A week after moving here I made my first friend, who I later learned is also a blogger… Destiny? I think yes… I don’t have to feel so weird about taking a million pictures or spending too much time on my computer. Anyway, she SMSed me on Sunday asking me if I wanted to go to South Beach (apparently nobody here calls it “texting”). I, of course, was on board. Overboard, even. Last time we tried to go it was a big fat fail because of the insane traffic.
She swung by my house on Monday morning and we headed out. When we arrived at the port, the guard/ticketmaster told us in rough English that only the driver could remain in the vehicle on the ferry- the passengers had to get out and walk. After a few minutes of pleading and bribing, we lost the battle. I, and two of our friends, hopped out of the car and walked to the pedestrian-loading zone.
We were guided into a huge pavillion, packed with at least 300 people. We happened to be the only mzungus in sight. As I looked around, I felt like I made eye-contact with everyone there- because they were all staring at us. I, of course, was wearing tiny shorts and a v-neck (totally not appropriate for these types of situations, but I thought I’d be in the vehicle for it).
It was extremely hot and humid in that pavilion. The thick air reeked of body odor. At least I didn’t have to feel self-concious about the sweat I could feel trickling down my lower back. When they finally opened the doors to allow people on the ferry, I felt relief. We climbed aboard and found a seat by the rail.
When we arrived, we really had no clue where we were going. We knew we wanted to go to the South side of the beach, where it is less crowded and more pristine, but we didn’t know what roads to take or what landmarks to look for. It’s not like we could just plug in the address in our navigation system. We don’t have navigation systems in East Africa, at least not in our vehicles. To be fair, we could have used a map- but good luck finding one in the area. We did the next best thing and just kept driving straight south. We drove past mosques and mudhuts, schools and fruit stands. We drove and drove and drove and eventually the road ended. Should we bother going down the dirt road that follows? Why not…
The dirt road was treacherous and seemed like it would never end. It was littered with huge potholes and random rocks. We contemplated turning around several times, but I’m glad we didn’t. After about an hour, we saw a sign for Amani Beach. We turned down another dirt road and eventually came up to a gate with a sign and a guard. It said that Amani Beach (which is also a resort) required reservations in advance. We tried to bribe the guard but failed (again). We had seen another sign at a fork in the road for Ras Kutani Beach, so we turned around and decided to try there. Same thing. Reservations only.
So we tried another road. From where we were it looked like there was a huge drop off. One of our friends hopped out of the car to check out the scene and discovered it was just a really steep hill… leading straight to the beach! No gates or grumpy guards. It was if though we discovered treasure. We were sick of being in the car and desperate to jump in the ocean.
From the beach we could see cabanas in the distance. They belonged to that Amani Beach Resort to which we had just been denied access. Nobody was around, so we decided to post up under one anyway. We tried to go snorkeling but the water was too turbulent and we couldn’t see anything. We explored the beach and cliffs while my friend’s mom watched our stuff under the cabana. When we returned, she said the manager came up to her and asked her what we were doing there. And guess what? She talked him into letting us stay, AND enjoy all the amenities of the resort, including the very refreshing pool (and pool bar). We were the only people at the resort that day. It was fabulous.
We left around 3 or 4, so on the drive back we were able to see the hustle of the city as everyone was coming off work. I can’t get over all the colors everyone here wears… it’s so beautiful.
I look forward to taking another trip to South Beach sometime soon. Hopefully next time I’ll spot one of the illusive monkeys that inhabit the island.