Sunday 07 December, 2014 by Uncle Spike
In the mid 90s, back when I was a respectable office geek, my late wife and I liked to take ourselves off for a few weeks winter sun and adventure. One particular trip we were in East Africa, exploring the coastal delights of Kenya.
It’s a country I have been to a few times and always have a soft spot for; and I would most probably say that its people are the greatest attraction, in addition to the stunning scenery and of course the much famed wildlife. But the Indian Oceanic coastline of Kenya is also blessed by some magnificent beaches.
One area I loved was to be found some 105km (65 miles) north of the sprawling city of Mombasa – an area called Watamu, in the district of Malindi. If you are looking at a map, it’s about smack in the centre of the Kenyan coastline. The white sandy beaches, numerous bays and offshore coral formations make the area a particular beauty spot. The reef diving is spectacular by the way, with the Watamu Marine National Park considered one of the premier diving areas East African coast. I have to agree, as, after diving some of those crystal clear waters is where my love of scuba first began.
Being a much younger chap (at the time), I was rarely content to simply lay on a beach bed for hours on end; unlike modern-day Spike who can snore away three hours to the sounds of waves gently rolling in at my feet. So to alleviate my boredom, and to give my wife some much-needed peace and quiet, I would regularly take off on some adventure or other – anything would suffice, except for shopping of course.
Now, anyone familiar with beaches in Africa or Asia will be very familiar with the hawkers who regularly pace up and down in an attempt to sell their wares in return for tourist dollars. It’s the same the world over I guess, and just part and parcel of life. I have never been one to get shirty with them; after all, it is ‘us’ who have gone to ‘their’ place, so who can blame them!
Sat on the beach one day, a rather curvaceous but ever so joyful thirty-something local female decided to blot out the sun whilst trying to persuade folk on our beach to have a massage. Most were dubious at best, some ignored her, but her bubbly thick accented “I think you want it mister, don’t you?”, followed by “Hey lady, can I take your man for a massage?” soon did the trick in my case. My wife foresaw an hour of husbandless tranquillity, and I was just, well, up for a laugh.
I am partial to a good massage. Like many guys, I’m not that fussy if it’s some tall blonde professional Swedish masseur, or the next door neighbours dog – if he’s willing to trample over my aching back muscles whilst chasing his tail in a sort of anticlockwise canine tribal dance. I’ve tried all sorts over the years, from Ayurvedic holistic treatments to some seriously dangerous Thai massages. Each is different and enjoyable, albeit sometimes in a masochistic sort of way.
But this was to be my first Kenyan massage experience…
Off up the beach I toddled, dwarfed by my new-found friend who whilst being vertically challenged, was by no means so on the other axis. We waddled and walked for perhaps 750 metres, before leaving the beach and heading inland through the woods to her village. It was, not unexpectedly, a ramshackle arrangements of concrete nuts with tin roofs, loose slung drapes and snotty-nosed smiling kids.
After perhaps 15 turns I was completely lost. We then arrived at her dwelling and place of business. I was led in; her large paw pulling on my sweaty wrist. Inside was a mattress on boxes. She lit perhaps ten candles and put on a cassette tape of some very weird but semi-relaxing music. I was told to strip off and lay down. I obeyed, but kept my swimmers on for the sake of decency, and perhaps a dash through the streets, should that become necessary.
Twenty years later I am writing this on my blog, so I guess you can relax, I survived. Indeed, what I ended up experiencing was one heck of a massage, aided by about two litres of coconut oil and fingers the size of shotgun barrels. She was incredibly strong, but as it happens, as straight as. There was no threat, just an upfront good honest massage, in exchange for a crisp US$20 note. You gotta love Africa – you simply cannot tell what will happen next.
Was I stupid, perhaps, but I must admit that since then, all the petite professionally trained hotel masseurs that have pummelled me ever since have never quite matched my larger than life friend from Watumu Beach.