Remembering December Colours In East Africa ~ Thursday’s Special

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December is usually the time of the short rains in Kenya. I say usually because these days the tropics are especially affected by climate change so nothing is certain when it comes to weather. It is also the hottest time of the year, and in the upcountry regions, the season for planting. Here on Lamu Island (above) it is also tourist time, although the year we spent Christmas there it was scarcely crowded. This  photo was taken on Christmas Eve as the sun was setting. There were about six other people on the beach. Earlier that day we had arrived in a sudden squall which made the dhow crossing to Lamu from the air field on Manda Island a touch exciting. We visitors all huddled under the awning while the stalwart captain kept us on course across a choppy, foggy strait.

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Most of our Christmases were spent on Tiwi beach south of Mombasa. Not a busy place either. Here’s the sunrise over the lagoon at Maweni one Christmas morning long ago.

sunrise on the reef

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And some ageing views of the lagoon in head-on sunshine:

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Thursday’s Special ~ please visit Paula to see her colour prompts. As you might conclude, they include aquamarine, cyan and golden.

To The Day Ahead ~ Mombasa Beach Safari

sunrise on the reef

When we lived in Kenya during the 1990s we used to spend Christmas in a beach cottage on the south Mombasa coast. Much of the anticipation (not to say anxiety) surrounding this annual safari usually revolved around wondering if we would get there at all.

Mombasa is a good 300 miles from Nairobi and, in our day, the existence of the Nairobi – Mombasa highway was not to be taken for granted. December is the rainy season, and there were times when sections of the road were washed out. On one occasion when we were heading south, mudslides had created a huge traffic jam not far from Nairobi. Trucks, buses, tour vans and cars were double parked for tens of miles all across Ukambani’s rain-soaked bush country.

Villagers along the route thought all their market days had come at once – so many captive customers to be plied with cups of tea and fresh picked mangos from their shambas. All opportunities for making a few bob were quickly grabbed, and wherever you looked, gangs of of grinning lads were hard at work, pushing grounded vehicles out of the mudslides. Meanwhile the line of vehicles stretched on and on, out across the plains.

And it was then that our Land Rover Defender came into its own. You forgot that it generally leaked, juddered, clanged and banged while rearranging your spinal column and internal organs into ever new and painful configurations. This beast could walk on water. Well almost. Anyway, who needed a road? Not Team Leader Graham (aka My Man In Africa). He simply engaged equatorial swamp-drive, and took to the bush, picking his own route alongside the blocked highway.  Being English, I quailed before the thought that we were committing some major traffic offence. This, after all, was ‘undertaking’ of epic proportions, outdoing the maddest of matatu drivers. And just to give you an idea of Mombasa highway jams here’s a Kenyan press photo from April this year – a twelve-hour hold-up:

Mombasa Highway Nation Newspaper

http://nairobinews.nation.co.ke/news/caused-monster-traffic-jam-mombasa-road/

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And so what with events like this, and the other usual highway hazards of broken-down trucks, police road blocks, jay-walking buffalo and the inevitable Likoni Ferry hold up, it was always a huge relief to finally find ourselves trundling along the cliff top track to Maweni Cove. Soon there would be paddling in warm lagoon waters, white coral sands sparsely populated, a cooling sea breeze on the headland, and the sound of the Indian Ocean roaring on the reef edge. Eggs and vegetables would be delivered to our door by a sweet Digo man on a bicycle. The fishermen would call by daily with fresh-caught lobster and parrot fish, and if you gave them a knife and chopping board, they would clean the fish for you. All of which meant that even when we were actually there,  it always seemed like a dream.

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Anticipation

Shore, Reef, Ocean, Sky: Edge On Edge

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Some of you will have already read the essay below. It won first prize in a Quartos Magazine competition years ago. The magazine is no more, but I’m posting the piece again for those of you in need of  a long, soothing wallow beside an African beach. Enjoy!

