Avaes Mohammad

Kenya: NAIROBI TO MOMBASA 2 (300409)

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm



I’m on this journey for the second time. It’s still as beautiful and wondrous as the first, except this time my head is full already with what it is I leave behind me. My second time in Nairobi I arrived with fever, said goodbye to my mother as she flew back to the UK, was nursed to health by practical strangers, put myself into a hostel, met local artists and cultural activists and spent at least some time everyday with a wonderful new friend, Nivi.

As I leave currently, I’m surprised at what’s occupying my thoughts. During my time at the backpackers hostel I met many new people. People who worked there that I developed new friendships with and also fellow travellers. Every evening ended with tables overburdened with empty beer bottles, songs and jokes around the fire and stories. Stories of our adventures across Africa shared with each other as though they were our war wounds; badges testifying to our presence here like lovers names carved into trees. My badges are relatively babyish. I can’t equal being chased by Lions, running over the head of a hippo only to run out of petrol 20 yards ahead of it, catching malaria, having insects laying eggs between my toes (inside!) or being invited to a wedding in Ethiopia to witness demons being exorcised from the bride. These evenings however, the people I met, the time and stories shared; with these I’ll begin my badge collection.

It’s strange, meeting travellers in hostels. There’s camaraderie from the onset. People who collectively relate to the same fears and hopes. People who share almost childish western frustrations, like ‘why do we have to bribe police officers and border officials?’ and people who can relate to hating Celine Dion but loving the new Kings of Leon album. More than this though, these strange encounters allow for something unexpectedly beautiful. Mainly because we’ll probably never see each other again, there’s amazing care and respect in these encounters. Sometimes love. As well as sharing badges, sometimes, we share far more personal tales. Sometimes, shockingly, we trust each other with intimate truths about ourselves. I’ve heard people say it’s easier to confide in strangers. I don’t think that’s the entire truth of this matter. As the early hours approach, as flames on the fire pacify themselves, and as riotous intoxications loosen their grip around some of us, it becomes startlingly clear that despite the various nationalities, accents and stereotypes sat around the fire together, we’re all surprisingly similar. We’ve all walked out to discover. At some point we’ve all stopped and thought…’Hmm. Life is short. And precious. I need to live it a bit more. The world is beautiful and giving. I need to see it, take a bit more. Soon I’ll be dead.’ In whichever way, we’ve all sought to be masters of our own destinies. Unshaven, undernourished, tired renegades sharing the same fears and hopes. But one more thing that becomes clear around the fire is that despite the adventures, the free-spirited travelling and the non-conformity, perhaps we’re all also running. The aid workers, the environmental scientists, the travellers, the entrepreneurs, the writers. Maybe we’re all just running from something. An unsaid truth sparkles like a silver, shimmering thread between us, like a fear. Running away might be becoming the habit of a lifetime. Maybe.

It’s safe to say whatever we want. To confide whatever we like. We won’t see each other again. We hug and wish each other well for the rest of our adventures. And I hope that sometime in the future I will meet South African Bob again, maybe by a South American roadside, or meet American Eddie in a Hungarian Hostel or Italian Valentina in an Indian Chai-wallas, so we can share new badges with each other. For now, I miss them.




she came onto me!

she came onto me!

I love travelling. I’ve been pretty much addicted to it for years now. Sometimes I feel like I’m cursed to a life on the road forever. Other times I wonder whether it is a curse. But of all the different means and methods by which I’ve travelled, my most favourite means and method is discovering a new city through the eyes and in the company of a new friend. Through this means, it becomes possible to see the character of a city, it becomes possible to smell, to talk to, to laugh with a city. To see the subtleties of that city’s character personified into one of it’s own. The humour, the cheek, the walk of a city lays herself open to you. Streetlight reflects in her jewellery and the city breeze gives chorus in her hair as she laughs open-heartedly in the same key as city traffic below. Seeing a city through one of its sons or daughters is a blessing and I was blessed in Nairobi with the encounter and friendship of Nivi. With instant laughter between us, we sought to spend time with each other practically everyday for almost a week. Nivi’s an immensely proud Nairobiite. She loves Nairobi as much as I love Manchester. More actually. She showed me around the haunts of Nairobi and together we visited Giraffe park where I snogged a Giraffe (she came onto me!). One evening she took me to sample crocodile meat. I heavily disapprove! I’d forsaken my golden rule of never eating anything that can eat me on this evening, only to become a stauncher advocate of it. I felt that one morsel’s every meandering move while it passed down my gullet. Only with great difficulty did that wrongness manage to stay down. I feel I’ve made an enemy somewhere on a riverbank in Kenya. Like the deceased crocodile’s Kung-Fu brother is venturing on a journey of vengeance as I write this. Never again will I eat anything that can eat me!

This evening too, like many evenings between Nivi and I concluded in childlike laughter and carefree song as we drove down Nairobi highways backlit by passing cars. Unavoidably, Nivi and Nairobi remain inseparable from one another in my memory and I leave Nairobi with images of mischevious, twinkling streetlight, screeching laughter and proud beauty.

One of my favourite things about travelling has to be meeting inspiring new people. Coupled to this though, is always a goodbye.

Nivi doing the Uhuru Park pose

Nivi doing the Uhuru Park pose


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