Thursday, February 21, 2019

Gap Year – en route to Lamu – Meryl Streep interlude

For my overnight stay in Nairobi, I’m lucky enough to get an invite from my new mate Sally to come stay with her. I have only met Sally once before – for about an hour on Gatwick drone attack day when we were both trying to get to Venice for a friend’s 50th. In January, Sally whatsapps me and invites me to stay. As I have a hotel booked, I’m hesitant but Andrea says: “Cancel your hotel immediately; Sally is great and her house is amazing.” It’s all true. Sally is fab, fun and a talented artist (check out her site here) and her house is the Ngong Dairy – which stood in for Karen Blixen’s home in “Out of Africa”. This would already qualify it as a pretty extraordinary place to stay but what really does it for me is Sally’s fabulous art collection – a cornucopia of African art, English watercolours, photographs, a dazzling, wall-sized painting of an ostrich and a staggering collection of kimono-style battle dresses in illuminated glass cases.

When I arrive, Sally has set up lunch on a linen-covered table in the middle of a huge lawn. It’s glorious and almost more Streepy than I can cope with. Sally then heads to the gym and I spend the afternoon wafting around and thinking about Robert Redford. On Sally’s return, we settle down to an evening of gossiping, story-swapping and getting to know each other. It’s a brief but blissful interlude which I thoroughly enjoy.

The next day we drop in to Sally’s gallery before I catch an Uber (yay, Uber!!!!) to Wilson Airport. My driver Martin is chatty and we have a fun ride. Martin wants to be in my blog so here he is:

 At Wilson Airport, I meet Edwins, the owner of Kenya Buses. This might be a useful contact if I was the slightest bit interested in ever using public transport in Nairobi. I introduce him to my other new friend, Priscilla, the engineering head of the Malindi water board. We start talking about bendy buses - not a subject I thought would come up during my visit to Africa. Edwins is planning to introduce them in Nairobi but Priscilla and I are sceptical. I reference Boris and Priscilla says they won't work in Kenya unless you reduce capacity. I am not sure whether we convince Edwins or not.

I ask Priscilla if there are ever any problems with the water supply in Malindi. No, she says, the service is excellent. But after we board the plane, I find myself sitting next to Katoi Wa Tabaka, a jazz musician, hip hop artist and rising star on the Kenya music scene.  He looks like a rock star and is exactly the kind of person I was hoping to meet on my travels.

Katoi Wa Tabaka - are you a rock star?
As he's from Malindi, I ask him if he ever has water problems. Yes, he says, we were cut off the whole of last week actually. Ooh, Priscilla was telling porky pies! She buries her head in her laptop. Oops.

At Malindi, Katoi disembarks but promises to keep in touch; he is as good as his word and although we don't manage to meet up again, he does put me in touch with a great friend of his in Watamu where I'm heading after Lamu. Thanks Katoi!! (ps Katoi's music is great and you can find him on YouTube, Ethnocloud and SoundCloud. This is my favourite track: Kunani - it's great.