Wednesday, September 20, 2006

South Mombassa Ferry Service

When traveling to South Mombassa in Kenya it is necessary to ride a ferry across a short gap of water to what seems like an island. However I am not sure if the South Coast is an island or weather the airport and main city is on an island. In fact these ferry crossings left me totally disoriented. I spoke to a bunch of drivers and they all tried to explain to me that there is no island but the only way across the water is this 10 minute ferry ride. The docking side is clearly visible from the boarding.

The queue to get on to the ferry usually takes about 10-15 minutes. As with most loading and unloading stations, there was a small market on either side of the road. The vendors there were catering to tourists selling beads and handicrafts as well as to locals selling cold drinks, warm food, and cheap clothes. I noticed some vendors displaying some fresh fish as well.

First they allow all the cars and busses on to the ferry and then the pedestrians were allowed to board. Most drivers and car passengers stay in their rides that are parked along the center of the vessel. The pedestrians crowd on to the double story railings that line either side of the ferry. They usually cross back and forth for work or trade, some dressed in uniforms while others carry large boxes and baskets. Many of them were on bicycle too.

All forms of transport use the ferry, from trucks, busses, and vans, to cars, motorcycles, and even 3 wheelers. There is obvious traces Indian influence in East Africa that is apparent from their food and language. But I was surprised to see a BAJAJ Indian 3 wheeler and in such good condition too.

I was quite impressed at the interior of this 3 wheeler. In Jakarta all of our BAJAJ’s are so torn to shreds and rusted, they have natural ventilation coming in from the floor boards. All the knobs and dials in this buggers ride were intact. Even his dials seemed to be in working order. I would normally have tried to take a ride in the BAJAJ but I was on a group excursion to the safari at the time, and I am sure 49 people would not wait up for my childish antics.

There was security present on board the ferry, and I have found in Africa and even some Asian countries, people in uniform love to flaunt their authority. It is sort of like territorial pissings and even the most menial worker can show you a hard time if you act arrogant. This security guard was not impressed with me wandering around the boat with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, taking random pictures. He confronted me and was actually a bit rough at first quoting sections from the rule book. But after we talked a bit and I shared some of my TUSKER beer with him, he even agreed to pose for a picture. He was another one of the poor bastards who tried in vain to explain the geography of Mombassa to me.

The ferries cross each other in the middle of the waterway and it is pleasant to stand by the side of the boat when it is not too crowded and wave at the passengers on the other vessel. There is a pretty smooth breeze as well and the water is surprisingly clear and clean.

They are in pretty good condition, considering the loads they carry and how many times they go back and forth in a single day.

I enjoyed visiting the small city in Mombassa and finding out a bit more about the commercial side of this city. Although the city is small there is a decent amount of trade that passes through it, what with the demand of supplies for the numerous resorts in the area.

While we were in Mombassa the PM of Kenya was also in the area and I took a drive by his residence. I never realized before visiting this area what a tourist hub it is. I ran into numerous tourists from Europe and the US while wandering around town looking for an internet café. South Africa aside, it always reassures me to see African countries focusing their energies marketing the most valuable resources at their disposal, tourism and hospitality, rather than mining away their oil and minerals while breeding corruption.


treespotter said...

you always have the fun bit!

btw, been reading thru RSS, didn't realize you've a new layout.

Avi said...

RSS?? Yeah, I was bored and had a good wireless conection in HK so I figured why not.

I have fun, but I see u were just in Aussi.

surri said...

good stuff. I see inny in one of those pictures.
Yeah i decided to use the blog for store updates. Its way easier like that.