Most roads in our part of Kenya are either in a state of disrepair or under construction. Mainly, you are driving on shoddily constructed roads with crater-like, car-swallowing potholes and sharp unmarked speed bumps, all threatening to destroy your car and strand you on the side of the road. Either that, or you are driving directly through road construction as it happens with only a hint of how avoid the beastly machinery blocking your way. You have to clutch the steering wheel and tell the kids to hold onto their seats as you bump along the “diversion” (under Construction).
Why the constant disrepair and repair? I’ve been told road construction is a big boondoggle. Apparently, a big proportion of the road budget goes to greasing palms, so things like quality cement and other important ingredients for road making get short changed. The road lasts half as long as predicted and the boondoggle starts again.
But when the road is completed it’s … well…. amazing. Some of your journey is inevitably on fresh road, and you sail by feeling like you’re on a high speed train. Like you’re time traveling. But don’t get too comfortable because this is actually where the worst of the road accidents happen at the absence of potholes, diversions or speed bumps lulls long haul drivers into careless and often lethal complacency.
While on the speeding lane, the only lane, then you meet NTSA. The guys with the speed gun. They always know where to get you. Which is unfair because you would think that speed enforcement should be done justly. But wait a minute, Not here. So then, you find yourself paying a cash bail of Kshs 5,000…….and you are appearing in court on Tuesday at 9am. Whether you are at your destination or back where you started, court will be at least four hours drive.
So the roads in Kenya are no picnic. And speaking of picnics… you better pack one, because there are no fancy roadside restaurants, drive-throughs or convenient stores. There are tons of roadside vendors, but unless you can make a snack out of a kilogram of potatoes, some tomatoes and an uncut pumpkin, you’re out of luck. So we do not hesitate to buy dinner, a little grocery….maybe a lot of it. Some snack……roasted maize. There is also cold yogurt at Delamere……right on the road. You drive in the darkness for a long time, then you are lucky to see the sunrise. Suddenly everybody wakes up, hell breaks loose. The sun becomes hotter, the road becomes busy and people become mean. All in one day. Then there is mother nature, with all her mercy, and suddenly you have no visual.
So I ask myself, why do I keep doing this? Its fun, yeah trust me. Except for the fact that you have to pay for a cash bail on your overspeeding, living life with some sense of danger is a normal thing here in Kenya. Sometimes danger is an enemy. But when she is a friend, we make good use of her. Stay around her and interact with her greatly while exploiting her resources. All this for the hope of seeing what lies at the destination. A different life, cultures, landscapes and family. To be able to see them, you have to go through this, maybe more. Today you are enjoying your drive, tomorrow you are spending the night in the middle of nowhere. Funny but close to reality.
You want some action. A darkness encounter, the heat and cold. The animals, mother nature…… you know, the same kind of action you want from an episode of the Real Housewives of somewhere. Or so I hear.
I want to see the world, so I take on it bit by bit.
This year, I will be ending the year somewhere in the middle of Johannesburg, I have no idea what happens in Jozi when the year is ending. My first time to usher in a new year in South Africa, I was in East London in Eastern Cape. The venue of action was Ebuhlanti Beach Front also known as Marina Glen, the most popular hang-out spot in East London. On this day, Buffalo City Metro organized a concert that was free for everybody.
Looking forward to now my present situation – being that I will be ushering the year in Jozi, I had to contract the help of google, to just make sure I will be at the right place when that time comes. If you have used google, you will know how quick he is when it comes to solving this kind of problems. Among the top two spots as advised by google was; Greensleeves Medieval Kingdom, this is always a hit (so google says)– certainly something different and fun! End of year function at Greensleeves Medieval Kingdom in Sterkfontein. They offer you superb food along with Medieval Feasts, DJs, costumes and entertainment to give you the perfect end-year event after a long year. (It already sounds good to me).
Vegas Nights, a fantastic idea if you are planning on having a Las Vegas-themed year-end office party. They offer a great variety of the most loved and exciting games from Vegas to spice up any occasion. Play a bit of Blackjack, Poker or Roulette and Craps and Vegas Nights can tailor make your fun gaming year-end event depending on your budget, venue, concept and number of guests! (I am a married man, and what the movies say is that some people who desired a Vegas experience ended up being married with the least of their knowledge).
