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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Monkey Business in Kenya - Why You Should Never Feed the Monkeys!

Masai with cell phone

After the four days in Masai Mara Park I was looking forward to Mombasa.  The flight was uneventful.  The only strange thing is that Kenyans don’t seem to care about the silly ban on using your cell phone on the plane.  Fully half of them were gabbing on their cell phones and text messaging the whole trip back.  Almost ALL of Kenya is covered by cell phone coverage.  In fact Kenya, has for the most part, skipped the hard wire telephone and gone directly wireless phones.  Now if they could only do the same for the Internet where the words “broadband” and “wireless” don’t exist - even in the capitol city of Nairobi. 


Punda Milia
I attempt to practice my Swahili at every opportunity.  Kenyans look at me like I’m Francis the talking Zebra.  At restaurants they actually bring people out of the kitchen to hear me talk.  Of course I have a few language accidents.  Every time I see a Zebra I shout , “ Look Punda Milia (a striped donkey)!  But I mispronounce the last word and it comes out: “Look a donkey c**t!”  which, of course, is met with gales of laughter? 

The roads in Kenya are either wonderful or horrible - no in between. There is a nice new two lane highway that goes almost to Mombasa from Nairobi.  The part that is finished is nice, but about 60km north of Mombasa the new road ends and the rest is unbelievably rough.  I thought roads on the island of Chuuk in the South Pacific were bad but these are worse.
  
ruins at Malindi
The next day a trip was scheduled to visit the ruins in Malindi, where Vasco De Gamba stopped and built a fort in 1597.

At 7:30 in the morning a small van arrived at the hotel with a driver and guide.  I kept expecting them to take me to the tourist bus.  It turns out there was just me and one other person.  The guide fills up the journey with interesting tidbits.  For instance:  the local poohbah   has 120 wives, including our guide’s sister.  My query to him if Sleepworld makes a bed big enough for 121 people is met with gales of laughter 

Kilaguni Serena Lodge
The next day it is a three hour drive to  Kilaguni Serena Lodge.  Imagine driving through bush on rutted tracks and suddenly coming to a luxury lodge that would rival Banff or Fairmont Hot springs!  It’s like driving through the Nevada desert and suddenly coming into Las Vegas. 

When I checked in, I am shocked to find that I have been upgraded to one of their executive suites which go for $550 a night!  It has a huge living room-dining room, master bedroom,  multiple bathrooms - the whole nine yards.  Looking outside the living room window I can see a pond where animals graze and drink.  Too bad I’m booked in here for only for one night.

THE NEXT DAY -IN PINEWOOD VILLAGE

Pinewood Village
Another long day driving over 250 km back to Mombasa to my final destination - Pinewood Village.  It’s a small hotel with 24 rooms and 8 suites. The rooms are very nice, air conditioned - the hotel would not be out of place by the Caribbean Ocean.  The only small minus is that I have to keep the balcony doors closed as monkeys are constantly trying to get into the room to look for “treats.”  

I asked the manager why it’s called Pinewood since I don’t see any pine trees nearby – at least the type of pine trees I’m used to.  I’m surprised to find out that it was named “Pinewood” by the owner because the area reminded him of a place he used to live – Vancouver, Canada.
Leopard Eel

Imagine travelling half way around the world to Africa and find by some quirk of fate you're staying in a resort that was built by someone who lived a few miles from your home.

The diving here is okay - nothing spectacular.  Most of my dives have been with just me and Caroline, a tall blonde from Switzerland.  The funny thing is that since I’ve arrived in Kenya I’ve seen a total of three North Americans - it’s really a European destination.  Too bad - if people realized how gorgeous it is here and how much value they get for their dollar; they’d flock here in droves despite the twenty hour travel time

KISTIE MARINE PARK AND MPUNGUTI MARINE RESORT

My personal diving Dhow
The last scheduled event on this marathon trip is a day outing to the Kistie Marine Park and Mpunguti Marine Resort.   It is supposed to be two hours there and two hours back, and frankly I’m getting toured out and I’m tempted to skip it - except I’ve already prepaid the diving, so I reluctantly drag myself up at 5:30am so I can make the 6:30am pickup.  When I arrive at the dock to take the boat over to the reserve, I am informed by the resort owner, that the other six divers have canceled and I will have my own Dhow and crew of six to go and do whatever and wherever I wanted for the next four hours.
Fantastic colored coral

While I had not been impressed with the diving in Kenya so far, the diving  here is fantastic.  The deep colours of the reef and the amazing amount of fish have me checking to make sure that my regulator doesn’t fall out of my open mouth.  They are the two best dives since Micronesia.  There are lots of Manta Rays, eels, and herds of sea turtles. 

When I get back to the lodge for lunch I am in for another surprise.  The agenda called for an original “Swahili Lunch.”  When I hear the word “original” I tend to get nervous, but like my recent experience in the Queen Charlotte Islands, the lunch lives up to its billing.  

Mangrove Crab Feed
I’m brought a huge Mangrove Crab in the shell.  It looks a lot like our Dungeness Crabs - but I’m told this is a small one!  In addition I’m brought a basket of marinated fish pieces and deep fried Coconut.  When I finish what I think is lunch, they tell me it’s only the appetizer.  Next is a whole fried red snapper cooked in a coconut and lime marinade and a Swahili dish that consists of rice on what looks like flattened pitas, covered in sauce.  It was very hard to move after that.  Of course I had to wash it down with several beers.   

Today is my last full day in Kenya.  Tomorrow afternoon I begin the long trip back.  Hope to be home sometime on Saturday.


MONKEY BUSINESS

DON'T FEED THE MONKEYS!!
They have only one strict rule here at Pinewood Village.  Under any circumstances "DON'T FEED THE MONKEYS!"    So you know of course what I did.    I want to get a good close up picture of the monkeys so I smuggle a bun back to my room.  What damage can one small hunk of bread do? I go out on my balcony and put a piece on the railing.  Suddenly the whole balcony is awash with chattering monkeys - demanding monkeys.  They are very cute and nice until the bun is gone.  Then they turn into Tony Soprano and his gang.  They refuse to believe I am out of bread.  They demand more!  They become hostile and chase me back into my room.  After a while they leave, so I venture out onto my balcony again, and bingo they’re back!  


Monkey Sentry
They post sentries so any time I venture near the door they’re there waiting.  What's worse is I've got a whole bunch of stuff on the balcony they're holding hostage.  I might have to leave it behind. During the night they leave me a reminder of what happens when you don't meet their demands – a huge pile of Monkey poo by the door. 

So forget about my earlier warnings about charging leopards and stampeding angry elephants.  If you come to Africa, whatever you do "DON'T FEED THE MONKEYS"

Hope to get my stuff off the balcony during the changing of the guard and begin the 24 hour marathon to Toronto and then home on Saturday.

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