 Going to the Dogs on Mombasa’s Southern Shore

It’s a dog’s life on Tiwi Beach, the white strand where ocean roars on coral and trade winds waft the coconut palms; and where, best of all, as far as the local canines are concerned, there are quiet coves sparse in holidaymakers. It means they may do as they please. After all, it is their own resort, and every morning they set off there from the beach villages along the headland, nose up, ears blown back in the breeze, ready for the day’s adventures.

But the dogs are not churlish. They can take or leave the odd pale human wrestling to right his windsurfer on the still lagoon; ignore the sentinel heron that marks the reef edge beyond; pay no heed to the etched black figures of the Digo fishermen who search the shallows for prawns, parrot fish, or perhaps a mottled lobster or two.

But in this last respect at least, the dogs are smug. For the fishermen come down to the beach only to make a living. And when they are done hunting, they must toil along the headland from beach village to beach village, then haggle over the price of their catch with the rich wazungu who come there to lotus eat. Hard work in the dogs’ opinion.

The dogs know better of course; know it in every hair and pore. And each morning after breakfast, when they take the sandy track down to the beach, they begin with a toss of the head, a sniff of the salt air, a gentle ruffling of the ear feathers in soft finger breezes. Only then do they begin the day’s immersion, the sybaritic sea savouring: first the leather pads, sandpaper dry from pounding coral beaches, then the hot underbelly. Bliss. The water is warm. Still. Azure. And there can be nothing better in the world than to wade here, hour on hour, alongside a like‑minded fellow.

There’s not much to it; sometimes a gentle prancing. But more likely the long absorbing watch, nose just above the water, ears pricked, gaze fixed on the dazzling glass. And if you should come by and ask what they think they’re at, they will scan you blankly, the earlier joy drained away like swell off a pitching dhow. And, after a moment’s condescending consideration, they will return again to the sea search, every fibre assuming once more that sense of delighted expectation which you so crassly interrupted. You are dismissed.

For what else should they be doing but dog dreaming, ocean gazing, coursing the ripples of sunlight across the lagoon and more than these, glimpsing the electric blue of a darting minnow? And do they try to catch it? Of course they don’t. And when the day’s watch is done, there is the happy retreat to shore ‑ the roll roll roll in hot sand, working the grains into every hair root.

And if as a stranger you think these beach dogs a disreputable looking crew, the undesirable issue of lax couplings between colonial thoroughbreds gone native: dobermanns and rough‑haired pointers, vizslas and ridge‑backs, labradors and terriers, then think again. For just because they have no time for idle chit-chat, this doesn’t make them bad fellows: it’s merely that when they are on the beach, they’re on their own time. But later, after sunset, well that’s a different matter. Then they have responsibilities: they become guardians of the your designer swimwear, keepers of your M & S beach towel, enticing items that you have carelessly left out on your cottage veranda.

By night they patrol the ill‑lit byways of your beach village, dogging the heels of a human guard who has his bow and arrow always at the ready. And when in the black hours the banshee cry of a bush baby all but stops your heart, you may be forgiven for supposing that this bristling team has got its man, impaled a hapless thief to the compound baobab. It is an unnerving thought. You keep your head down. Try to go with the flow, as all good travellers should.

But with the day the disturbing image fades. There is no bloody corpse to sully paradise, only the bulbuls calling from a flame tree, the heady scent of frangipani, delicious with its sifting of brine. You cannot help yourself now. It’s time to take a leaf out of the dogs’ book, go for a day of all‑embracing sensation ‑ cast off in an azure pool.

And in the late afternoon when the sun slips red behind the tall palms and the tide comes boiling up the beach, the dogs take to the gathering shade of the hinterland and lie about in companionable couples. Now and then they cast a benign eye on you humankind, for at last you are utterly abandoned, surrendering with whoops and yells to the sun‑baked spume. They seem to register the smallest flicker of approval: you seem to be getting the hang of things.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

Edge

Indian Ocean Bliss

dawn over Tiwi lagoon

Dawn over the reef on Tiwi Beach, South Kenya Coast

It’s a dog’s life on Tiwi Beach, the white strand where ocean roars on coral and trade winds waft the coconut palms; and where, best of all, as far as the local canines are concerned, there are quiet coves sparse in holidaymakers. It means they may do as they please. For after all, it is their own resort, and every morning they set off there from the beach villages along the headland, nose up, ears blown back in the breeze, ready for the day’s adventures.

