We just had to experience the much hyped 15-hour train ride to Mombasa – the dreamy images right out of the movie Out Of Africa lingering in my head.
I became more excited when we finally checked in on a Monday evening. The dark, old musky station packed with commuters eagerly returning home from a whole day’s work. They precariously perched themselves on platform edges, sat on the tracks, oblivious to any oncoming danger – but little surprises me nowadays. It’s part of everyday life.
Close to 7 p.m., after a bit of anticipation, the train slowly rolled in. We didn’t walk far to find our cabin - 1215E. Upon inspection, my dreams of being welcomed by silky soft linen and polished china displayed exquisitely on pristine countertops were shattered. Well, perhaps I didn’t actually expect THAT much, but I did at least expect the lights to be working! We had nothing but one yellow light flickering hard to illuminate our little space. Maintenance came over to assure us that the lights would come on properly when the train started moving – but 2 hours later, that one flickering bulb was our only source of light. Neither of us had any plans of staying up so we brushed if off. That’s when we discovered the toilet. Let me just say, I refused to fill up on fluid that night, and when I couldn’t hold it in, I opted for the squat – a brave effort on my part. Remember, the train was MOVING. But not everything was dim (pun intended). The bunk beds were solid for a good night sleep and the food was palatable (Oh, we had plastic plates and cups that mimicked china by the way). We made friends with newlyweds Haiko and Melanie from Germany.
The train ride from Nairobi to Mombasa. Rizwan removing the bed linen from the military inspired bag they gave us. Turned out there were people coming to the cabins to sort that out for us. We were too ambitious!
At 7 a.m. the next morning, we rose to the loud ringing of a handbell - an early breakfast call. It took the attendant a few rounds before everybody actually decided to make a bee-line for the cafeteria (and make him stop the racket). Half an hour later we tucked into a hearty full English breakfast.
We arrived in Mombasa at quarter to 10.
For the next week, we had an amazing time in Mombasa’s northern coast, staying with Adam and Lynne Tuller, in a very nice flat by the creek. They’re simply the sweetest couple. When we were home in the evening Lynne and I would each have a glass of white wine while the boys enjoyed their rum and coke, and we'd sit on the balcony, chatting away. Every day as the sun came up and again as night fell, without fail, we'd listen to the nuns at the convent next door sing soft choral hymns to mark the beginning and the end of the day.
Home of the Tullers in Mtwapa in the northern coast of Mombasa with the creek in the background. This balcony is where we spent many evenings.
Lynne and Adam Tuller, our beautiful hosts in Mombasa.
Adam and Rizwan working on a reforestation project at home.
A Maasai warrior singing while the dhow sails home in the creek. It was magical.
We also had a chance to go for a short trip to the southern coast of Mombasa where we all stayed with the Popes – in a stunningly majestic villa by the beach. Louis and his wife Chriss have opened their homes to many others.
The beach where the Popes live. The dogs love the water.
And that was it. Our week in Mombasa ended just like that. It’s also been a week now since we flew back to Nairobi; again, time went by in a blink. Rizwan has been working hard in a workshop in Lenana House. While in Kenya, Rizwan has developed a liking for 'nyama choma.' Local grilled meat. It could be game, goat or beef. The meat is cut into small pieces or on the bone and normally served with fresh chilli and salt with a selection of kachumbari, ugali (mashed maize), mukimo (version of ugali but with potatoes, beans and greens), chapati and a few types of local vegetables. The meat can be really sweet and tender but it can fill you up until the next day! Another favourite is the samosa - also with meat filling. As we were sitting at another nyama choma joint the other day, to my utmost delight I discovered that they were showing a Filipino TV soap. Out here in Nairobi!
Rizwan at an outdoor workshop in Lenana House in Milimani.
As for me, I think I found my favourite Kenyan snack.
Mombasa is far from sight right now, where wine nights were aplenty, and sadly so is Cambridge, but tonight, we’ll drink to our dear Chotu, on his birthday. Happy birthday, with love.
A Nyama Choma toast for Chotu