now in the savannah of Africa sweating in the dry heat. Even with the windows fully open the heat burst into the cabin with full force. Eventually we rolled into Mombasa (7 hours late!) and got picked up by a friend of Gabs’ – Pat the taxi man / entrepreneur / swindler or Fat Pat as we called him.
It was a short 45 min taxi ride to Gabs house which was east of Mombasa and 5 miles from the main small town called Maputo. Maputo is a town grown from tourists, local traders a few non descript loud bars lots of stalls selling coshes and food. We were greeted warmly at home by Terry (Gabs’ dad) and Imogen (Gabs 6yr old sister). Firstly we unpacked, showered and enjoyed a marvellous lunch washed down with wine and whiskey followed by a well deserved afternoon nap. The family home is a large and pretty white bungalow which is a self sufficient home deep in the savannah beyond Maputo town. With its own well, solar panels, chickens, goats, vegetables and a couple of servants that do house hold chores for a basic wage and accommodation The Faheys were a Kenyan version of the Good Life! They grow varying crops, eggs, chickens and goats to sell round the year to add to the household income and Mary (Gabs step mother) has her own clothes shop now Gabs’ Dad is well and truly retired!
The evening was spent by more eating and drinking (which was to become a recurrent theme) and then watched a movie before retiring to bed. Only my second ever Christmas away from home it was a very different affair than back at home. Gone was the traditional routine of opening presents on Mum and Dads’ bed no James and Lucy laden with Christmas gifts for me to play with and the fact it was 35⁰C at 9am due to the heat outside and not the central heating. When I heard Kings College Choir drifting through the Kenyan home, it mae me realise Christmas is the same anywhere in the world as long as you have a few things to remind you of home. I had a few gifts that I brought from India to hand around as presents and soon after noon we headed out for Christmas lunch.
We arrived at the beautiful floating riverside restaurant, an ex pats local establishment and enjoyed a nice cold beer to quench the thirst and to cool us from the fierce sun. Unfortunately no Turkey was on the menu which took my mind back to Dad hard at work preparing all the excellent stuffing’s and compliments to the normal massive Hunt Family Christmas Turkey dinner. Bittersweet, this year no help was required in the kitchen! I ordered a very different Chrimbo lunch – Surf and Turf and chips! A great Christmas lunch which was enjoyed under a parasol in baking heat washed down with a nice cold beer chatting about this and that is what Christmas is essentially all about, bringing people together. After a few hours we headed home with full bellies to some more traditional Christmas pastimes, watching movies and and old Christmas edition of Only Fools and Horses and then fall asleep on the couch!
The next day in fact the next two weeks followed a common pattern – eat lots, play backgammon and chill out around the house or down the beach. We spent a few days down by the beach in one of the top end resorts which overlooked the beach. To get from Gabs house to the beach was a 20 min ride in Fat Pats taxi to which he took delight in charging a small fortune as he knew Gabs was earning a decent wage back home.
We made a short trip before New Year’s Eve to head up to Malindi which is a 4 hour minibus ride further east up the coast for some more R&R. Malindi is a haven for Italian ex pats for which there are numerous pizzerias, coffee shops and drinking holes. We spent our time chilling by the pool,more backgammon and watching varying footie matches. The beach was not great as silt from the nearby river turned the coastline brown. We also managed to head into Mombasa for a day to look around the old town and Fort Jesus, a Portuguese fort built in 1593. Luckily we managed to blag our way in and pay local prices thanks to Gabs speaking in his best Swahili and convincing the clerk we were residents rather than paying 10x the price for tourists.
The fort was not the most thrilling of sights with little or no explanation to its history. One thing that was apparent in Kenya was that it was expensive, the only cheap thing being beer, but most other items were only fractionally less expensive than in the UK, my theory that Africa was cheap was not holding firm. New Years Eve was spent the usual way as it would at home, going out to a club but this time it would be on the beach rather than battling through the elements, rip off drink and taxi prices! We enjoyed a great night out surrounded by mostly ex pats and tourists but also numerous hookers that seemed to fill most bars in Kenya looking for Muzungo’s (White Man in Swahili) to pick up. These ladies were not afraid to come over for a chat which at first was ego boosting after a few similar conversations became a pain as all they wanted was money and free drinks for which I was not departing with either! Apart from that the night was great fun and Gabs and I welcomed in 2010 with numerous beers and laughs, a year on the road already and I was still excited about further travels although slightly more travel tired.
Feeling a little groggy the next morning we all went out for a Family meal at the local steak house, a marvellous and a recommended way to beat a hangover! The next few days were then spent arranging to get back to Nairobi via bus and for Gabs to start thinking of getting back to the freezing UK. Saying goodbye to Terry, Mary and Imogen who had been most excellent and hospitable company we headed for the bus station for our 8hr bus ride to Nairobi. It was during this trip to the station that the illustrious Fat Pat mentioned something to our disbelief.
In the traffic jam was a car in front of us that had an advertisement for an orphanage in Mombasa. Fat Pat duly piped up stating this was going to be one of his next projects. Amazed by the fact that Fat Pat was actually the caring type we asked him why. The real reason behind the scheme was of course money. His friend had recently run set up an Orphanage and managed to make quite a financial killing from it earning himself a large house and new 4X4. As I was to learn in more distressing detail later a common theme in Africa, making money out of the poor and needy. The scheme involved setting up a charity that housed orphans, with each child being sponsored by a donor in the UK providing monthly funds for the one of orphans schooling and upbringing. In reality as many as four or five donors were sponsoring one child but instead of the child receiving extra benefits the owners of the orphanage could cream of the excess monies to line their pockets with extra donations. Shocking but true I hoped that this wasn’t occurring in every institution.
We arrived mid afternoon in Nairobi after a pleasant enough bus ride through the rolling Savannah of Kenya with the odd Elephant being spotted along the way. Gabs was then off back to the UK and it was sad to see him go as we had enjoyed a great two weeks together catching up on life back home and the future. I was now on my own in Nairobi having been well feed (almost to bursting point at times) and watered and ready to plan my next excursion in Kenya. Top of my list of things to do was to Safari (coming from the Swahili word meaning Journey) into the Masai Mara.