But the dogs are not churlish. They can take or leave the odd pale human wrestling to right his windsurfer on the still lagoon; ignore the sentinel heron that marks the reef edge beyond; pay no heed to the etched black figures of the Digo fishermen who search the shallows for prawns, parrot fish, or perhaps a mottled lobster or two.

© 2013 Tish Farrell

From Going to the dogs on Mombasa’s Southern Shore

Continues HERE

Post prompted by Paula at Lost in Translation where you will find more blissful images.

Wind in the palms on Kenya’s coral shores

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Tiwi Beach, South Mombasa

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These leaning coconut palms and the photo of me holding on to my hat remind me that there is nearly always a breeze on Tiwi Beach. You need it too. In the hot season, around December to February, it makes the sticky tropical humidity bearable. It also keeps malarial mosquitoes at bay.

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Don’t let go! Me, at Capricho Cove, too many years ago

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But the tropical breeze is not so good for kite launching. The team leader never did get his kite airborne.; the wind endlessly beating it into the sand. No matter. I think we decided that kite flying was probably too active an activity, even at the day’s end. Much better to crack open a Tusker beer, one almost chilled in

Graham tries to fly his kite

Graham not flying his kite at Maweni Cove.

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the beach cottage’s rackety  refrigerator.

Maweni cottage at sunset

Maweni Cottages built in the Swahili style.

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In the holiday season, and especially at Christmas, these beach villages tend to be the haunt of expatriates (especially aid workers), and mixed race families who do not always receive the best of treatment in Kenya’s fancy beach hotels. The cottages are designed to keep out too much sun and let in maximum draught: coral rag walls, high makuti  thatch, glassless windows and shutters with moveable slats. This is of course a European take on indigenous Swahili architecture.

I have written in another post about Swahili culture and how it might be said to have been shaped by the monsoon winds: the north-easterly Kaskazi that for centuries brought Arab merchant ships down the coast of Africa; the south easterly Kusi that blew them away again after a windless sojourn during which sailing dhows were beached and repaired and liaisons with African communities forged.

From this age-old congress between Arab seafarers and Bantu farmer-traders, came a blending and melding of body, mind and spirit that evolved into the urban coastal people whom we know as the Swahili. Their language, KiSwahili, is also a fusion: of Arabic and Bantu vernaculars, and as such, presents a fascinating exemplar of multicultural integration that has forged a distinct identity of its own. That’s something to ponder on, isn’t it: how different races can create together; how it took the monsoon wind to bring them together?

Salamu (Greetings)

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A Word A Week Photo Challenge: Wind: go here for more wind stories and see the ones below:

http://irenewaters19.com/2013/12/19/a-word-a-week-wind/

http://hamburgundmeehr.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/a-word-a-week-photograph-challenge-wind/

http://geophiliac.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/a-word-a-week-photography-challenge-wind/

http://bambangpriantono.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/a-word-a-week-photograph-challenge-wind-angin-the-wind-blown-flag/

http://schelleycassidy.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/a-word-a-week-challenge-wind/

http://mang0people.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/a-word-a-week-photograph-challenge-wind/

http://emiliopasquale.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/a-word-a-week-photograph-challenge-wind/

http://sillarit.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/a-word-a-week-photograph-challenge-wind/

Related:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture (The Swahili)

Travel Theme: Beaches (Mombasa)

Blue Lagoon

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

DP Daily Prompt: The Golden Hour

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Beyond the shore, the reef, the sea, and then the sky: dawn one Christmas off Tiwi Beach, Mombasa

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Other striking horizons:

Fractions of the World

Wind Against Current

Jolie Petite Maison

Hope*the happy hugger

Be Happy

Belgrade Streets

Artifacts and Fictions

vastlycurious

Northwest Frame of Mind

DARK CIRCLES, ETC

copyright 2013 Tish Farrell