13th May – HomaBay

13/05/18.  HomaBay

Another disturbed night, no power on after 22:30 and I struggle to settle without the Cpap. I look forward to a sneaky 40 minutes when someone sparks up the genny around 06:00. Only it’s Sunday and even in Kenya the place has slowed, no power until after 07:00, by which time I’ve headed back to the pool. It is lovely, the gardens whilst unkempt are beautiful still with a range of exotics in bloom and incredible a large amount of untidy topiary alongside the footpaths. Pool all to myself again, you can see a heat gaze rising from the water in the cool morning air.

Breakfast of a banana, Apple juice, cornflakes, maize meal dumplings and a boiled egg with a couple of slices of brown bread. Each day on the table there is a jar of peanut butter, very dark compared to home, honey and spread. Managed some FaceTime conversations before gathering ourselves together for the journey to HomaBay. Tom had called Sam to arrange for a couple of boda boda to pick us up from the hotel, we would meet with him in. I’d gathered up a couple of fittings to take as patterns in our shopping quest.

We meet with Sam at the major junction below the market area in Ndhiwa, the place bustles with boda boda,  Makati (Gari ya Agora in Swahili – for the little mainly Toyota minibuses, allegedly for 12 people) and  Probox (mainly small Toyota cars used for private hire, like a taxi but with multiple fares on board). I’m to discover are 5 seaters that they actually carry at least 9 with accompanying sacks, boxes and bags. We had originally intended travelling by Makati but Sam called us across to a small Toyota and we climbed into the back seat, there were already 2 in the front and one in the back luggage area. They attempted to squeeze another in on the back seat with the three of us, but those of you who know me, know I’m a big chap and not for squeezing. Despite the protestations I sat firm, I was hard against the door anyway. When they attempted again to get another man onto the back seat, indicating to move up, I simply opened the door and said the only way he’s in is if I’m out. This obviously isn’t the norm there’s raised voices , my door is closed and the lock button put on, which I swiftly undid, no more people offered the back seat. 

Waiting there, a further 2 went in the front , the ‘conductor’ sorted out boxes and sacks in the back and then climbed in holding the tailgate shut. The driver sat on the knee of one of the front passengers and his dues paid to the ‘bus station’ we set off. Bumping and swerving around the potholes, this made for an interesting journey. The driver then pulled into the side of the road and flagged a motorbike coming up, the chap he’d been sitting on got out and went pillion. A few hundred metres up the road was a police road check, apparently now we weren’t overloaded and were waved through, with a comment about ‘and whites as well’. Another few hundred metres and our errant passenger was waiting for us roadside.

HomaBay bus station and it’s everyone out, the driver disappears into the bus station office, presumably to pay his dues for using the facility. Having unfolded ourselves and gathered our bags, Tom and I followed Sam back out onto the main road in search of a builders merchants selling plastics, hot and uneven surfaces slowed me down. We arrive at a supplier with racks of piping , guttering and steel, and Sam starts negotiations. Some pieces we are after, the gutter connectors, we are told that we need to get from Kisumu, if lucky. Other pieces, to repair the repurposed guttering he doesn’t have but sends a lad away to pick up for us. All parts gathered there is further bartering over the costs and Tom settles up. Sam, meanwhile has been using contacts to arrange for the safe storage of the length of pipe we’ve purchased until we are on our return.

Now we’re after ironmongery, apparently we can find this in a market area (bear in mind this is Sunday). Another kilometre of so and there’s the sort of stall we’re after, must have been her lucky day. I watched, Tom and Sam were talking through the job and what we still needed, if it wasn’t laid there on the table, she disappeared off into adjoining buildings and returned preferring the requested items. 

Our purchasing completed and the stash shared around for carrying, we need to find a bank. Kenya is very much a cash society and I’ve watched Tom getting through it like water. Off we head again, through back streets and apparently with purpose. Regrettably the first bank wouldn’t accept his WfK card, a problem he’d experienced earlier in the week in the Co-op in Ndhawi. A Barclays was a couple of hundred metres up across the road.

