So here we are. Chale Island.
We found the right plane in Kigali and eventually arrived at Mombasa at about 9pm. This time all the luggage appeared on the belt and unlike last year, a man with our name on a sign was waiting for us! We gladly jumped into his air conditioned taxi to escape the hot stickiness of the Kenyan night.
Once we had driven through the port, we boarded a ferry back to the mainland. It’s a fairly short distance and I reckon that a bridge would have paid for itself pretty quickly. And would be more efficient.
Gabriel, our taxi driver, competently got us out of the maze of police checks and roadworks and soon we were flying down the road to Diani Beach. So far so good. And then he turned off the tarmac road.
Now I am pretty confident traveller and wouldn’t normally get into a car in a strange country in the middle of the night with just anyone. But the rough unmade track that we followed for the next half an hour or so had me doubting Gabriel’s credibility. Mike was strangely calm but I had all sorts of scenarios running through my head. The track snaked through unlit scrubland, here and there I spotted dilapidated remains of tourist resorts. Sometimes the walls were complete and the gates missing, sometimes, bizarrely the sections of the walls were there and the columns in between had been taken. I felt as if somebody had transported me into a beginning of a horror movie.
Finally we spotted lights. I reassured myself that if they were kidnappers, they would want to keep a low profile and wouldn’t have lights on. That just shows the state of my mind after a day of travelling.
Gabriel stopped the car in a little opening where we saw some other people and vehicles. Thank goodness for that! ‘So, I will say goodbye and have a good holiday,’ he said calmly.
‘You are going to leave us here?’ I looked around in panic. There was a large thatched building with a man sitting behind a desk with a piece of paper and a a torch. His two dogs were slumbering in the middle of the concrete floor. There was that one small group of about five Americans, who were waiting for something and then just darkness and nothing else.
The man with the torch looked at our suitcases and grabbed one of the bags. He told us to follow. ‘Boat or a tractor?’ Gabriel asked him. ‘Boat.’
We walked after the man with the torch down a rickety wooden path to the water edge. I was of course aware that we were going to an island and that in order to get there we must cross some water, but my recent worries left me nervous. Suddenly we heard gentle splashing. Out of the blackness that turned out to be the sea appeared a small boat with a few (quite rowdy) people on board. They noisily thanked the captain and jumped out. My mind took a deep breath and I calmed down.
We were ushered onto the small motor boat with no light and not running motor and only then I noticed that the captain was not in it. He was pushing it.
Chale Island lies about half a mile out in the sea and at low tide you can wade across. We were not asked to do that only because we had our luggage, I think. So the captain turned the boat around and pushed it back to the island (well almost – we ran aground about ten meters from the shore so in the end had to get wet a little).
That would have been strange enough, had we not met a man in the middle of our journey across the sea. He was clearly left behind by the rowdy group and decided to follow. In the dark, alone, on foot. Amusingly, he asked the captain for directions and he told him to follow the road that the tractor uses at the low tide. The man thanked him and waded off.
The receptionist greeted us with smiles and jokes, told us that Chale Island has its own time zone (very confusing as we have one phone with the Uk time, one with Ugandan and so have no idea what time it is at the moment) and all was well. We were given a fantastic room with the ocean view and a balcony and a pretty pattern made out of flowers and soapstone animals. And all that jazz, you know how it is.
When we settled on our little private viewing point and looked into the ink-black sea, I suddenly remembered something.
‘How come you were so calm on the way here?’ I asked Mike. He shrugged his shoulders. ‘I read the reviews and they described the road. I knew where we were going.’
Well thanks for sharing.