My end year picks are now down to two, Vilakazi Street in Orlando West or 7th street Melville. This two places give you a true picture of what it means to be South African. 7th Street is home to many hotels and restaurants but for this end year the restaurant the catches my heart is .Xai Xai Lounge, Melville.
Local musician and journalist, Chris du Plessis, runs this lively yet laid-back cocktail bar, rumoured to be the hottest joint on the Melville Strip. Pronounced Shy Shy, the lounge is modelled on the much loved cocktail bar of the same name in Maputo.
Expect décor that is Mozambique inspired, with a jungle-meets-ocean theme and drinks to match – beers and tropical cocktails. The word on the street is that this cocktail bar serves the best Caipirinhas in Joburg as well as other whacky numbers like Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel.
The cool clientele is an intriguing mix of hippy types, local artists, intellectuals and bohemians, who gather at Xai Xai to engage in heated conversation over cocktails and Mozambican beer. If all this debating makes you hungry, the lounge serves great Portuguese-African fare.
“With tables spread along the pavement, red formica chairs, red tablecloths and chilled Laurentina lagers, it’s like Maputo without the heat and mosquitos”………so they say.
But then, ushering a year in Jozi without Vilakazi Street is already starting a year wrong, because this place, is where the true South African spirit is, I mean. Vilakazi Street is the most famous street in Soweto and it the only street in the world to have had two nobel prize winners as its residents. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived and live in Vilakazi Street. Nelson Mandela’s house has become a museum and the Tutu’s house is still used as a normal home by the Tutu family.
Sakhumzi Restaurant on Vilakazi Street gives you an authentic Soweto experience with a buffet of a wide variety of local dishes, from the starter to dessert that has a combination of cake, blue berries and ice cream. Which makes me wonder why this are not top of Google’s list of top 10 spots in Jozi to usher in your new year. My thought is that this is Johannesburg, not a small village in Malawi. My way of ending the year maybe small or on budget or troubled, but here is where the big boys live, and am sure there is a big party somewhere, beyond my pockets reach.
So wherever you usher in your new year, I hope your wishes for 2017 come true for you and come end of the year, we will be taking stock yet again.
The city of Durban is known for being a natural paradise with its sun-kissed beaches and subtropical climate. It is built around one of the busiest ports in South Africa, but it’s the city’s scenic coastline which is the ultimate attraction and has become a hit among cycling enthusiasts.
Durban’s beachfront promenade was revamped in 2010 and has grown into a revitalising space for runners, walkers, skaters, and cyclists who flock to the promenade for a sporty day of fun in the sun, or to take in the ocean breeze during their daily workout.
Durban – The Ethekwini municipality is in the process of creating about 40km of cycling lanes in Durban and the surrounding townships, which they hope will change the face of transport in the city.
I have been a guest of this city for the last 10 days and I should say, while Durban has not yet achieved its dream of ‘WALKING DURBAN’, they are on the way there. In most parts of the city, they may have achieved the 40km of cycling or almost. What they need is to cultivate the culture in the people. Thanks to my host for the AirBnB we have been staying, we were privileged to have two mountain bikes, one for me and one for my wife. The location we were staying was just perfect for cycling, down florida road to Moses Mabhida Stadium, then cross to the waterfront. The Moses Mabhida has endless open spaces for cycling, and it also houses a cycling shop where you can rest a bike.
Durban certainly houses a few popular cycle routes that offer a revitalising outdoor experience for the everyday cyclist. The must-see attractions in the town is the Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park in Pinetown and the MTB Trails in Karkloof which is regarded as the best trail riding destination in South Africa. Another place you can see while on your bike is the Durban Botanical Garden, while the don’t allow cycling inside the park, it provide fresh sights for a cyclist who loves to engage with nature on a personal level.
With Durban eager to make itself a bicycle-friendly city, the aQuellé Tour Durban has been embraced by recreational cyclists as a significant opportunity to take full biking advantage of. The annual 45km fun ride begins and ends at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, taking riders through the M4 up to Umdloti and back, with striking views of the sea throughout.
