Road

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The howling emptiness of the villa threatened to drown me. The beauty of the villa didn’t take away the throbbing solitude. It was luxurious, yes, but it was also excessive in its beauty if that’s possible. There was a jacuzzi that I would never use and a four-post bed so big you could convert it into three pool tables. And the settees. Three of them. A TV I wasn’t going to put on, not when you could walk outside in the balcony that hangs from a goddamn cliffed reef over a beach during the day when the tide has receded or later during the night when the charging and thrashing tide backs in to claim what’s his. 

I loved that balcony. I lay on a deck bed and read a book as the whole room breathed on my neck hankering for attention. I could smell the ocean; it smelled of crabs and shells and sinewy men with naked torsos bobbing on old wooden dhows. It also smelled of adventure and mystery and death. When I stood at the railing I saw a couple on the balcony of the villa on the adjacent side of the cliff. The man was topless, the woman had on a small sundress. I waved and mouthed “Hello my neighbours!” They waved back, the man’s mouth moving in that Coming To America way: “eff you!” Ha-ha. 

Honeymooners. This was Leopard Beach Resort. I wasn’t supposed to be in the villa, I was supposed to be in a different room without this view and this balcony but they upgraded me and I was happy but I was also thinking, what a waste of a good room on a working man passing through. Because this room could use a woman who hates clothes and walks around eating grapes, a glass of wine in hand at high noon. But here I was; no grapes, no wine, and certainly no nudity. But a breathtaking view, nonetheless. 

So I went to the swimming pool where I found a whole bunch of men playing handball in the pool. These are middle-aged men—Kenyans and a few white chaps. I joined the losing team. I played basketball in my teens so I was very good at this swimming pool game of handball, if I may be so myself. We waddled around like hippos and screeched like banshees. I also saw how competitive men can be, almost to the point of viciousness. We grappled for the ball and tried to drown each other and even though we laughed it was reminiscent of life we had left in the city; where everybody wants to step on everybody else to get ahead. Even in the pool, the poison of the city we had left behind followed us. 

The next day, I was off to Gazi, in Kwale; a small sleepy Swahili village an hour or so away. Makuti thatched houses. Men walking bare feet. Tall palm trees framing the simplicity of village life. We visited the office of Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, mangrove system information services, and met Lilian and Amina, marine ecologists doing their PhDs on Mangrove conservation.  Lilian had a radio voice but I didn’t understand the carbon sequestration theory she was going on about. So she grabbed an exercise book and asked, “But you know that when we breathe out we release carbon dioxide, right?” I pretended to think about that for a moment and then nodded. Then she started drawing and explaining what happened when we cut down mangroves; which basically means we are going to be really screwed if we continue cutting down mangroves but also other trees, throwing trash out car windows and basically doing things that hurt the planet. And one day the planet is going to get fed up with us and it will say, “Okay fine, do whatever you think is right.” It’s the version of your woman saying, “If you want to go meet your friends, you just go. Do whatever you think is right.” This is where we are getting with the planet. 

Later we went through the villages to the beach and conducted interviews for so long I got so hungry I lay slumped against a mangrove tree. OK, that’s a bit dramatic, I sat on a big root as the cameramen said annoyingly, “I think we need another shot of the fisherman and the chairman walking down the beach.” 

Then we had to drive from Kwale, through the apocalyptic ferry and down to Kilifi, a three-hour journey, getting to Kilifi at 9pm, bone-tired, and checking into Silver Spa and Resort and into another massive one-bedroom villa, another jacuzzi I will not be using and another massive bed from which I’m writing this in the morning because it’s Tuesday and I’m on the road and can’t post an interview.

This is my roundabout way of saying, “I shall see you cats, next Tuesday. No watching TV after 8pm.” Let me do a few laps in the pool. 

***

Meanwhile, you can register for the July Masterclass here.

Or get a copy of my books right here. 

 

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51 Comments
  1. Biko yo! I have been on a six-hour layover in Bole heading home (I hope I don’t sound like the summer bunnies you wrote about on 8 December 2015. I remember the date because I was in heading home that December 11th) hoping read you before they start calling my name on the PA system and I can’t describe how anti-climactic this has been. However, as they say, next week pia ni siku.

    Enjoy your time at the coast.

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  2. We need to talk.

    Absenteeism is up again and now at 60%.

    On your laps around the pool, I hope you lose a step and fall inside the pool. Hopefully have your favourite shirt drenched as a payback for standing us up again.

    Best wishes Chocolate man.

