All aboard on board!

Kite surfing and Diani beach totally belong in the same sentence.

Located at the South coast of Kenya, Diani beach is not only sunny and sandy but the beach also has consistent side-shore winds for easy kite take-offs and landings making it one of the best kite surfing beaches in the world!

The warm water is welcoming and the good news is there is almost not a bad season with the best being January to April and June to September.

No wonder Linzi, born and bred in Diani had the perfect chance to learn the sport!

“I learned over 10 years ago, in 2003 when I was 20 years old, it was here in Diani Beach where I was born and bred. It was a new sport then and very few women did it because the equipment allowed very little room for error. If you got it wrong you could be thrown or dragged quite suddenly. Luckily for me, the great wind conditions in Diani allowed for me to learn safely enough. And my instructor Boris polo who started the first ever kite school didn’t let me doubt myself and made sure I stopped wimping out and toughened me up.” She laughs.

She has since developed a love for harnessing the power of the wind!

“Once, a group of us went on a kite trip on a large catamaran which sleeps 8 people. For a week we sailed around the Lamu archipelago as far as north of Kiwayu. Kiting kept us entertained and we kited wherever we found an exposed sand bar or beach. Another occasion saw me go to America where I was teaching kite surfing in Keywest for 3 months. It was on submerged shallow sand flats 15 minutes out to sea and I had crabs pinching my toes in defense thinking they were a shark, and small sharks nibbling my toes thinking they were sand crabs! We were out there on a boat, no land for miles teaching in the water. Apart from Dolphins, dugongs, and turtles we also saw Cubans on the escape to America! I saw the strangest things in America and was quite an eye opener for me.” She recalls

Now, if that’s not fun, I don’t know what is! Thankfully, technology today has given us advanced kites, which allow for more safety and ease and this has seen the sport grow considerably with more and more beginners taking interest in the sport here in Kenya.

“Progress is very quick, from complete beginner to independent rider it takes a matter of days. The difficult part is the kite because flying the kite is counter intuitive. You can be shown how to do something over and over yet you still instinctively do the opposite. Once you have the kite under control you don’t need to think about the board so much and then it becomes natural. But getting to that point takes time and practice. It is a sport that requires at least 6 hours minimum of constant close instruction. But to really get the hang of it would take about 2 weeks. And then to have the experience enough to teach people takes about 6months of continual training. To learn difficult tricks and jumps takes about 2 – 4 years of a lot of practice. However the equipment makes it pretty safe, and it is a very fun process as long as you are committed.” Linzi who also trains kite surfing at H20 Extreme Kitesurf Center says.

“I have been training people for about 7 years now. And training myself about the same amount of time. Every time I go on the water I practice new moves old moves, and think about the next move I want to learn.  As a beginner, here is what you need to know, if in doubt, push out! A beginner instinctively pulls in the bar when they feel like they are going out of control but in fact that is the worst thing to do.” She warns.

Speaking of beginners, if I take the kite surfing course, will I be standing up on the board by the end?

“Tough question to answer. It looks a lot easier than it is but at the same time it is achievable as long as you put in time and effort over time. It is not something you can just pick up on a long weekend at the beach. It depends on each person how quickly you learn. It depends how determined you are to keep practicing even though you have swallowed half the ocean and you look a bit un-cool with a helmet on! The quickest person I have ever taught took 3 days to be off and going. But the longest took a month. As a beginner you need to know that you really want to do the sport because it is not cheap and requires a bit of battering.” Linzi adds.

It may not be cheap, but kite surfing sure sounds thrilling.

“Yes, it has its adrenalin pumping moments. But for me it is more about the challenge, being able to test myself by trying to succeed in landing difficult tricks and jumps which you need bravery and focus to be able to do. There is nothing better than learning a new trick and landing it fluidly.  Kiting gave me a purpose and a group of friends and colleagues something to do. When you travel it makes a big difference to have a sport and something to focus on. In 2006, my sister, 2 friends and I, drove a 28 year old Mercedes from Cape town to Kenya, with the purpose of kiting all the way up the coast at different spots. We kited South Africa east coast, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya. It was such an adventure and was fun to find different conditions in all the different places. This was probably my favorite part of my kiting history! “She gladly recalls.

Linzi’s love for the sport has brought so much meaning into her life leading her to establish South coast’s best watersport center, Kenyaways Kite Village.

