Wednesday, January 26, 2011

White Sand and Warmth

We make the long drive east to the Mombassa on the coast of the Indian Ocean. After picking up two young women in Patrick’s village who work in Mombassa and who were home for New Year’s, we drive the two hour trek—often slowed by speed bumps through small towns, or road work, or creeping moving trucks we have to speed around (which still surprise me as they pass to the right—opposite sides and all.)

Palm trees signify our arrival on the coast. But the poverty here is striking. The charcoal bundles along the road for sale (from people burning trees in the bush.) Shanty home and structures. Loads

of trash along the street. People moving everywhere in search of a sale, a meal, a job. It’s rough to pass through.

We cross the ferry—our car jammed onto the rig—people on foot flood in like grains of sand in a bottle. We roll up windows and sit in the hot, hot car as we cross. I guess people really get used to sweating here. I'm not quite there. Finally cross the water (no access to South Coast by land) we make our way through winding roads to the coast. Here, the land is lush, and homes seem sturdier, people able to grow crops on their land, raise cattle—safer from the lack of lions or elephants.

Tiwi Beach is gorgeous. We rent snorkel gear and run across the white sand into the warm, warm ocean. We avoid high resort charges by renting cheap gear and staying away from those million dollar lounges on the beach. The aquamarine water welcomes us in like it’s been waiting. Patrick comes in too—he’s never learned to swim, never had the opportunity to visit the ocean as a child and it makes me happy to see him relaxing in the waves. Grayson tries to get the hang of snorkeling, but his snorkel leaks—so after many attempts her grabs the fins and maks alone and hunts for shells. The wooden dhows float on top the water, often homes for the seabirds that congregate there. Underwater, I find a small paradise. Cowfish, schools of tiny stripes, neons with greens and yellows shining brightly under me. I watch a huge hermit crab in a tall spiral shell make his way across a cavern. Then spot my favorite: a tiny bright orange clownfish swimming amongst the tall, red urchins-- about 12 inches. Once again, I’m drawn in to the underwater peace, the white sand and grasses blowing in the current. I’m stabbed my an urchin on my way onto the sand (a tiny piece still in big toe now, I think) we bask on the sand, watching colorful kangas blow in the wind and guys selling coconuts on the beach. We walk down the shore, passing sideways crabs running and dragging things to eat (like spineless urchins) their holes in the sand and guys leading camels down the beach. We have lunch at Twiga Lodge (a resort where you can actually afford the food!) Vegetable curry, fish, cheese/tomato sandwiches and chips.) Topped off by two coconut milk shakes. Full bellies again and happy.

On our way home, we’re graced by a huge downpour. Never seen rain like that here. Rivers of red earth rush down along the side of the road. The sunset is gorgeous, broken up by clouds and small rainbow, as we pass the sacred mountain—Kasigau. I long to turn off the road and into the bush where I studies lions two years ago. The magic is still here—and it fills me up.

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