Of Half a Front Tooth and Sunrise on the Beach

Stacey Waithera

© Copyright 2020 by Stacey Waithera

Stacey with friends on the beach.

This is a story about a Kenyan girl from Nairobi who takes a trip to the coastal city of Mombasa with her friends and embarks on thrilling adventures that take the edge off what had been a long year.

My friends and I had saved up for a trip to the coast which we were to take after our End of Year exams. Medical School is tough, and we needed to unwind after a long year. We were pretty beat after our final paper but also elated that we had a trip to make.

Our bus to the coastal city of Mombasa was to leave Nairobi City at 8 am. We were to convene at a friend’s place by 7 am to decide on the logistics. I was there by 6:30 am, and so were a few friends. Getting to the house I found one of my friends distraught. He was also in dusty clothes as if he had been rolling on the ground. On close examination, one of his front teeth was broken into half.

I stood dumbfounded amidst the commotion. Apparently, he fell in the early hours of the morning and broke half his tooth as he was trying to get to the meeting point. We left the house after he had cleaned up, making it in time to catch the bus. In a matter of minutes, we were on our way to Mombasa which was eight hours away. The air is cool as you start your journey in Nairobi. Both sides of the highway are lined with apartments, malls, skyscrapers and other forms of settlements. However, as you are a few kilometers into the highway, the number of buildings gradually decreases until you are left with plains that extend over hundreds of kilometers. Here you could go tens of kilometers without seeing a single structure. The temperature on the other hand gradually increases.

We made a stopover at Voi town, approximately 330 kilometers from Nairobi where we were allowed to step out of the bus, stretch our legs and refresh ourselves. Twenty minutes later, the bus hit the tarmac again. We got to Mombasa at about 6 pm. There was a lot of commotion as we descended the bus as Tuktuk operators were fighting each other for customers. They were aggressive enough to pick your luggage as it was being removed from the carriage and fling it into their Tuktuk, forcing you to move in their direction. We eventually managed to hire two Tuktuks to take us into town from where we boarded a minivan to our destination.

We were lucky enough to have a friend of ours who lives on the coast. Four of us would be staying with her family during the trip. The parents were gracious enough to give three gentlemen we were with an Airbnb that they usually rent out to accommodate them.

We all initially arrived at Patricia's home at around 7 pm, offloaded our luggage and went to the Airbnb to see where the gents would be staying. It was a beautiful mansionette, well furnished with all bathrooms ensuite. My favorite feature of this house was the roof terrace which was all white, overlooking other immaculate white buildings. Behind the house was a school, which stood on well-manicured gardens. The thing about being on the Coast is that there are beautiful palm trees everywhere. They stand tall, above and amongst white buildings.

It was dusk. The sun was setting, and security lights started to come on around us. The lights gently illuminated the palm trees as they danced in the evening breeze. I stood there in silence taking in all the beauty, the scents and the sounds. Around me, my friends were taking jabs at each other. If perfect moments existed, this was one of them.

We eventually left for Patricia's home where we had supper. The boys then left for their house. The following morning, we were up by 6 am as we wanted to watch the sunrise at the beach. We drove to Nyali beach, parked a few meters from the beach and walked down. As we walked down the stretch, we could hear the waves, beating against the corals. I could smell the ocean before I got to it. Who knew the ocean had a smell? Before long, the ocean appeared. A vast expanse of blue which stretched into the horizon, where the blue-orange sky met the blue sea. The newly risen sun had cast an orange glow on the water causing the waves to shimmer and sparkle.

We all removed our shoes and ran barefoot to meet the waves coming towards the shore, crashing into them. Our feet softly sinking into the sand and leaving footsteps that would be filled with sand from the next incoming wave.

After playing in the tepid waters and taking tens, if not hundreds, of photos, we walked along the shore. On this day, we had to invent a special pose whereby we each put a fist over our lips to make it look like we were being cool. In reality, however, we were standing in solidarity with our friend who had lost half his tooth. He could not smile directly at the camera. We would be doing this for the entire duration of the trip.