“If it was not for kiting and traveling I would not have started the Kenyaways Kite village. It was an idea that came to me after about 4 years of kiting and travelling to different kite spots. I realized there was potential in Kenya and a market for a place where like -minded kite surfers could come and do their thing affordably and comfortably.” She says.

Linzi’s Top Tips:

If you are looking to learn, invest properly into some lessons, minimum of a week and then if you enjoy start looking to get your own equipment, it is expensive but then it will last you about 5 years of fun.

In the beginning, you should always kite with someone who knows what they are doing and who is around in case you get into trouble. That is why a lot of kiters like to kite at a kites school spot where there are instructors, assistants and other kiters who are always willing to give a helping hand.

“Every time I go on the water I practice new moves old moves, and think about the next move I want to learn.” Linzi
Photo courtesy of Anikia Henley
Kite surfing on the Kenyan coast. An outdoor adventure that is icreasingly becoming popular in Africa
Linzi Kennaway @ Richards Bay.
Photo courtesy Anikia Henley

Hell on earth?

There is nowhere quite like Malindi, Kenya. Best known for its white sandy beaches and culinary finesse, this historic Swahili town has a unique culture that has earned it the title ‘little Italy’. But with travelers beginning to appreciate the town’s rich history and exploring other areas of interest besides the beaches and the reef, the town’s attraction is slowly but surely moving away from the trend of utterly depending on the Italian (tour) package.

That said, your enjoyment of this small resort town or lack of it so to speak, depends largely on how highly you value the town’s historical wealth and simple facilities. Old Swahili quarters, a busy open air market, shops, hotels and beach resorts compensate for the beauty salons, boutiques and real estate features that otherwise mark the development of most towns.

The devils kitchen is one such magnet for both domestic and international tourists. Amid the otherwise poverty stricken local community of Marafa lived a rich man way back in the 17th Century. This man owned such a large herd of cattle that the locals acknowledged him to have used milk and not water for his bath! This unwarranted for behavior seemed to have annoyed the gods and to punish him the gods sent down torrents of rain that washed away the man and his family in the night.

This humorous tale according to local legend and folklore among the Marafa people in Malindi, Kenya is their explanation for the depression that is an astounding geological wonder of stalactites and stalagmites formed on limestone rock due to internal geographical forces of denudation.

An hour’s drive from Malindi you’ll find Marafa Hell’s Kitchen, a unique ridge of amazing set of gorges and gullies providing a beautiful landscape to behold. While the depression might not quite compare to the Arizona’s Grand Canyon it is a beautiful sight in its own right, especially when viewed during sunset so the sunrays light up the rocks and sand to reflect thousands of stunning shades of yellow and orange.

Not to be confused by Hells Gate National Park in Naivasha, Kenya, the environs of Marafa Hell’s Kitchen vegetation, both indigenous and traditional plant species, emit various scents during flowering in different seasons, a natural biological process mistaken by the locals’ sense of humour for the smell of food cooking hence the name the devil’s kitchen. There are all sorts of tales around the geological wonder as shared by the guides.

Then we have the dense Arabuko Sokoke forest, a paradise for lovers of bird watching. The 420 square meter forest is a mixture of indigenous and planted tree species, some of which are only found in this forest. Casuarina, a fast growing exotic tree produces expensive wood used on most hotel roofs of the beach resorts found in Malindi, and the gum tree, whose timber is commonly used for electricity poles by Kenya Power and Lighting Company, the Mvule tree are among the tree species found here. Arabuko Sokoke is also home to various small animals, butterflies and birds like Africa’s largest eagle, which can eat dogs and scare monkeys are only spotted here.

The expedition wouldn’t be complete without the Gedi ruins, what remains of one of the typical 14th century Arab African towns along the coast of East Africa after destruction due to war. The ruins depict the Galla people’s way of life. It is believed that a dispute must have risen among the Galla town’s people, causing the war that led to a massive emigration that saw the abandonment of the town by the people.

The name Gedi or more appropriately Gede is a galla word for precious. The town was ruled by the king whose palace’s main entrance can be seen to date. A pointed arc approached by a flight of steps with a bench on either sides leading to a sunken court, which served as the reception. A passage from the reception room leads into a rectangular audience court running in front of the palace’s main block with platforms on either side where the judges would sit during public forums.

Beside the public entrance into the audience court is a group of tombs, including a hexagonal tomb believed to be where the remains of the king was laid to rest.

Unlike the neighboring Lamu and Mombasa, Gedi was essentially a country town as its lime concrete built roots and floor ruins suggests. The people’s colonial way of life is clearly expressed in the nearby Gedi ruins museum where some of the excavations can be viewed.

