Tuesday, 16 November 2010

WATAMU Nov 14th
It was good to have the opportunity, on Friday, to spend 3-4 hours walking through the mangroves that fringe the creek area inland from Watamu. These are extremely fragile environments, diminishing in extent by the day and are a sort of tropical equivalent of British salt marshes. The purpose was to ascertain the extent to which recent human activity has damaged the mangroves, which are, notionally at least, protected in this area.
I was glad that Kahindi was in charge. I would have become hopelessly lost in the maze of roots and branches but he knows exactly which tracks to take. I was also mildly surprised that the mangroves were teeming neither with reptiles nor insects, contrary to what the movies would have us believe. I didn’t see a leech, was not pestered by mosquitos and apart from some fantastic birds ( including a brilliantly coloured mangrove kingfisher ), there was no other life on show. We were required to wade well over waist deep a couple of times. This meant it was impossible to take any pictures, which was a shame.
It was difficult to determine Kahindi’s reaction. He pointed out some old charcoal works – illegal- and many sites where the mud had been disturbed by fishermen digging for worms. This removes the necessary protective layer from around the mangrove roots, exposes them to tidal currents and results in them being washed away. Not many of these were new, however, so it may be that the rules are being observed at the moment.
He did point out, at a point where we crossed a deepish inlet, the place where his brother-in-law had been swept away and drowned in 2003. This was before he worked for the Turtle Watch when he was a fisherman and they had been digging for bait. His brother-in-law couldn’t swim, the tide had come in unexpectedly fast and high, it was stormy and visibility was poor and it just happened. He was remarkably matter of fact about it. It suggests that such events are relatively commonplace and that there is a greater acceptance of untimely death as a consequence.
Yesterday, Saturday, was a day off for everyone. I spent it at a local hotel where internet coverage is better and by the pool. There is a big sign saying it is for hotel residents only but the assistant manager, a young South African, was fine about it. Simply being white opens any number of doors. He did get two meals and several Tusker lagers out of me, I suppose. Most of those were taken in company with Will ( Australian ) and Bea watching the best England rugby performance since 2003. Interestingly the second most common language at the hotel after English, spoken by ex-pats, South Africans and Brits, is Russian. I got into a sort of conversation with a couple from Moscow who are here for a fortnight with their two girls. The father had heard of Wellington, via a business contact whose son ( name ending in ‘enko’ ) left in 2007. At least I think that is the case. I said it was now fully co-ed and left him a contact for Admissions. Even so, I think it would  be just a bit too cheeky to put in an expense claim for the drink I bought him.

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