Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt

Posted on February 6th, 2012
Categories: News

I suppose we have to start the first column of the New Year with a brief, well I’ll try and keep it that way, look at our shenanigans over the Festive Season.

Having decided to drive down to the coast on Boxing Day, we set off early and made our traditional first and only stop at the Tsavo Inn in Mtito Andei. Nothing very spectacular about that I’ll agree, but we made it in world-record time. There was no traffic, none, zippo, and the foot had evidently been heavy on the pedal happily without a whinge from anyone.

From the highlands of Tigoni to Mtito in only three hours – arriving at our destination Watamu took another three hours. To give perspective to this it took eight and a half hours on the way back – the trucks were back in their thousands.

Security at the coast as it is elsewhere in Kenya these days was as tight as a tick.  But we had as good a time as we had had in years gone by without the feeling of being overburdened by tighter security. It was there, we were aware of it, but it was never in your face – and, of course we were far more aware of our own immediate surroundings.

Security however of teenage daughters at Watamu’s New Year’s Eve celebrations is another thing entirely.

The rules were explained in detail: no beach, no leaving the hotel compound, it might be nice to check in occasionally, and if you want a drink, we have that right here in our cool box.

I was chuffed to be given an over-18 armband, by a stroppy young bouncer, but not so impressed when said daughters came by sans any kind of armband. ‘Dad, it’s like this‘, they explained. ‘We don’t have armbands so we don’t get served at the bar, you do’.

But that’s not quite how it worked.

Because bartenders, well-being bartenders on being offered financial inducements to ignore the rule, did just that. One rather foolish mother gave her over-18 armband to her 14-year-old son so he could go and have a good time. He did; out to impress he bought round after round – passed out eventually and left a load of his mates seriously inebriated, with a few praying at the foot of the porcelain pony.

We survived the night, but I urged my wife Alison to remember the New Year’s where we had fun, let our hair down and boogied all night long. Now it was all about being responsible parents. And well it should be.

Why can’t these establishments enforce the under-18 drinking law, not just at New Year but at all times? Stroppy bouncers could help to enforce it and generally keep the young in order – smashed glasses on the dance-floor, despite precautions, resulted in the only  bloodshed we saw at the coast.

Precautions like beer by the tin never by the bottle – good move, then to serve everything else in glasses kinda defeats the object, wouldn’t you say?

We are thinking safari for next New Year’s, with great resistance from our girls. “We promise, dad, please please please!” We’ll string them along a little longer, because actually the coast’s the place to be at New Year’s. Always has, always will be. Watamu’s the place to be.

On our drive back from the coast, to amuse ourselves, we started counting juggernauts with Randon or Bachu trailer stickers; at the end of the day it gives perspective as to how many trucks use the Mombasa-Nairobi road. Thousands and thousands is the answer. Bachu trailers made in India won; Randon from Brasil came in a very close second.

The United Nations area in northern Nairobi continues to grow its community exponentially. Therefore it is no surprise that the road infrastructure that surrounds it is seriously inadequate. Back-ups onto the Limuru Road, and all through the suburb of Runda are commonplace. It was therefore with some excitement that halfway through last year builders were on site in what looked at first to be the building of dual-carriageway to ease traffic flow to and from the UN.

A grand UN Boulevard was envisaged.

Sad to report the road stays as is. The building of a footpath I can accept, but a bike lane is madness. Aside from making a mess of the scenery, nothing has been accomplished; bikers are rare beasts in this neck of the woods, and once they have left the security and complacency of the UN bike lane, they are fair game for the areas marauding matatus or boda-bodas. It’s a tough world out there for cyclists.

The bike lane is now a no-go area for those bold enough to cycle it. It is used primarily as a parking area for the masses of taxis that vie for the UN’s business.

Finally, the contractor on being ordered to tidy up the site, threw all his rubble and trash into the gutters – out of sight out of mind – just waiting for the next rains to wash it all away, which it won’t do, but will cause its own chaos such as flooding, etc. When did urban planning become urban myth?

I’m happy to report that good friend David Stogdale (now there’s an urban legend in Kenya’s tourism industry), has been appointed a Director of the Kenya Tourist Board.  Hongera, David!

The old and not-so-old sages of Kenya’s tourism industry are struck by the reality that 2012 is going to be a very tough year. Advance bookings are down considerably year-on-year, but what is more worrying to them is the lack of enquiries. There just aren’t many!

Reasons range from the state of the world’s economies to regional instability, all not good news for Kenya’s tourism industry. While international tourism to the country might be down (but not out, I’ll add), local tourism, that’s you and I, should rebound if tourism marketers can come up with right-priced deals for local residents of East Africa.

We’ll keep you posted…

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