Forget the rules, let’s talk about sex!

What is it about sex that drives us literally nuts, whichever way you think about it.

The third date rule for instance -who knows where it came from, but many of us (the female fraternity), single or married are familiar with it. You know the one about ‘nice girls’ waiting until the third date before (for lack of a better expression) giving it up? Whoever invented it, you can be sure it wasn’t a woman.

Some say it depends on what you want! Like the girls in my office all agree, if you are feeling fruity and don’t care if he calls or not, there is no point in waiting more than one date to find out what colour his briefs are! But if you are looking for a lasting relationship in this day and age, should we all be pressured to go the distance?

One man I know admitted that if a man wants to have sex on a 1st date, “You should be aware he probably doesn’t plan on seeing you again.” Now, as much as this is refreshingly honest, it is utterly depressing at the same time, I must say, especially if you are single.

But moving on, another very much welcome comment was that “Getting down on the first date doesn’t necessarily influence his decision on where to place you, that is, between a hit and run victim and a serious relationship material.”(his words not mine!)

So maybe the best way to find out if your date is what dating scene terms a “good man” is to hold off. If he gets bored before getting to the sexy stuff, he’s likely to be a “bad male” (or in other terms “that bastard who never called.”)

Funny enough, this doesn’t explain why the man you dated for a month went off and ghosted you as soon as you slept with him or how so many one-night stands can lead to true love!

And speaking of true love isn’t it ironical how the tables turn after you say the magic words, ‘I DO’? After marriage ‘holding off’ is a no go zone whether you like it or not, that is – if you want to stay faithfully married to the same man/woman.

Another man I know helped me put this into perspective, putting it in a rather diplomatic way he said, “As a man when you marry, on top of your list of problems solved is the availability and the frequency with which you get ‘some’. For a man marriage automatically comes with conjugal rights. (Now, I agree that this may be debatable, especially among the females) but what we can all agree on is that for every married couple, some sizzling hot action in the bedroom results into a happy ending for all concerned.

So what I’m I saying? Hmmm…, maybe there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to sex and dating. Maybe the one rule is to forget the rules! But then again, I’m just saying!

Fear nothing but fear itself.

The urge to be “the first” on Mount Everest is very powerful with the biggest accomplished in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay when they became the first to reach the summit and stand at the top of the world.

There have been all manner of ‘Everest firsts’ attempts since then. The first to paraglide off Everest, the first to ski down Everest, the youngest, the oldest person to climb Everest, even the first blind person to climb Everest!

So you can understand my excitement when I got to interview the first Kenyan to attempt summiting the world’s tallest mountain just two days before he left for the then 1st Kenyan Everest expedition.

Perhaps it is the knowledge from other mountain climbers I have been honored to interview about the dangers faced by any climber like the lack of oxygen, the cold, the ice, the wind and the storms or could be its the adrenalin rush from the knowledge in the same measure that people actually conquer this beast that left me both excited and feeling a chill run down my spine at the same time. Truth be told though, the thought that this interview could very well be the last time I saw this guy alive kept hovering somewhere in the back part of my head.

Have you ever interviewed someone as a writer and yet be lost in your own line of thought at the same time. My mind literally created vivid visions of a fun climb that quickly turns into an unforgiving nightmare. Suddenly you are blinded, you feel the wind freeze the blood in your veins, you can’t think and you can’t find your way anywhere! Alarming fear grips you as your mind falls into a helpless dizziness. You can’t feel your fingers, neither can you your toes. There is ice on the white, dying tissue on your face and the roaring wind drowns your desperate yells for your fellow climbers but nooo, it’s too late for anything! This right here is why my dream of climbing a mountain still remains just that, a dream.

Could be the old adage you’ve got nothing to fear but fear itself is a real thing. It’s got to be.

I still do want to climb a mountain and when, or shall I say if and that’s a big if I get round to it, it will definitely be a first for me. One thing is for sure though in addition to wading of my fear, wired somewhere in my brain will be the wisdom to remember not to let my ego get me killed.

On top of the world looking down on creation!

Beginning your year on top of the world looking down on creation, now how cool is that!

“It is awesome! A unique experience, an exhilarating feeling. I can’t relate it to anything else; you’d have to be up there to know what I mean.” Mary beams as we pull out our seats at a coffee shop to catch up with our otherwise busy lives.

