Ukunda

Poa means “Cool” in Swahili

In the morning, our group went to catch the free ferry from Mombasa Island to the South Coast.  Mital had not been feeling well (pretty much everyone got sick once during the trip), so he stayed back home in Mombasa as the rest of us continued our exploration of the Kenyan Coast.

Ali, who had worked for Mital’s family’s household for many years, was our guide on our journey to the South Coast.  Ali lived part time at Mital’s house in Mombasa, and the rest of the time was spent at his home with his family in Ukunda.  Ukunda is a small village in South Coast located off the Mombasa-Tanzania highway and is located 2km (1.2mi) from Diani Beach Road, which is where our accommodations were located.

Our group was herded like cattle alongside the local commuters onto the massive barge  in order to cross Kilindini Creek to the south side.  The ferry runs every 10 minutes and is free of charge.

After disembarking from the ferry, Ali found a matatu (shared van taxi service) to drive us to Ukunda (30km/18.6mi away) so we could visit his home and family.  Ali and Mario negotiated to the equivalent of USD$5 for private matatu for our whole party.  All the matatus were very distinctive in style, sometimes with large photographs of celebrities inside and out like Beyoncé, Jay-Z and President Obama.  The matatu we ended up riding had Tupac lyrics printed all inside the van.

We were dropped off at the edge of the village, which appeared to be situated in the middle of the jungle.  Ali said it would be a short walk to his house and we left the open dusty road to enter the wilderness.  I should have known that a local African’s sense of distance would be considerably different from my own.

This was truly a T.I.A. (This is Africa) moment, except for the one satellite dish we passed by (photo above).  We must have walked past 50 thatched roof homes and shambas (farms) that were nestled deep in the jungle.  Ukunda is a self-sufficient agricultural town, and while some villagers like Ali worked in various trades in the urban cities, the majority of the residents made their living off the land.  There were women wearing colorful kangas pumping fresh water from the well while barefoot children raced through the trees playing football.  We could smell the delicious aromas of potato crisps cooking from one home, as well as the not-so-pleasant smells of the goats that were rummaging through trash piles that were sporadically situated throughout the village.

Our group of Msungus (literally “white man” but generally refers to most foreigners) garnered a lot of attention from the local people, and soon we had a following of curious village children trailing behind us.  Some would boldly approach us to walk along side us while the shyer ones would just shout a greeting “Jambo!” from afar before giggling and running away.

When we finally arrived at Ali’s home, all of his extended family members came out to greet us with a “Karibu” and a handshake.  Ali and his wife have 8 kids, which Mital referred to as a “decade full of productivity.”  We all settled down on the straw mat on the floor as we sipped on some chai, Kenyan black tea with milk and sugar.

Ali then sent one of his sons to fetch us some fresh modafu (coconuts) for us, and we watched in awe as the boy nimbly climbed up the coconut tree in front of the house and cut a coconut down for each of us to enjoy.  Very fresh indeed!

After we drank all the sweet coconut juice, we scooped out the flesh of the coconut and ate that part too!

Ali’s wife cooked us a delicious traditional meal of maragwe (beans) and mamri (fried bread).  The mamri was the best tasting bread I had ever tried — it was light and puffy with a hint of sweetness.  It was even more incredible knowing that she prepared this entire meal without electricity!

We ate our lunch as Ali talked about his family, and Miraj translated for us.  Ali explained his older sons all had families, one of them worked as an engineer and others worked around the village, while the younger children attended school in the village.  Ali’s brother lived in the home right across the yard and he worked at a nearby hotel.

It seemed to be such a different but beautiful way to grow up, with plenty of freedom to play and explore.  Ali’s children were all very polite and would give us shy smiles as they sat against the wall watching us interact with their father in Swahili and English.

Once I brought out my camera to take some portraits, their curiosity overcame the shyness.  They eagerly scrambled to see the digital images I had shot of them and laughed with delight when they recognized their own image.

We then said kwaheri (goodbye) to Ali and his family, and headed back to the road to catch a matatu to Diani Beach.  We stayed at the luxurious Southern Palms Resort which was spread over 10 acres of tropical gardens.  There were two giant free form swimming pools that wrapped through the entire resort.

We immediately headed to the beach to relax and enjoy the sunshine.  Right beside the resort border, the beach there were masai warriors and vendors trying to sell kitschy souvenirs like scarves, keychains carved into animals, etc.

We enjoyed a buffet feast at the hotel’s restaurant and then joined the hotel’s “game night” activities.  Afterwards, we smoked some cappuccino flavored shisha and drank Tuskers while playing card games until we headed off to bed.

Return to main menu: “Karibu Kenya”

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