ACHOLA ROSARIO VISITS ‘BACKPACKERS DIANI‘
(Posted 07th November 2020)
The sun when it hits you is so hot that it bleaches out all the colors from your eyes, leaving you navigating a white haze that is simultaneously frying you to a crisp ebony black. Not that I minded, it’s just that I forgot to carry sunscreen (what?) or coconut oil (better), meaning that I was definitely going to shed some skin. Yes, Black people do tan, burn and peel as well if not acclimatized to the local sun. It was approaching midday when I reached Diani Backpackers on the Ukunda strip of Diani’s white sandy beaches. And I dove for shade cover in my assigned cabana the minute by feet hit the hot stones.
Restored by the cool circulation of air caused by an efficient fan animating the sisal and palm-frond mats attached to a bamboo frame that make up the cabana, causing it to breathe like lungs in a bid to push the incoming hot air outside, I lie on my red bed and try to plan my day. Mombasa heat is famous for making you do absolutely nothing. Not that I minded. I just felt awkward coming on holiday to the beach to spend it indoors as usual. So, I heaved my now semi-puddle of a body off the bed and trundled it to the bar. The logical choice would have been the pool but it was bathwater warm and I didn’t want to lose my accumulated modicum of cool. I gracefully sat on a bar-stool.
“Walk away, you can’t catch me”… the track in my head lead me down various alleys that found me ordering 2 Cuervo golds and a Tusker cider. What I was thinking I don’t know, because it was a stroke of pure genius. One has to get a little mad to release the concrete jungle inside them. Besides it is the perfect excuse to go up to a stranger and say a few tequila-fueled comic-quips and get them to help you form a beer-pong team. The upside is that you get to play your Soundcloud playlist on volume 9 for most of the night since most of the backpackers is partying with you. The downside is that you get accused of being the ringleader for last night’s shenanigans in the morning. But why? I am innocent… Needless to say I suck at beer pong. I swear I thought I was better at aiming, but my newfound team-mates accused me of just purely wanting to drink. I strenuously deny the charges levelled against me. I went to the beach to clear my name, and my head.
There is no denying the impact of COVID in the environs. People are markedly more aggressive in their hustle, trying to squeeze the nearest kshs100 ($1) out of passing beach-walkers, not in a manner that is frightening, but you can feel the underlying desperation as clear as day. Most sit in their beachfront restaurants, resigned by the empty chairs and music that doesn’t play anymore. Boda riders tell me that they would really like people to know that there is no COVID there and could we please just come down and bring life back to what it was before? A sobering thought. What was life before?
Backpacking is a way of travel that puts you in direct contact with the local communities you visit. There is no air-conditioned veneer to cushion the reality of where your tourist dollar is going. That is why backpacking establishments like Diani Backpackers play an integral role in the tourism eco-system. They bring in people with skills to offer, who come and work in a given area and live on-site on a budget for generally longer periods than your usual hotel stay-cation. It is travel with a purpose, one that can very easily slip into a way of life.
The international dorms are the perfect avenues for the shedding of skin and co-mingling of spirits, built entirely out of wood and bamboo, sisal lampshades highlighting the myriads of flags. There were flags from all corners of the globe, including our own, a sight that is not usually seen outside of the UN. And the other dorm had a living breathing baobab growing right out of it! The roof was anchored around it by bamboo bicycle spokes, and the bunk beds arranged in a circle around it, like pods in the Mothership. This is where I will be sleeping in my next stay.
I cannot leave without mentioning the food. Solid hearty English Breakfast saved my brain and blood sugar levels with a decent fresh glass of Orange Juice. Never underestimate the restorative powers of this solar colored nectar. The fish brochettes marinated in a secret soy sauce (I detected tamarind) was divine but could have done with being cooked a little less. And the spaghetti Bolognese could have done with more garlic and less carrots. For me carrots in Bolognese remind me of school food. Please don’t do it. And fabric softener is my key recommendation. Watch the video in the link below if you want to know why…
One night in the International dorm or other dorms is Kshs1000 ($10) per person (per bed). Cottages go for Kshs2500 ($25) for a single and Kshs3500 ($35) for a double. En-suite private rooms go for Kshs3000 ($30) single and Kshs4000 ($40) Double. They used to be able to accommodate a total of 52 pax. but with COVID measures in place, have reduced capacity to 40 pax. Including campers.
For bookings and reservations:
+254 700 713 666
14 KFI Road Diani Beach
To watch The F.O.M.O. TRAVEL SHOW episode 48:
It’s been real.