Mombasa is some 300 miles from Nairobi, included in the journey is the 6,000-foot drop to sea level. As you go down to the coast, the temperature goes up.
We had visited the Kenyan coast and its beautiful white sandy beaches before. Staying in thatched huts just a few yards from the water’s edge and hardly a soul to be seen.
The sun would rise over the Indian Ocean at precisely 6 o’clock and would invite you to take those few steps into the calm warm water. Being on the equator, in exactly twelve hours after sunrise, the sun would set in seconds. Then millions of stars would suddenly appear like diamonds scattered upon a black velvet sky. Stretching through the middle like a jewel encrusted bracelet is the Milky Way.
Today, those same beaches are now covered with tourists, wall-to-wall hotels and light pollution.
Two adults, three children, one cat and a dog with a broken paw were bundled into the car. In those days, the road from Nairobi to Mombasa was only paved a few miles or so at either end. The road was hot and dusty, running close to the railway track and occasionally crossing it. We too had our path halted by wildlife and the odd elephant crossing; the zebra’s had their own.
Our new home was an apartment in an estate consisting of two blocks with garages in the middle. It was situated on the main road to the Likoni Ferry (a drive-on, drive-off variety), which crossed the entrance to Kilindini harbour and took you to the beaches in the south.
The first thing my mother bought was a new car, well not quite new, it was a 1952 MG TD Sports. Looked fast, but due to the age of the engine it was grossly underpowered.
The car was a hit with my siblings and their friends. They would pile in the vehicle, in the dog seat, on the running boards and even on the spare tyre at the back. Ten or so teenagers persuaded my mum to give them a lift to the beach via the Kilindini crossing. It was still fine when they drove down the ramp onto the ferry. On the opposite shore it was a different story. The car commenced to climb the slope after disembarking, but the weight of so many people made the car slide back into the sea. At this point, all but the driver would jump off, getting their feet wet in the process and pushed the old MG up the ramp. A stricter limit on the passenger numbers would’ve been a good idea.
Apart from a causeway in the west, Mombasa was very much an island within a bay and to go north you would have to cross Nyali Bridge (a pontoon bridge).
The Old Port was on the north side of the island where Arab dhows would sail in from the Arabian Peninsula and next to it was Fort Jesus, built in the 1590s by the Portuguese. This was a place for adventures, correction, misadventures and close shaves.