We paid Khalid and his colleague a total of four thousand shillings to take us (we were four excited tourists from Nairobi), from the Modern Coast bus terminal in Mombasa, to Leopard Beach Resort & Spa in Diani, Ukunda.
In retrospect, we might have been conned of our cash. An Uber would’ve cost us a thao less, but we wouldn’t have gained the tourist experience Khalid so freely offered.
So off we went, Khalid showing us the delectable sights and sound of Mombasa. I can’t remember the other Tuk Tuk driver’s name; he wasn’t as animated as Khalid. Khalid drove us past Mombasa town, through legendary shops and to Likoni. When we got to the ferry, he paid the guards 50 shillings to let the 2 tuk tuks through. I had a feeling it cost more than that, but Khalid looked like a man of the people. One wink from him was enough to make you agree to his conditions, whether they were in your favor or not.
On the ferry, he talked to one of the guards to let us out and enjoy the ocean breeze. Apparently this is illegal. The law maintains that passengers remain in their vehicles. But we weren’t in a car now, were we? Khalid’s words, not mine. We also took selfies from the ferry, which was prohibited as well, allegedly.
So we head to Diani. By now we’re pretty tired. Imagine coming from an 8 hour drive overnight from Nairobi to Mombasa, only to go through a very treacherous and bumpy ride from Mombasa to Ukunda.
But Khalid was having none of it.
He’d stir us up and tell us of his escapades in the Coast; of how the rich and gorgeous Ukunda wives (whose husbands are too busy for them) call onto men like him to please them. We burst out laughing, Muthuri and I. We were the 2 lucky tourists who got to ride with Khalid. I asked him what he meant by the phrase ‘men like him’. Turns out he meant men in his profession, who, sometimes, ‘taking a break’ would imply ‘visiting’ the ladies. To each with his own money-making business, Au Sio? He disguised and laughed.
He had a deep and warm laugh, Khalid. Inviting and smile-inducing.
So we relaxed and enjoyed the breeze, felt the wind on our backs and inhaled the sea from a far. Aaah, we could feel our heavy and long overdue Nairobi stress ooze out from our bodies and get replaced by the silence of the Ukunda palm breeze.
About 10 meters from our residential hotel, we took a ciggie break. Well, Muthuri and Khalid took a ciggie break. I was left to man our belongings. Khalid swore that no one would steal our valuables, that I could have stretch if I needed one. He could tell I needed one. But I’m Nairobian by nature, so I opted to stay in the tuk tuk. We don’t trust anyone, us children of the big city.
So as everyone else took a break, I sat alone looking around, when a supposedly Coastarian Kanjo came with the intention to haul Khalid’s and his friend’s tuk tuks. But Khalid is a sharp man. He apologized quickly and instead blamed it on us, “Hawa wa bara walidai kuchukua break, officer.”
I laughed quietly to myself, all the while feigning an innocent look on my face. Muthuri had been busy looking for sunglasses as he’d forgotten to carry his. Khalid then excused himself from the kanjo guy to go get ‘my mzee’, alias Muthuri. He knew Muthuri was just my colleague, but he knew the Kanjo didn’t. The officer then gave me a sly smile and whispered that I was too beautiful a lady to be ferried around by my man in a tuk tuk. I smiled and thanked him.
On arrival to our destination, the guards stopped us at the gate. How dare we come into a 5 star in tuk tuks? Could we even afford the place? They inquired if we had plans to attend the day’s ongoing wedding. We informed them that we were indeed staying there for the weekend. You could easily tell from their looks of confusion, that they were busy judging our credibility; up until the actual car that was meant to take us to Ukunda showed up.
See, we had initially paid for an SUV to drop us off at the hotel, but the driver had been late, drunk and plain rude to us about his lateness. So we had instead opted to take tuk tuks, for the fun of it. But that’s another story for another day.
For now, we have been left with Khalid’s Tuk Tuk experience; which I believe was the best welcome-in-disguise-gift to Ukunda.