Well it finally happened. After travelling for 19 months someone ripped me off big time. For all my talk about haganah and self defense, was it a violent attack by armed thugs? No, it was the lowly hotel housekeeper (so I assume.) I keep some US dollars in cash in case I am in a place where I cannot use my ATM card to withdraw cash. For security I stash these in three different places among my things. I guess I subscribe to the “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” theory. Well at some point in the past three weeks some unethical person, probably the housekeeper, rummaged through my stuff while I was out, managed to find my hidden cash and relieved me of $1400. Ouch. That’s a big chunk for an unemployed person. I can’t even return to the place where it was stolen since I am not sure exactly where it happened; I only count my money every few weeks.
So I have hidden the remaining cash in an even more secure place (I hope). The dilemma is this: If I take all my cash, passport, etc. with me every time I go out, I risk getting it stolen on the street (this, in fact, is exactly what happened to another bike tourist I read about. He was afraid to leave any valuables in his room so he carried them on his person but then his bag was stolen and he lost everything.) The other option is to leave it in the room and risk the maids getting to it. I thought my stash was well hidden but I guess if someone is determined they will find a way. Oh well, nothing to be done now.
As for Mombasa, for all my bluster about loving the beach I never did get there. My trip from Nairobi to Mombasa took me two weeks. With a bus it takes seven hours. In fact, I did not really even see that much of Mombasa. That’s the funny thing about bicycle touring: the excitement comes more from the journey, the final destination seems anticlimactic. That’s why this type of travel is so different. Most people, when they take a trip, focus on getting to the destination, going from point A to point B. the stuff in between is just inconvenient and time consuming. With cycling, it’s the other way round. The stuff in between is the interesting part. Once you get to your destination you just sit around like any other tourist.
The two weeks to Mombasa were a microcosm of this trip. Some long uneventful rides, some exciting wildlife (elephants through my campsite!) Nice views of Kilimanjaro, some fascinating Maasai people, interesting locals, some tough dirt roads, a few hills, several flat tires, etc. In Mombasa it was so hot and humid I just sat in my air conditioned hotel room and caught up on my reading.
Some people live their lives just focused on getting from point A to pint B, always striving for the next big achievement or goal. They are not happy until they prove to themselves (or others) that they have accomplished something. The struggle to get there, most of life, is not enjoyable, only the accomplishment, and that is short lived. Once they achieve the goal they soon set another one and begin slogging towards that one. They never stop to enjoy the present. I find myself in that rut occasionally. It is easy to do in our modern high stress society, where there is so much pressure to define yourself by your achievements (College, job title, marriage, family, etc.) One thing I have learned on this trip is to be comfortable with just doing nothing and enjoying the present moment. I don’t always have to be striving to achieve the next goal. I hope that attitude is not a recipe for becoming a raggedy beach bum in my old age. I guess its a balance: while you need to stop and smell the roses occasionally, you can’t spend your whole life there.
Here are a few snaps. I have not been too inspired to take many photos recently. Can’t say why.
Why did the chicken cross in front of the doorway?
A neighbor at one of my campsites in the bush. What’s unusual about this arachnid?
Mangos and bananas
Back breaking labor in the hot sun
A view from Fort Jesus in Mombasa.
Mombasa, home of the Swahili culture, has had a long bloody history of slavery. Between the 4th and 19th centuries Arab and Swahili traders removed about 4 million slaves from East Africa, selling them for work in households and plantations across the Middle East. At first most slaves were obtained from coastal tribes, but as these became depleted, caravans of traders traveled to the African interior, capturing tens of thousands of men, women and children. During the march back to Mombasa, it is said that fewer than one in five survived the journey, most dying from disease or being executed for showing weakness.
If you did survive the march you wren’t much better off. Thousands of African boys were surgically transformed into eunuchs to provide servants to Arab households, and an estimated 2.5 million young African girls were sold as concubines for harems.
Although the slave trade was officially banned in 1870, illicit traders continued to provide africans to Middle Eastern buyers, particularly Oman, who incredibly did not outlaw slavery until the 1960s. If you read the papers, it seems there is still an underground market for child slaves, and not just limited to Africa.