There were a few tiny crabs visible on the shore. There were also small holes in the sand which I came to learn are created as the crabs burrow under the sand when dawn comes. Parts of the beach were filled with seaweed which felt slimy and gross when stepped on.

We went back to the house to clean off the sand from our bodies and have breakfast. We left in the afternoon with the sole intention of having the best Shawarmas in the town. Shawarma is a snack that closely resembles a burrito except that the meat inside is mostly chicken roasted on a vertical rotisserie, and cut into thin strips. These were sold from a food truck at a corner of town. After each gobbling down at least two shawarmas, we left for the house. Here we rested then had supper, before heading out for bowling.

The bowling alley was located at Nyali Cinemax. We got there at around 8 pm and were requested to switch into more comfortable shoes. This was my first time bowling. Previously, it had never occurred me how heavy those bawling balls were. My first attempt at throwing one had me running quarter way along the alley following the ball.

For 500 Kenyan Shillings, the equivalent of 5 Dollars, each person got 10 chances each consisting of two throws. The eight of us were divided into two groups of four each where we competed against each other. There was a monitor which displayed the ranking.

There were other small groups of friends there as well as families. One family was there with their children, who included a boy aged about seven and a daughter aged about two. There was a bowling ramp which was placed at the front of the lane which the kids would use to roll the ball along. I found it very heartwarming that families could come bowling together in the evening. Bowling is not something common to Kenyans and thus seeing Kenyans embracing it was a pleasing moment.

After exhausting our rounds, and my team winning, we left for home, but not before sampling the caramel popcorn outside the cinema.

The second day started with us going to the beach. Going to the beach never gets old, and so we decided we would do it the following day as well. However, on this day, the boys did not come with us to the beach as they chose to sleep in. So we went, took photos, walked along the beach, ran into and away from the waves and basked in the yellow light of the sun's rays that were piercing through the clouds as it rose. We then left for breakfast and lunch at the house after we had had enough for the day.

We got to Wild Waters at around two in the afternoon. My inner child was elated to be here especially since it had been years since I was last in a water park. After paying 1500 Kenyan shillings, the equivalent of 15 Dollars, we were handed tags and welcomed into the park.

I could not believe my eyes. This looked like something out of a Disney movie. Standing at the entrance I could see tower-high water slides of all colors. There were the enormous winding red, yellow and white tunnels. Then there were the wavy blue, green and white tunnels and some straight tunnels. It was like a water paradise. And that was not all of it. Coming closer I could see the pool in which most slides ended and tens of different-sized yellow floaters. On one side there was the kids' play area which had smaller slides and a fountain that played tunes that kids could dance around. On another side was the disco which basically involved an outdoor area with music, a DJ and overhead sprinklers that sprinkled water as you danced.

We were spoilt for choice. There were so many options, but not enough time. We started with the water slides. I don't know which was more fun between grabbing floaters and racing up the stairs to the top of the water slides, or going down the slides with your heart and gut in your mouth and landing inside the pool at great speed with the floater you used displaced from your body. We went to all the slides and then went back for more. Even doing a short stint at the kids dancing fountain.

From the slides, we went to the slow river whose nature of activity is summarized in the name. Here, a pair would go onto a large floater and lazily float along the course of the large tunnel. Unlike the other tunnels, this one was built on the ground, and the water flowed slowly between concrete walls. Initially, the eight of us, in four floaters enjoyed the slow rocking of the waves as we moved along. It got monotonous after a few minutes and so we turned it into the Amazing Race, competing to see who would get to the end first. This turned out to be an exciting activity, especially considering that one wrong move led to being toppled over and struggling to get back on the floater.

After exhausting all the slides and the Lazy River, we finally hit the disco where we danced ourselves silly under the 'rain'. The DJ was gracious enough to grant us our song requests and we spent a good hour having the time of our lives. To this day, nothing has lived up to the experience I got at Wild Waters.

Dusk was approaching when we decided that we had not had enough of the slides, so we went back and tried to get on as many as we could before the staff had to take us out of the place. When they did, we reluctantly went to the changing room then made our way home, stopping to get some food as we were famished.