As we arrive, Sam waves a boda boda down and tells me to get on and the bike will take me. Where, well that was a mystery to me, we weaved through streets, mainly thankfully in fairly good condition and an Ascari (security person) is opening a double steel gate for us. I’m offloaded and my driver informs me to wait. There’s a spare seat opposite the Ascari so I plant myself there, no conversation going on between us other than the traditional ‘jambo’. I can see what appears to be an old colonial hotel, sat in extensive grounds, I can certainly see what must be Lake Victoria off in the distance. I’m not sure how long later my colleagues, banking transactions complete have joined me. Tom had decided that perhaps a sit, a drink and maybe some lunch (13:00) would be good.sat under a tree in what effectively was a huge meadow the others had sodas and I opted for water. Drinks arrived  plus menus, Tom and I have not been bothering with anything midday so far so I opted for a chicken salad from the starter section, Sam had the fish (Tilapia cooked in the same fashion as Tom and I have had for the last couple of nights) and Tom settles for a plate of chips. 

Order taken we just sit and chat, I’m not much or an ornithologist but I could recognise that the flashes of orange shooting in and out of sour tree where orange bishop weavers, birds we’d had in our pub aviary. As to the myriad other colourful birds, I’d no idea, other than there were plenty around and this has been the case during my time in Kenya a proliferation of bird life. It can be fascinating just sat in the hotel garden watching all the beautiful birds. Here though what was really capturing my sights were the many lovely butterflies around, not particularly close, but clearly visible. On asking, I do now find out that we are in the gardens of The Tourist Hotel, HomaBay, not sure an out the hotel, but the grounds are delightful.

Food arrives, my starter salad, at home Diane and I would have shared it, but I munched my way through as did the other through their dishes. Lunch completed and dues paid 2250K$ (somewhere around £18), bargain, we walked back through the security gate to the road and Sam magicked up three boda boda, off we went, initially to a supermarket. Well, while the opportunity presented itself and our hotel being dry, sodas only and I’ve had one of those already this week, I wondered what the Kenyan brandy offering would be like. I happened upon a small selection and opted for a unpretentious looking Kenyan Legend Brandy 750 ml, 40% proof and just 540K$, how bad could it be. Purchases made, back onto the bikes and the bus station, in fact Sam again directed us towards a Probox rather than a Makati.

Sam sits me in the front passenger seat, I’m experienced and ready now, ready for the action. Attempts made and thwarted at sharing my seat with others. A young lady is placed in the drivers seat,, she has a large rucksack,Tom, Sam and three others in the back seat, sacks etc in the rear, plus of course another couple of people, the driver then squeezes in, trying to take the girls bag which she fights vehemently fights. I ask her if it would be OK on my knees and she happily passes it over.. With her legs pressed against the automatic transmission, I note the driver foundling her leg, rather than selecting the gear, well I’ve thee daughters, the dad in me came to the fore. I slapped his hand, pointed out just where the gear lever was and suggested we get going. Dodgy looks, but no further response, we set off, not far and we pull in another two ladies shoehorned in, one in the back and the other in the drivers seat.the young lady is now perched with her legs either side of the transmission and I’m ready, but no issue and we move on. Thankfully this was only a stage of our journey and we climbed out at Rodi, retrieved our pipe from the roof and move around the corner on the road to Ndhawi.

Same story, different vehicle, I’m again in the front passenger seat, this time with only one other and the driver. Ndhawi, boda boda and back to the hotel, it’s only 16:30 but it does seem to have been a very long day. Quick change and into the pool, wonderful to just wash the day away, lazy strokes up and down the pool. Refreshed it’s back to the room and attempt to catch up with the blog. Our evening meal time has settled around 18:00, although it does appear that nothing is started prior to our arrival in the dining room and it can be over an hour before anything appears. Now if the chairs were comfortable that may not have been an issue. In HomaBay I’d attempting haggling down the cost of two foam pads from 500K$ to 450k$,  without success, foolishly I’d not capitulated and left the vendor with his stack of cushions ( Sam later told me the young lad was a student who had been left in charge by his father). Well now was my time regret.

The meal arrived pieces of chicken (always on the bone and not any particular piece of meat that I could identify), obviously the conversation with Gilbert had been passed onto the kitchen. The meat had been maybe braised in a sauce, served with boiled rice, Orago and shredded cabbage, delightful. The rains as ever have come and seem insistent on altering the landscape with their brutality, normally going on for hours at a time. A chat in the reception area alongside my flask of hot water and I remover my earlier purchase, bid a good night to Tom and head off through the rain to check the brandy, amazing not bad, should have bought more, next time, and so to bed under the new mozzarella net that we’ve had sorted out. We’ll just need to get another 5 for the rest of the group

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