Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 18/07/2012

Would you take this Trunk call Mr Skelton?

African Elephant, originally uploaded by

You may or may not be glad to hear my Travellog-TravelBlog is coming to an end now that we’re leaving the reserve, there’s just the journey back to our hotel to go.

We leave the park at 14:40 to try and avoid any traffic jams when we get to Mombasa but not before we pull over on the road verge where a local is sitting guarding a pile of the mail sack sized bags I’d noticed on the way to the Reserve. Simon, the driver, jumps out of the minibus to negotiate with the seller, hands him 400 shilling and piles one of the large bags of what I can now see is charcoal into the boot area of the van (well, that’s one mystery cleared up). Jumping back into the driver’s seat Simon tells us with a wry smile on his face, that the charcoal is more commonly referred to as “Kenyan Gas”. Cooking Gas is too expensive for the majority of Kenyans who use charcoal to cook with, and that the bag he’s just bought will last around two months. All during the day, Simon and Erastus have offered such snippets of information painting a colourful picture of what life in Kenya is like which has been fascinating.

They’ve also told us that the park and its surrounding area haven’t had rain for over three years which would certainly explain the arid nature of the park and that the Lodge tops up the water hole every night to ensure that animals have a water source, and more importantly for their revenue stream, the guests have a close encounter each day with creatures visiting to slake their thirst.

Half an hour later and we pull into the same compound we stopped off this morning; this time Simon doesn’t bother to switch off the engine but dashes out, presumably for a comfort break. With all the camera equipment in the car, and the engine running I hover near the vehicle plus I don’t want to buy anything anyway (anyway, with all my camera equipment I’m already near my airplane baggage limit and getting that home has to be a priority).

The sales guy we had talked to this morning approaches but instead of trying to entice us inside he stands chatting asking what we’ve seen so I retrieve my camera and show him. He’s eager to see any photos I have of lions and I’m taken with his enthusiasm as I was with that of Masai Warrior on my last day in the Fig Tree Restaurant where we were staying. It’s a lovely conversation and we shake hands again; I suspect I will see him again next year… maybe I might even buy something next time.

My phone, which has performed tirelessly all holiday, decides enough is enough, uses the last microjoule of power left in the battery and decides a rest is in order… noooo… what am I going to use to record my stream (I mistyped that as “Steam” which is probably more appropriate) of consciousness? In such circumstances there’s only one thing for it, you simply ask yourself… what would jack kerouac do?*

It’s nearly 4pm when we reach the outskirts of Mombasa; the dark clouds are amassing, a stark contrast from our day in the Interior (well, the peripheral of the interior.. or the outerior if you like). The areas we drive through are as poor as it gets and yet there are signs of wealth contrary to their existence. New electricity pylon are being built with men actively working on them. On the higher ground, large mobile phone masts are visible neither of which will play a part in these peoples live. Such contrasts. The highway must act as a lifeline, with lorry stops, offers for machine car washes and various hostelries offering board and lodgings, albeit unpalatable by western standards.

4pm and  it has started to rain, even though we’re only one hour away from a region that hasn’t seen rain in over three years. Again, such contrasts.

Another hour passes and we’ve reached the outer industrialised districts of Mombasa. All around, containers are stacked one on top of each other forming impressive and at the same time oppressive skyscrapers on the otherwise unfettered skyline. It’s here that I have one of the most surreal moments of my life (and there have been a few.. like attending the Salvador Dali exhibition in Montmartre**), I’m always fascinated by local life whenever I travel anywhere***, even if it’s viewed through the half opened window of a minibus and as you will have read, will fight sleep to view life as it passes me by. I don’t know what possessed me in this instance but I focused in on a Kenyan man, standing amongst many others, who was wearing a purple shirt. It wasn’t even the colour, driving along you will see locals in Manchester United shirt, famous consumer brand logos splashed across t-shirts, a myriad of colours, shades and designs… in other words, a purple t-shirt isn’t that unusual. I don’t normally look at any embroidered logos on shirts either, they’re ten a penny these days, and my whole day would be taken up with such observations if I did. For whatever inexplicable reason, I did notice this sedentary chap standing at the side of the road, and the logo… it was of a software house (a small one you won’t have heard of) I worked for from 1996 to 1999… probably the best company I ever worked for. To use another one of those cliched phrases of the day… “what are the chances of that”!

*This is of course a parody of the “What would Chuck Norris Do” internet phenomenon. Google him if you have a few minutes spare.. it’s quite a laugh. Of course Jack Kerouac isn’t your movie tough guy but a literary giant who’s “on the road”, his meisterwork, is reputedly a stream of consciousness, based on his life at the time (but not an autobiography). He may not be a tough guy but his books are a tough read… and I’ve read (and enjoyed) Jean-Paul Sartre!
**Sorry, Dear Reader, please humour my pretentious little joke there!
*** One thing I particularly like to do, and have done, during my travels is to visit the local’s local supermarket – this always gives a great insight into how people live.

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