On the third day, we hit the beach as usual, and then went back to the house for breakfast as had been the routine. We then headed out to the Bamburi Nature Trail. This is a trail that sits on land that was previously a quarry and that is currently an ecological site. The Bamburi Cement Limited rehabilitated the exhausted quarries by planting thousands of trees. Part of the quarries is now a forest. Some sections of the quarries filled with water and became beautiful shallow ponds.

We opted to rent bikes as opposed to walking and set out on an adventure of the woods. Initially, all was going smoothly. A few minutes later going down a small hilly slope, Alice veered off the path, crashing into a tree. Beatrice crashed into Alice as she was too close behind. I was following closely. To avoid crashing into the duo, I swerved and crashed into a small shrub, suffering a minor bruise on my palm. The boys, Brian, Kevin and Jonathan, who were at the front heard the commotion and rode back to see what had happened. I got up from my bike and went to check on my two lady friends. Alice had a bruise on her forehead and her elbow while the Beatrice wasn't injured. Her bicycle had taken the brunt of it as it had gotten a flat tire.

As we did not have a first aid box with us, we used wet wipes to clean our wounds and the muddy areas. Going back was not an option. We were determined to finish the trail despite the small inconvenience suffered. However, Beatrice had to go back as her bicycle could not be ridden on a flat tire. She promised to catch up with us later.

We went on with the track, stopping to take photos or a few sips of water. The views were striking. I am a big lover of trees, there is just something about the greenery and the cool breeze, coupled with the sound of the wind in the trees and the rustling of leaves that makes my mind feel at peace. Now, when you add a pond in a clearing of trees that feels like heaven on earth.

As we were almost getting to the end of the trail, we turned into a steep downslope. All was going well as we were descending before Jonathan braked mid descent, causing me to swerve to avoid hitting him. I experienced a sharp pain on my hip before I realized that I had been thrown off the bicycle and was on the ground. On closer inspection, my tights were torn at my hip and I had a deep graze which at the moment was a mixture of blood and dirt. Luckily, my top was long enough such that it hid the hole. We walked a few metres before I went behind a bush to clean up my wound before it got infected. I made a mental note to get a Tetanus shot when I got home, just in case.

We rode the rest of the way accident-free and rested at the lounge area which was built on top of a pond. We stayed there for a few minutes, eating and admiring goldfish at the bridge as we waited for the rest before going back to the house. After cleaning up, we went to town for some Biryani, which is a local dish of rice and chicken. This was in a part of Mombasa known as Old Town, which as the name suggests is where the town began hundreds of years ago. This part of town is filled with Arab and Portuguese architecture, a reminder that it was built by and inhabited by the Arabs and the Portuguese in the 18th Century. Old Town is currently inhabited by Arabs, Asians, Swahili and people of other nationalities. After finishing our meal, we took a walk around the town, taking in the beautiful architecture, the balconies and artistically carved doors. We eventually made our way to the market to buy a few things as we would be travelling to Nairobi the following morning.

Apart from coconuts and kitenge fabric, we also got Mabuyu and Achari. Mabuyu is a type of snack made from baobab fruit seeds. This is a snack that is very popular in the coastal region. Achari is also a snack, but one that is made from dried and flavored strips of mango. Like Mabuyu, it is also a snack common in the Coastal region. We do not come across the two in Nairobi unless you find a vendor who has gotten them from Mombasa.

The following day, we were up early as we had to beat the morning traffic at Nyali Bridge and catch our bus which was to leave the station at 8 am. We barely made it in time because the traffic was particularly heavy on that day. However, luck was on our side as the bus we were to take was late too. We had to wait for it for over an hour.

It was sad that we had to leave the island with all its beautiful palms, clear blue skies and delectable cuisine. With one last look around and final breath of the humid Mombasa air, I boarder the air-conditioned bus and walked to my seat. I sat there, looking outside the window, and as the bus left the station, I knew I had to come back sometime.

The author is a girl in her twenties who takes pride in being African. She is a Pharmacy Student in her final year of study. She finds joy in writing—when she's not cramming molecular structures—and runs a small blog. The author enjoys travelling and dreams of becoming a travel blogger someday.

Contact Stacey
(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher