Just as we made it to the outskirts of Mombasa, the road got really bad. Actually, the road was bad all the way to Mombasa. When we got there, it got worse. I mean, it was like riding on a rumble strip for about a mile. The traffic is impossible to explain. There were so many vehicles trying to pass each other that we got bottle-necked when there was only one lane!
The dust and fumes in the air was suffocating. The temperature increased along with the humidity, reminding us that it’s the hot season in Kenya. And that we were at the coast.
But I was so enthralled at what I saw, I [as best as I could] didn’t notice the heat and noxious gases polluting my lungs. Well, actually it was blazing hot, I was sweating [the only one at that], I couldn’t breathe, I was getting restless and impatient, I wanted to smash windows out of the matatus clogging the roads…
And then we reached Mombasa.
Mombasa like any other city has different parts to it. There’s the island where you’ll find Old Town, the north coast with its many resorts and beaches [where we stayed], south coast with even more resorts, and a bunch of other parts in between. For the most part, though this is a revenue-generating tourist destination, the locals live very poorly. Somehow, that money doesn’t trickle all the way down to the people who have to tolerate the foreigners invading their lives.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but Mombasa wasn’t quite Hilton Head. Very crowded, skyscrapers surrounded by ages-old markets and decades-old buildings, more chaotic traffic, more poverty-stricken people hawking wares, more of the same.
But — there’s a charm to Mombasa. Unlike Nairobi which can give you the impression you’re in a smaller-sized American city its modern skyscrapers, parks and plazas, statues and memorials, iconic buildings made of steel and glass, Mombasa has a look frozen in time.