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  3. Well, I think the planet is already fed up with us. Covid basically showed us we aren’t the bosses, that we don’t call the shots.
    When the big lockdown happened last year, the planet was given the space to ‘breathe’. Animals were free to roam again, we could see mountaintops and valleys clearly. The fog was lifted, something in the atmosphere was re-set.
    I reckon it’s time to do things differently, learn lessons and be better and more responsible, aware of the environment. Treat animals in a more humane way, because when nature strikes back, it isn’t pretty.

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  4. Gatho Biko!

    You know today is Tuesday the 15th and I post on my blog every 1st and 15th. I don’t have a post for today and I wanted to tell my readers that I have nothing for them, but I know a very talented writer, who I look up to( that’s you Biko Baldy) and they can read him in the meantime, then promise that I’ll see them on 1st, InshAllah.
    Sasa nitawaambia nini? Sobs.

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    1. I know that feeling. But again Biko s consistency has been something else…. He needs to be lauded. Man’s been churning new captivating pieces week on week….. Ah, he can stay on the road if he pleases….. He has earned it, si ndio?

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      1. True. I’m usually quite amazed by his consistency. Especially the part where he has created the expectation that he will post – and it will be a great piece. That expectation alone would render me useless at the task…

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  5. “We grappled for the ball and tried to drown each other and even though we laughed it was reminiscent of life we had left in the city; where everybody wants to step on everybody else to get ahead. Even in the pool, the poison of the city we had left behind followed us.”
    Lakini si ni life

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  6. Great writing as always Biko. But sijui if it’s old age or the attention deficit brought on by today’s fast paced world – but I really zone off and skim thru’ when when reading descriptive writing. Tukutane next week, inshallah

  7. Enjoy your Coasto travels, Biko. Fun fact, did you know that Superman can’t be ripped or muscular because there isn’t much that can give him a good workout. What do you lads think?

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  8. If you are in say present.

    Biko Baldy? Biko Baldy? Biko Baldy?

    Where’s that Chocolate Man? He’s missed school twice now.

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  9. Biko! Use the jacuzzi for the sake of those of us who wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth (literaly!)
    Enjoy pwani!

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  10. We will really be screwed if we continue cutting down trees, throwing trash everywhere and hurting our mother nature…
    But life is for the living, enjoy your ‘working holiday’

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  11. Leopard Beach & Silver Palm are some of the best from South & North Coast respectively. Enjoy Coast Biko

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  12. Reminds me of that ka sheepy smell ex’s get once you part way ,choclate guy ananza kuwa that ka smell
    next week pia ni wiki inshallah !

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  13. Accorning to uwezo.net , “At least one teacher in ten is absent from school in East Africa on any given school day”. Class prefect, Eddy Ashioya! Can you tell the headmaster that we cannot keep missing classes every Tuesday just because anga sijui Madaraka, anga sijui a beach villa at the coast anga kii!! Nirudishiwe school fees mimi. Mehe Mehe has said it, and I want to echo his/her words, ABSENTEEISM will no longer be tolerated henceforth!!

    Hehee, lakini Biko ni kama unarevenge kitu. Mwenye amekosea uyu jamaa si you just apologize and buy him a pair of socks, and a tie maybe.

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  14. Next time I will scroll down before excusing myself to the loo to have a read at your articles…enjoy thyself though.

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  15. I had been saving this for the end of my day because what better way to end the day!…then you leave me high and dry…anyway, of importance is life!

    See you next week and karibu Pwani!

  16. ..and here i was looking to read something as i wait for my clock out time..this is a bummer..

    ..but we will wait.

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  17. Can only watch TV after 8pm…kids in bed, life feels normal. Wine and a movie and probably a chat or some fight with omushaband. Biko, revise the rule on TV watching.

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  18. So that story ended…. naaa we are being prepared for those big beds and sea views and who should have (or actually did) in the little dress code of south coast and kilifi…. Biko insane as everything else. If they gave you palm wine just confess

  19. You are now getting consistent with not posting. Inconsistency is a major problem in the long run.

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  20. Been waiting to read this article when I get time and of cause before next Tuesday.Only to realize today is Monday.I sit on a swing outside my house and Start reading ‘Road’.No sooner had I begun to savour the story than it ended abruptly.Disappointed is an understatement but grateful tomorrow is yet another Tuesday and Biko will not disappoint .

  21. This exactly describes my life whenever I am at the coast working. You never get to enjoy the beauty of the hotels and resorts you are booked in. I love Kwale’s beaches because there is a way they are a bit removed from chaos that characterise Mombasa. Gazi yes I remember it so well because I was there last month conducting Focused Group Discussions and Key Informant Interviews with Beach Management Units, Mangrove farmers and Sea Weed farmers. The trip was so enriching and full of learning points. One thing for sure when you engage with the communities at their level you don’t come back the same person.

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