Well, I don’t know about that, I mean there’s a reason why my dream of climbing at least one mountain remains just that, a dream! True, the higher you go the cooler it becomes but let’s face it, every step you make going up a mountain isn’t exactly ‘cool’ and besides I don’t know that I have stout enough legs and lungs, I laugh.

“Oh, you need them as stout as they can get my friend! It is the hardest thing I have ever done! It took every strength in my bones and all the willpower I could master. It’s the furthest I have ever pushed my mind, my body and my soul!” She sighs.

Let me bring you up to speed. To begin the year in style, Mary embarked on an unforgettable 5 day adventure (to which I was invited but I chickened out, I must add) so she grouped up with some adventurous friends and  set off for Point Lenana, one of the three major peaks of the picturesque Mount Kenya. 

All packed up, the group arrived at the base of the mountain ready for some fun!

“We were so excited and all pumped up with adrenalin.  To help us adjust to the difference in altitude we went up a certain level, not too far in and returned to the base to spend the night in preparation for the real deal the next morning!”

So did your system actually adjust and get acclimatized to its new environs?  I ask rather curious.

“Well, let’s just say I found new respect for water! You had a throbbing headache, you had some water, you caught muscle ache, you had some water, you got a nausea attack, you drank some water, water became medicine! It’s true what they say that water is life.” She laughs.

 “People reacted in very different ways, some threw up, and others got sick in the stomach and couldn’t stop visiting the ladies! I had a throbbing headache that wouldn’t go! Besides it rained the whole night, the first night was the coldest. But after being sick in the night we all woke up fine and were ready to go up.” She adds. 

If you have ever climbed a mountain before you know this but for the benefit of those of you, like me who are still “planning” on it, there’s a reason you don’t just get to the base and go all the way up, the semi climb up and then return to the base on the first day is so your body can act up all it wants before rewiring itself to the new found environment and having to work with thinner oxygen and all. Such was the case for Mary.

But back to our story, “So the ascend begun”. I state

“Yes, we started off well, the base is all green and beautiful, there are antelopes, buffalos, monkeys but after about 10km climb, the terrain got tricky. After 30km we came to a stop at the Narumoro river to refill our water bottles before later making a stop at the Met Station for the night. Day 2 was the longest and hardest; you go through the bamboo forest, past the burnt forest and on to the rocky forest. You get so frustrated, some people got moody, and by this time you are soo tired talking takes soo much energy so you all move quietly lost in your own thoughts. At this point you are probably above 1000 feet with an altitude of 3048.  It is so cold you get numb, your body just moves like a robot. The body actually does what the mind tells it. From 8 o’clock you get to the next stop over at 6pm (Mackinders camp) (here people’s true character come out. Someone broke into a fit, one of the ladies cried for two hours nonstop. Some got so angry, there is this feeling of frustration, you want to give up but can’t because you are too far gone, you get to learn and tolerate different characters. It teaches you team work on another level for all you have is each other in the middle of nowhere. It’s a happy angry feeling.

The last leg starts at 3am in the morning, so you can reach up before the snow melts 

The hardest thing is having to keep going and not knowing where exactly you are going, its somehow like life, you don’t know the future but you have to do your best to advance toward the future.

The biggest lesson I learnt is that the body can do anything the mind tells it. There’s an inner power that pushes our spirit. Now in life when I’m faced with a challenge I look back at my experience and I know that nothing could ever be harder than that and if I went through to the top, I feel like I can go through anything. Nothing can be harder.

I’m not sure where Mary’s shared experience of going up My. Kenya left me with my ambition to go mountain climbing but one thing is for sure, watching her hands go up in recollection of the several moments she nearly gave up, noticing the regular shudder of her foam and seeing her face light up at the series of her AHA! Moments inspired me in more than one way.

I’m curious though, have you ever gone mountain climbing and if so what was your experience?

Yours truly bellachrise

The first time I ever traveled out of my figurative backyard, my country, I was literally running away from a heartbreak or should I say attempting to as naive as it may sound escape from myself. Now even though putting physical distance from the situation didn’t help me much with the inside healing I desperately wanted, the flip side of this whole emotional turmoil of a situation is that what started as an escapism habit for me (trust you me there were a couple more “escap” ades) turned into a genuine love for travel. While I can’t tell you exactly at what point my relationship with travel blossomed from infatuation into a love affair, I know for sure that in letting my spirit of adventure carry me to different parts of the world and recognizing the humanity we all share as beings in the process of learning other human’s ways I have grown and learnt some profound life lessons.