By Isabella Omariba
I have been in the coast region frequently for the past few months such that I never expect to see or experience anything new. This was the same mentality I had when I started doing the County Dialogue Conferences; but I was proved wrong. This began with us missing our morning train so we had to travel by bus. VIP seats are very comfortable so I wasn’t too worried about the 10 hour bus ride to Mombasa. I actually got to see a lot of elephants…I think there were about five or six different herds…usually you get to see two or three but each herd had about ten to twelve elephants ranging for calves to full grown elephants. There is this expression that a lot of mind gurus like to say…always have a mind that is full of wonder…I have a mind like that but particularly when it comes to nature. I think that was one of the happiest days of my life. I got to see these magnificent beasts in large numbers and I was so happy about that.
“Always have a mind that is full of wonder…I have a mind like that but particularly when it comes to nature.”
Another “adventure” was actually spending three days in Ukunda. Usually I hold meetings there and I go back to Mombasa town to my hotel. I had to use a local contact to get us a hotel within our budget that was clean, close to the venue of the conference and that has reliable Wi-Fi. I usually joke that I could sleep under a tree as long as there is access to Wi-Fi. Glad to report that we had a good stay at a hotel close to the main road and the venue of the conference.
I think my major concern was travelling to the coast during the month of Ramadhan. Most of the amazing restaurants where you can experience exquisite Swahili cuisine are closed during the day and open after six P.M. Then you have to que for a good 30 to 40 minutes once they open for business since most of the families that are fasting are there to buy their meals. You will be out of luck if you arrive an hour later since most of the delicious food is gone and you are only left with the basic rice and some form of stew.
With regards to the CDC, there was the pressure of delivering a county dialogue conference with a team that had rarely communicated with one another let alone met face to face. There was also the rift between the Muslims and NCCK so getting Muslim delegates to the conference was a factor weighing on my mind every time we had to plan for a CDC in the coast region. I was pleasantly surprised however about how well the conference was executed. The delegates were very active and involved through every step of the one and a half day process.
I have never been to Tana River County before. I had only heard of the River Tana but that’s about it. I was not sure what to expect but I was glad we would be going to Hola, the county head quarter. To say Hola is small would be an understatement. It’s a small little town with only one tarmacked road. What passes for meat stew is boiled meat with a bit of salt…healthy but disappointing. Finding greens or nyama choma is harder in Hola than the search for the pot at the end of the rainbow.
I am not sure I can write anything remarkable about my visit there. But then again I did not take time to do any exploring. One evening walk and we had covered the whole town.
“I told my family that we will be traveling through Mboni forest to Mpeketoni by public means and without an escort. Oh the look of horror on my mum’s face was almost comical and I would have laughed if she didn’t look so worried.”
Lamu is all sand and beach and beautiful sunsets. At least that is what everyone pictures when they hear the mention of Lamu. So imagine my “surprise” to learn that there is more to Lamu than just Shella Island. Mpeketoni is another “mysterious” place for most Kenyans, myself included. All I knew about it was the terror attacked that rocked the whole country. I told my family that we will be traveling through Mboni forest to Mpeketoni by public means and without an escort. Oh the look of horror on my mum’s face was almost comical and I would have laughed if she didn’t look so worried.
We flew into Malindi before taking a matatu mid-afternoon to Mpeketoni. I didn’t know what to expect but it definitely was not the lush countryside I saw as we drove. There was only one police check which was an experience in itself. But the Kenya defense forces officers where unexpectedly very friendly. They made the process of unloading all our bags from the vehicle bearable.
There were several highlights of my visit to Mpeketoni including the warm reception we got when we arrived. Another fascinating thing was that there were women riding motor bikes and not for public use as boda bodas but as personal means of transportation.
Another highlight was that the place felt so safe contrary to what many believe in terms of security in the town. There were no curfews or police and soldiers walking around. Of course the burnt buildings and vehicles are still there but I think they serve to commemorate the lives lost and to remind the community that peace is better than any differences tribe or religions
The final highlight was the visit to Lake Kenyatta, a serene natural hidden lake that only locals tell you about.