Tuesday, 29 July 2014

My visit to Ukunda, a local Kenyan town.

Even though Ukunda (the local town) is only a ten minute drive away I have not actually walked around it very much; and today was the day. I grabbed a Matatu (local bus) and after a bumpy, squashed ride I arrived in dusty Ukunda on a nice sunny day.

Ukunda was born out of the rise of tourism to Diani Beach and has grown significantly over the last 20 years. It is where most of the staff from the hotels live and a local community has risen up around it. Now it is a bustling town of substantial size with daily markets, major bus routes (Dar-Es-Salaam, Mombasa), an airport and lively bars.

After disembarking through a tight squeeze off the Matatu I headed to Diani restaurant to meet up with Simon (staff) and Samuel (volunteer) for some nice local food. The only problem was that when we got to the restaurant it was closed, most likely because it was still Ramadan and Muslim owned. Therefore Simon took us to another place called Paradise restaurant (the names are great), which was an interesting experience. The food was great, I had Ugali (maize meal) with Sukuma Wiki (Kale) and Kachumbari (salad of tomatoes, onion, coriander and chillies), but we should have had a table for five due to the amount of flies; as a friend said T.I.A. (This Is Africa). The T.V. was also on and it was a man preaching with the sound loud and fuzzy, for some reason he kept say “Samaki” meaning fish; Simon and Samuel found it very funny.

After lunch Simon took us on a guided tour around Ukunda to show us what it was really like. What you see along the main road is only the beginning, once you start to go down the narrow side streets the real Ukunda appears. Small wooden shack next to small wooden shack built out of and held together with whatever materials can be found. Barbers, shoes, clothes, food, pots and pans, you name it Ukunda has it.

It was Sunday afternoon so most people were not working and were free to shop, meet friends, grab some lunch so Ukunda was bustling. As I walked around I noticed a pirate DVD stand where they had a Mr Bean compilation, two friends sharing a conversation under a Mango tree and guys selling nuts under colourful umbrellas. We finally reached the fruit market, which was the section I was most looking forward to. There were all sorts of fruit on sale, some I knew like coconuts, avocados and passion fruit and some I didn’t like “tomako”. It looks like a small artichoke that is soft and sweet with large black seeds inside; but at first sight it does not look that appetising. I came away with more fruit then I had planned, but I was looking forward to eating it all.

The colour of your skin really does dictate how you are treated in some areas, for instance a lot of people were staring at me and my camera while I was walking around. They would all say “Karibu Welcome” as I walked past their shop to get me to buy something as it is assumed I am wealthy. Also, people come up to me as I am walking around wanting to be my friend with an ulterior motive; i.e. sell me something or ask me for money. I am made to feel bad if I don’t give them something and they are good at doing it. One guy tried to convince me that I needed to buy his padlock and another wanted donation for his studies (at least that is what he said). Interestingly they stopped when they saw another “Muzungo” (white person) then they began the cycle again.

I then made my way back to where the Matatu’s align for my journey home to feast on my bounty, but not before one last attempt to extract money from me. A guy showed us a picture of a dead relative while we were sitting in a Matatu waiting to go saying he was colleting money for the funeral. Samuel told us it did not have the official stamp from the police chief; and so was most likely a scam.

All in all it was a good experience of what life in a coastal town of Kenya is really like.

You can see all my photos of my time in Kenya on:
Flickr here -http://bit.ly/1dpb3gd

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