The city also has a few well known bike clubs that offers cyclists a place to gather, host weekly events and socialize. Cyclesphere and Kings Park Cycling Clubs are two such examples of the many bike clubs that the city has to offer. A personal visit to cyclesphere gave me my birthday gift, a Giant 29er mountain bike that they were giving on a great offer. I have had a chance to test it, before it was wrapped in a box ready for Johannesburg, before I fly it to Kenya.
Sanibonani kusuka kimi lapha eGoli.
Today and reporting from the city of Johannesburg. Its said that this, is a divided city – the poor mostly live in the southern suburbs or on the peripheries of the far north, and the middle class live largely in the suburbs of the central and north. This is my third visit in Johannesburg and for me its a special visit. I have come here while on a harry to get somewhere else, and that place has always been East London in eastern cape – a place I have called home for the times I have visited South Africa. Most of the friend that lived in East London are now back in Nairobi, today, its sad am not visiting East London.
Am here with my wife Naomi, we just got married and what away to start our marriage. Jo’bourg as they call it is a place full of life. Joburg is a vibrant, diverse, cosmopolitan city: a melting pot of nationalities, races, religions and cultures. It offers a unique blend of first-world sophistication and emerging market vitality. The City is renowned for its hospitality – possibly because many residents weren’t born here but have been attracted by the lively job market and upbeat lifestyle. Joburgers excel at making people feel welcome. As foreign investment continues to grow, Joburg is becoming home to large concentrations of foreign residents and it is not unusual to hear French, Portuguese, German, Italian, Greek, Hindi or Mandarin around town.
We started our trip here with a stay in Kempton Park, a town thats hosts the O R Tambo International Airport. Every morning we jogged the streets of Kempton Park. Took a Gautrain to Sandton, an Uber to Emperor Palace and a taxi back to our hotel. Since we arrived here everybody has been so kind to us so much that we have felt at home struggling in our Zulu disability. Many times I have visited here have not helped me in polishing my Zulu, I know a little of Xhosa but when you are in Jo’burg ‘Xhosa is a conquered tribe’ my phrasebook comes in handy.
We then moved to Riviera, down the streets after our drop at the Sandton Gautrain Station. This neighborhood is home to the Johannesburg Zoo and the Military Museum of South Africa. When jogging in the morning, we meet a lot of people jogging too. The pake of the Lake Zoo is good for walks and relaxing and it offers nature lovers a peaceful time to enjoy and reflect on the sights and sounds. We have had the opportunity to visit this places, and we are grateful for the value they have added in making our trip memorable. One of the things we really wanted to do in the Bungee jump at the Orlando towers, well, we managed to get there after a lot of missed turns with our Cell C TUK TUK driver and when we finally did, we didn’t get the days right and we only managed to do a tour. The bungee jump starts on wednesday and ends on the Sunday, the other days they only do tours.
We have made two trips to Pretoria, one Metro Rail which took 1 hour and forty five minutes, with a million stops. When we finally got there we were so pressed for time we could manage only a walk on the streets and a few photos. Thank God that the following day, our Host organized another trip, we drove in his 2006 Lexus Sedan on the Gauteng road and in less 30 minutes we were in Pretoria. We spent the morning touring the downtown, Union building and the Freedom Park, and our afternoon at Voortrekker Monument.
Johannesburg is weird, because half of it is like Los Angeles. It feels like just wealthy parts of L.A. But half of it is severe slummy, something like Rio De Janiero or something. So it’s kind of weird, because it’s both happening at the same time. But this is home for many, the half wealthy and the half poor, going around with their toils, some in posh coupe convertible enjoy the nice roads, the N1, N2, N3s and others walking to find their destination. Some jogging around the Johannesburg Zoo, some cycling and some wondering why they have to live with animals in the city. Everybody here calls this home, and its been home for us too. But beauty, beauty is seen in everything, in the posh skies of Sandton or the poor streets of Orlando, we see beauty everywhere.
As we continue to tour this great nation, tomorrow we head to Kwa Zulu Natal, we will be in Durban City enjoying the sun and the listening to the songs of the Ocean. We will keep up with our updates on the social media platform. You will love the pictures.
