Queuing . This sensible system is not enforced in the developing world. At the kiosk I “queue” for a bus ticket to the coast. The mob forms around me and people constantly jostle in front with out stretched arms. I remain firmly at the rear. As a taller westerner you would think I would have a distinct advantage of being larger in size than the average punter here. But my British etiquette holds me back. Fuck it is so inefficient. I’m comfortably ahead of schedule so I’m beach bound though, as I stand in the press of people getting my ticket, I’m second guessing my decision.
The trick, it turns out, is with an outstretched arm to get a firm grip on the counter and anchor yourself, then slowly pull yourself to the glass booth. But I find this especially hard when there is a woman in the queue ahead of me, what happens if I accidently brush her breast? Will she scream? With the sexual harassment saga in parliament in full swing when I left the UK I am acutely aware of the pit falls of such a brushing. Perhaps in ten years time the women to my right will tell the tabloids that I touched her thigh, albeit innocently, and before you know it I’ve lost my position as the Defence Secretary.
One bus, a tuk-tuk, ferry and a matatu ride later and I’m at Diani beach just south of the coastal city of Mombasa. The bus ride, all twelve hours of it, was not pleasant. With no air con and the windows firmly shut it was a sweat fest. But worst of all was that I sat in fear of the man next to me. Fear that he might spit on me, that is. It’s justified, for with no warning he stirs from his slumber and with pursed lips spits down his thigh adjacent to mine. Lovely.
The ferry was interesting though. Mombasa is surrounded by waterways and to head south you must first cross by ferry to Likoni. As I approach I realise that hordes of the public have the same destination. We are funnelled towards a flat bottomed car ferry. Like at a festival as you near centre stage when the press increases and you’re swept forward, there is no stopping as people surge onwards to make the imminent departure. I’m crammed in the middle of the ferry, there must be a good few thousand people aboard. I can’t help thinking that if this thing goes down we are all going down with it. With dry feet we reach the other side and off we surge, bumping to and fro, shoulder to shoulder, safely onto dry land.
After a less than perfect day’s travel, I wake anew at Diani Backpackers and fall in with the passing crowd. We spend the day on a dhow, which needs bailing with worrying regularity. The snorkelling was fantastic, the water shallow enough to swim down and buzz the divers or peer underneath shelves of coral to spot the fish sheltering beneath the overhang. I dive down into a vast shawl of small silver fish who part as I swim through, and they begin to spiral around me, the alien in their midst.
Ah, the Indian Ocean. It’s idyllic. We sit on the pristine white sands drinking straight from coconuts, looking out over the warm waters as mounting clouds build lazily on the horizon. Crabs scurry awkwardly along the sand dashing for cover at the slightest movement. Well, it would be idyllic if it weren’t for the small man sat on his heels barely a foot in front of us. The beach boys are relentless, forever trying to sell you trinkets or usher you to restaurants. Their standard greeting is “hakuna matata,” in an attempt to come across endearing. Hells Gate National Park is said to be the inspiration for the landscape in the Lion King. We decide to walk down the beach to find some peace and quiet and go for a swim. I politely ask the chap not to pursue.
We have a tail. Not particularly subtle as the sand is white and he is wearing a bright red t-shirt, plus we are the only ones on the beach. The FSB will not be offering him a job anytime soon. My temporary hostel friends and I take a swim in the warm water before returning to the shore but they have our scent, and out of nowhere a few calls of “hakuna matata” ring out and before we know it coconuts and bracelets are thrust in our faces.
Our old friend, the red T-shirt man, has caught up. “Hakuna matata.” As the closest, I once again politely ask for some privacy as we are not in the market for anything. All bar our friend take then hint and go in search of their next victims. “Hakuna matata, my friend,” he says falsely smiling and not moving an inch. I could slap him if he says that one more time. It must be said that I get a bit shirty at this point and somewhat sternly this time tell him to bugger off. “Hakuna matata” He takes a seat on his heels. At this point I resign from being spokesperson of the group and the girls manage to discourage his efforts. Hakuna ma-fukin-tata.