Reiservaring Kenia (Dagboek) - Watamu

Watamu is a tropical paradise. With a backdrop of swaying palm trees, the beach that lies a 100m from my hotel stages a stretch of pearl white sands and turquoise water. It’s a sight akin to common postcard or desktop images. Across the beach you see large outcrops of jagged bedrock that lie exposed during low tide, and provide shelter for moray eels and mudskippers during high tide. In a side bay many jerry-built fishing boats lie anchored and a cluster of thatch roofed cabanas stand on a cliff, overlooking the spectacle. The water is absurdly warm and rolls in with small, soft waves. Like I said, tropical paradise. I (together with HJ & Siebel) will spend the first week of our Kenyan stay in this luxurious getaway. We are staying in an small resort called ‘Beach View’, which is said to live up to its name only when scaling the roof’s sundeck and jumping high up in to the air. Viewed from above, Watamu town is basically a long road, winding along the shore, passing place names that you’d expect to find on a treasure map, including ‘Turtle Bay’ and ‘Barracuda Beach’. The only part that is distressing in this, for the rest completely tranquil coastal town is the absurd amounts of Italian tourists. Scattered all across the beach and thronged inside the many air-conditioned Italian-owned hotels, if anywhere in Watamu you’d decide close your eyes and throw a fist forward, chances are you’d hit one of these Mediterraneans, indecently dressed and tawny from sun-exposure, right in the nose. The supermarkets offer panettone and ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’ and many of the restaurants have swapped their menu’s nyama choma and coconut rice for carbonaras and gnocchi di patate. I have even been confronted with the upsetting phenomenon of Speedo swim shorts with belt buckles attached… Mio dio!! You can tell the trend has not gone unnoticed by the locals, with almost every child in your passing yelling after you with an anticipatory ‘ciao’ or begging for another ‘caramella’. Why there are so many Italians on the coast of this previously British colony has remained a running mystery during our stay and promises some google-research upon my return. On a Saturday, having found a bit of time away, I take a small trip inland for a solo-venture: a search for the Ruins of Gedi, the excavated remains of an ancient society. From the road junction Gedi, a faded sign and a 10 minute hike down a lonely dirt road with thick overgrowth brings me there. The sites, excavated in the 1950s after their rediscovery, reveal the remnants of this previously thriving jungle community. Secretive though they were, the Gedi inhabitants, a Muslim people, were a busy trade partner with the rest of the world. Discovered amongst the crumbling walls were Venetian beads and Chinese coins, as well as an Indian lamp and scissors from Spain. I had a guide give me a tour, but mostly enjoyed just strolling though the maze of ruined walls. There are huge pillar tombs, tall mihrabs and a grand palace, some swallowed by immense baobabs and tamarind trees. The jungle-feel is amplified by the squawking hornbills in the treetops and the few dozen Sykes monkeys that follow me around, soliciting for one of the fig bananas I’ve carried along. An employee points to some of the monkeys, introducing them as ‘Muammar’ and ‘Saddam’. After these brief introductions I have officially run out of fruit to offer and decide to make a quick exit, before ‘Idi’ and ‘Fidel’ care to make my acquaintance…

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