For now, Vilakazi Street is calling.
Nairobi is normally sunny in November, but since the rising temperatures, lately its become cold and rainy during this month. This week, with my wedding coming up, its has been really busy for me trying to get everything in order for the big day. Hagen, Christine and Joerg are visiting and attending the wedding.
While here, they have had a chance to visit the giraffe centre, Kazuri beads, Kitengela glass, Hells Gate, Tigoni Tea Firms, Brackenhurst, Helipad at Kenyatta conference centre and Maasai Market. Bramwel and I have had a great chance of being with them touring around and having meaningful conversation and fun. We have had intelligent discussions trying to understand how different governments are working.
We have shared meals in different places, the habesha – the ethiopian restaurant in Kilimani, Amaika-the traditional restaurant with Luhya foods, Kilimanjaro – The somali owned restaurant known for serving costral food like Pilau and Biryani, on their first day here having dinner at the Java Restaurant at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and also had to visit other Java Restaurant to just taste their drinks and snacks.
On one morning we went for a walk at the Nairobi arboretum, it was a rainy cold morning but we managed to for a moment to forget about the weather and focus on just nature. On one evening it was dry and sunny. It was just sad to see how people have managed to grab the wetland around the Nairobi river and how the river has been polluted. The park is also not clean and we have signs of big trucks driving into the park, one would wonder what they are looking for.
It was great that we had a car to move around, we avoided the rain but were stuck in traffic many hours. Sad to say that traffic in Nairobi is a common thing and its really difficult to give an estimate in your time of arrival-something that is really different from when you are in switzerland or any other city in Europe. On some days it was sunny and it was nice, on others rain and traffic and we had to overcome.
My friend Bramwell had to drive back to Kisumu to pick his family. He was arrested first for over speeding and had to pay Ksh. 20,000 in fine, and after that was done he got a small accident just 30KM from Kisumu. He hit a cyclist, and had his wind shield smashed and bumper damaged, then he had to take him to hospital to make sure everything is fine with him and he is able to go home. The incident happened at night, and after that he managed to get to his family before midnight.
What makes this week special is that while I was preparing for the wedding, I had time to just enjoy the company of my friends. This was really special. And on the day of my rehearsal, we were all in Limuru preparing for the big day. Joerg was taking picture while Christine and Hagen were getting me through this marriage workshop, on how to be a better husband. I would say everything has gone well because I have survived the first day.
Hagen and Christine has since travelled to Malindi, they flew from Wilson Airport and I hope they are well in Malindi. Bramwell just passed at the house with family and it was good that Jeorg had an opportunity to meet them. We have dinner today at the restaurant just up the road and tomorrow, sightseeing and saying goodbye to Jeorg at 6pm. Hagen has the board game (Bao) and Joerg has the bracelet from Elephant hair. Everybody is happy and the week has ended. Its all sunny in Nairobi again, after a week of playing ‘hide and seek’ with the rain.
A lot can be said about Europe, and this time, the debate about who stays in the EU and who leaves. Britain will be holding a referendum, which will determine their fate. But you cannot miss the immigration issue, the big topic that has put everyone on an alert. This is the time that member countries have tried to undo the NO-boarder policy. And for me, this might not be the best time to visit this land of milk, honey and the sunny side up. First you have to go through a lot of scrutiny, as for me, my visa was denied until I had to appeal. Then you are on the watch, every step, when you arrive until the day you leave.
This did not dampen my spirit. I traveled to Barcelona to attend the JandBeyond conference, one of Joomla World Event. And when we landed and had disembarked, I was pulled aside by a Spanish Police, who expected me to respond to questions asked in Spanish. On learning that I couldn’t speak Spanish, he pulled me aside for a while. I can not blame him though, I was the only black person on the plane that had arrived from Istanbul, Turkey.
