|Days 10-12, 11-13 July 2010: Beach holiday in Tiwi
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
Most of our three days in Tiwi passed in a blur of blissful laziness. On the first morning, I woke early enough to catch the sunrise on our bit of beach. To my surprise, I found the sea very calm. The tide exposed the top of the shallow reef nearly out to the breakwater, so it was possible to walk out several hundred metres from shore. I stuck to the shoreline to avoid disturbing the fishermen hard at work near the breakwater. I couldn’t help disturbing hundreds of tiny, camouflaged crabs that skittered diagonally up the beach and out of my path. I collected small cowries and any other whole, pretty shells that I could find that weren’t occupied by hermit crabs (not many).
Carrying the shells up to our cottage in the skirt of my dress, I spread them on the balcony to dry and crept back to bed. When we finally rolled out of bed, everyone was ravenous. We consumed sausages and eggs and fruit salad. Bellies abloat, we toddled to the beach to lounge in the sunshine, swim, snorkel, retire to the pool when the sea got rough, swim and quench our thirst with cool drinks from the bar.
We had been told at supper in the restaurant the previous evening that the World Cup match (Holland v Spain) would be played at 5:30 PM, so we showered and dressed in time to drive to nearby Diani, where there was a comfortable beach bar featuring several large televisions. We were disappointed to find the televisions showing the Tour de France. This, as we discovered to further disappointment, was because the World Cup match started at 9:30 PM. We made the best of it and found a table on the beach to have cocktails. The beaches in this area weren’t private, unlike those at our cottages. This meant that as soon you took a few steps away from your table, you were accosted by beach boys trying to sell you tat (mostly jewelry) or get something from you (mostly cigarettes). We returned to our table, shedding them by the cartload. Everyone except me ordered pizza. I had a lamb burger in pita bread with mango chilli sauce and tzaziki. My supper definitely won. After eating, we took over the foosball table (table football if you’re English, although this is one of the few instances where I think the American word is superior). We got through several ferocious rounds before our now dour waiter came to inform us that, though the game table dispenses balls freely, we were supposed to put in Ksh20 per game. I found it odd that he was more upset about this than about our abrupt abandonment of our previous table or the amount of noise we were making. It seemed peculiar to quibble about it when we’d spent so much on drink and food. The bar was filling with expats and all the comfortable seats had been claimed even before our arrival, so we decamped back to the cottages.
We clustered around a small TV at the bar to try and stay awake during a match that, despite an astonishing quantity of yellow cards, egregious fouls and amateur dramatics, still managed to be very boring. I couldn’t cope after 90 minutes when the 0-0 scoreline indicated extra time and penalties, so I went back to the cottage to drink tea with the girls. The boys returned to tell us the result (1-0 to Spain). They looked as pained at having had to sit through the rest of the game as I felt at the outcome, which meant I only won £10 in the office sweepstakes instead of £22.
The next day, the boys went down to the beach early in the morning to meet Chico, a wiry fisherman with a large grin topped by a weirdly adolescent moustache. He took them in his dhow to a place in the reef called Starfish Village to go snorkeling. The girls went to the salon for manicures and pedicures. We met up again at noon, sunburnt and preened respectively, and headed for the pool to swim. The boys made avocado salad and a beautiful pasta for lunch. After another stint at the beach, we ended up at the restaurant on the sofa ordering cocktails. We cleverly ordered our food while drinking them, having learnt about the sloth-like pace of the service on our first evening at the cottages. Our seafood was delicious and had improved in quality on the previous visit as well. We ordered mixers and beers to take back to the cottage. I discovered that Konyagi - some gin-like stuff that Anne had bought in Tanzania for £6 - went well with Sprite, and shared my discovery with others. There wasn’t much Konyagi left in the morning.
Bloke on the beach at sunrise
Our last full day in Tiwi began with a discussion about whether or not to go to the Kaya Kinondo Sacred Forest. George and Anne weren’t keen, and since it was our last day with them we decided to spend it lounging by the beach and the pool. This was in no way objectionable to anyone.
The bloke and I headed off to find Chico to talk him into another snorkeling jaunt. We wanted to go to the African Pools, so named for their shape. After a brief haggle, he led us out across the coral. We walked slowly along for 40 minutes and suddenly angled in toward the cliff face. Even at first glance, the pools were breathtaking. The coral suddenly dropped away into deep blue pools filled with colourful shoals, from inch-long tetra to hand-length zebra fish. The pools extended back into the cliffs and became darkly ominous in their shadows. They extended out into the reef and became so choked with seaweed that the fronds tickled our bellies as we snorkeled through them.
We spent over an hour exploring the pools. We saw wrasse, pufferfish and parrotfish. Two octopi spat sand at us from their hiding places. Brightly striped sea cucumbers adorned the coral ledges with the anemones. We passed our hands through the shoals of tetra, watching them dart away and reform a short distance away, regarding us. We emerged, chilled, into the sunshine and Chico led us back to our cove. We bought two large, bright shells from his collection before he shook hands with us and was back off the coral like a shot to do some more fishing before the tide rushed back in and the waves made the reef impassable.
We found the others by the pool, ebullient after a couple of rounds of drinks. We settled in to join them and catch some sun while finishing our books. Eventually it was time to drop off George and Anne at the Likoni ferry. We didn’t have much food left in the house, so when Duncan and Liz returned from this errand, we opted to have our last meal at the restaurant, following our model for coping with the speed of service. Since I’d tried the fish in coconut sauce and the ginger crab, it was time for a change. I had the seafood curry. It was tasty. We returned to the cottage to polish off the remaining rum and Konyagi with coconut water from the coconuts we’d bought the previous day.