For years, Malindi has had a throbbing nightlife, attracting tourists in droves. I had planned a trip months ago and amid the travel restrictions, my dilemma was whether to cancel it or dare and enjoy the beaches and restaurants alone. After careful consideration and planning, I decided to go.
I arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and quickly proceed to check-in before the gate closes. You’d have expected me to be on time. Well, who hurries on a Sunday?
The airport staff are wearing masks and gloves. At the check-in counter, I sanitise my hands as I chit-chat with the ticketing staff. At the departure lounge, travellers are seated one metre apart; some with masks and gloves. It’s deadly quiet.
We have a slight delay as the aircraft is sanitised. Finally, we board but not before we sanitise our hands at the entrance. The plane is hardly full so we’re able to maintain a respectable social distance.
We land at Malindi International Airport. At the arrival bay, we write down our names, contact details and destination. There’s one pen which we all have to use. I’m glad to have my own. I’m cleared after my temperature is checked. I sanitise my hands and head out to a tuktuk taking me to an Airbnb house I’d booked.
The driver is amused at my stories about Covid-19 in Nairobi. “Here there’s no Corona. You’ll probably be the one to bring it,” he tells me. We both laugh.
After settling in, I chat with my host, Bonita. The pandemic has affected her Airbnb business. Since January, she hasn’t got any bookings. Her long-term guest is the reason she has money for food and rent, she says.
I step out to buy water from a supermarket nearby. I wash my hands at the entrance and exit. In the queue, I stand at a designated point. It is hot and the supermarket cashiers are sweating behind their masks and gloves. Cash transactions are accepted.
Time for the beach! On my way there, a police officer stops me enquiring where I’m going. I tell him. He’s slightly angry wondering if I’ve heard about the ban on public gatherings. I keep quiet.
After a stern warning, he lets me go. For the next three hours, the ocean is like a private swimming pool. With no one in sight, I enjoy the sand, sun and the sound of the crashing waves and the whooshing wind.
I’m craving Italian food. I go to a restaurant called Bar Bar Malindi. Unfortunately, only a takeaway is allowed. I head to another restaurant called The House. It’s closed, and so are many others. Covid-19 is beginning to me piss me off. I go back to the Airbnb and cook pasta.
I wake up. After a hearty breakfast, I catch up on my reading. The quarantine will enable me to achieve my ‘20 books in 2020’ goal.
I plan to go to Malindi Marine Park then to the luxurious Billionaire Resort, owned by Italian billionaire and ex-Formula One boss Flavio Briatore, for a late lunch. This time, the tuktuk driver has a mask and gloves on. Both are closed. However, I find a way to the beach and swim my frustration away. This time we’re five. The water is sparkling clean. Conversations with three beach boys and artisans bring to light the devastating effects of the travel ban.
I get to drink a decent cappuccino at Rosada Beach Bar as I watch a few of their guests basking in the sun.
In Malindi town, the streets are teeming with people. Outside every establishment is a handwashing station. Most restaurants are closed but street food vendors continue to thrive. I eat chips and ‘mkate wa mayai’. Unfortunately, the guy serving the food was also handling money. I quickly mumble a prayer over the food I’ve just consumed. To console myself, I count the number of times I’d washed my hands that day; 11.
I intend on staying indoors so I start on a new Korean series.
I leave the house to go eat ice-cream. At Nash Ice-cream Land, the attendant asks us to maintain social distance as health officials are monitoring food cafes. I now hate Covid-19 more!
The plane touches down at JKIA. We’re led to the arrivals lounge where we fill a form indicating our contact details, flight number, and our destination if staying in Kenya for more than one hour. My temperature is checked by a health worker and for the fourth time today, I sanitise my hands.