The best story is that I had a wonderful time in Barcelona, meeting my fellow Joomlars, I networked and had fun during my stay there. Jab16 was a great conference for me, it was the first time I was attending a Jab conference and I was not disappointed. After the conference, it was my birthday, and Rowan Hoskyns-Abrahall picked me from the hotel for a city tour with Alison Meeks. We visited the dead, who rested on the hill facing the sea. Later that day she made dinner for all. Cliff Pfeifer, George Wilson and David Steadson were in the house and when Rowan brought the cake, with candles waiting for me to make a wish. David was singing in Swedish while George was taking the video. This was one of my most treasured moment. The following day we went on a tour that ended at Makamaka Beach Burger Cafe for lunch and later I took my train to Perpignan, France.
Christine and Hagen Graf had booked my train to France and after driving 2000 Km from Germany, they arrived in good time to pick me. I was expected, and that felt good, I remember Christine’s first words after we had hugged was that she hoped I drink bubble water-carbonated water to be precise. Off course I did not forget Hagen picking me from the train station, and we drove 35km to Fitou enjoying the view of the Mediterranean, the lake and the hills where electricity is harvested.
I was at home in Fitou, I must say I have met very few people as kind as my hosts Hagen and Christine. They have a passion for improving old houses and giving them a new look, and all this they do with their hands. When Hagen talks about this, he says that they are preparing for their retirement, which might be true, but for me, I understand passion when I see one. I had my own apartment, the bed was big enough for my and my pillow, with a nicely decorated bedside lamp and side table. My bedroom was upstairs, the ground floors was filled with Kitchen machinery I never used a dinning table that I placed my key every time I was home and a sitting room that I sat in less than two minutes everyday.
Breakfast was served 8:30am every day except the day I was departing, then we had do earn our lunch, Hagen was demolishing the basement of my apartment to fit in a garage. We called that the demo day, and earned strawberries and Yogurt for lunch. We had to dump the waste some 5 km away, this is Europe, you just don’t put shit everywhere. This was my personal time with Hagen, we talked like real men, about real stuff. After a days work we were happy at the dinner table with candle light, Christine would prepare a meal and served, Hagen worked on the wine department, and kept our glasses half full, I was the handy man, the person who did not have a job description but still worked on something. Then we talked and laughed into the dark.
We jumped to the garden many times, through something that looked like a window but served as a door. One day while I was at the garden, Christine said “David can you please close the window for me” and I had to ask, whether it was a window or a door. I also picked strawberries from the garden, the day Jörg came and we went with him to buy Oysters and something I can’t remember. We also went to the lake so that he could show me how Oysters are kept. I tried my hand on dinner that day, with off course the help of Christine. And it was candles, wine and Oysters.
The following morning Jörg left for Switzerland early in the morning. The story was that he was wearing a camping light on his head, he did not want to switch on the light and wake Christine up, the story was funny. And that same day I earned my off day, 50 Euros and we went out for lunch. That afternoon we had a wonderful moment with Christine, walking around and testing wine. Then we finally arrived at the mayor’s office and bought some post cards. Later that day when I asked Hagen to sign them for me, he complained about the quality, opening his Flicker, he showed me with pictures he had taken himself, how beautiful Fitou is and kept complaining about the Mayor’s post cards.
During the neighbors party, there was food and drinks surrounded by people, some were crazy and others where just having a good time. Then there was loud music that went on the whole night and Christine could not sleep. The following morning, Hagen being a good husband tried to console her with words of encouragement, and it worked. The day before my travel was the family day out, there was no work. In the posh car we drove to Perpignan, walked around the market, ate chocolate and bought chicken for lunch. We later went to the beach and while we were walking this couple kissed by the sea for 15 minutes.
When my travel date arrived, I had wine from Fitou in my bag. Hagen drove me to the airport-in Barcelona. He had to pay for all the tolls. I remember telling him that I have seen him touch his wallet more that he touched his phone. But despite being stopped after entering Spain, we were still in high spirits when we arrived at the airport and Hagen after checking me in had to do the return home alone. I can see Christine welcoming him home when he arrived, that’s how she is. Hagen says that “when I met her, my life changed completely. Now am happy” But that change came with him having to eat more salad. For me, I was lucky, every morning she prepared my sunny side up, but she told me I should not eat eggs everyday.
I have since returned home and to be honest, eggs are now unthinkable luxury. All I can say is Europe was good to me, not the continent but the people, and I will forever be thankful for the wonderful moments I had in Fitou.