ACHOLA ROSARIO’S END OF YEAR SPECIAL – A VISIT TO KILIFI
(Posted 28th December 2020)
They say loyalty is everything. Carving out a niche for oneself where one wants whatever you are selling is one of the most sought-after Holy Grail of any business. After going through 2020, a year of hell, anxiety and unexpected blessings, one wants an experience that defines something meaningful in their encounters, and Distant Relatives Eco-lodge and backpackers seems to be the plug.
Perched high on a cliff right on Kilifi Creek, a beautiful little cul-de-sac on the Indian Ocean with perfectly warm weather, balmy not grimy. Getting there takes an hour from Mombasa and requires a ferry crossing, which was an experience in itself, being part of the ocean of foot-traffic that descends onto the new iron hulk of a vessel and install themselves amidst the cars, with a few like my companion Christine having the presence of mind to climb up to the upper passenger deck where there were many empty chairs. The crossing itself was smooth and took less than 15 min, but the sheer number of people waiting on the other side for the last ferry back was mind-boggling, and passing through them out onto the main road took double the time it took to cross the water. It was almost 9pm and curfew was setting in. We hurriedly found a cab that was willing to take us all the way to the top of the creek cliff, near Fumbini Village, where a young Frenchman called Romain Mari found an old house with an empty pool in 2012 and created what was to become a movement.
I first met Romain during the Kilifi New Year festival 2 years ago, a festival he had a hand in creating, that now gets bookings directly from Italy, France and South Africa, attracting professionals and lovers of Electronic Dance Music (EDM), who come to shed their corporate skin and drink Kool Aid under a gigantic baobab tree that transforms into an ancient mother, before burning down a 30ft wooden effigy that took a month to build. Very Lord of the Flies but without the bloodshed. The festival infrastructure such as the outdoor umbrella showers that opened with a thousand eyes, the adult-sized swings that cooled down your internal heat with overhead showers, and a gigantic nest on stilts with pillows and a light inside, had me wondering what was in that Kool Aid, in a good way. I still have my festival baobab souvenir cups that you bought on arrival and kept with you the entire 3 days to avoid littering the place with plastic party cups.
So, when I was invited to profile where it all began, I jumped at the chance. I arrived at 10pm to find a pulsating crowd, Rav 4s and Range Rovers parked next to beat up Land Rovers and Kias. It was Pizza Furahiday, and Mandela was crooning away before the party really got started with Kwaitu club bangers and hip-hop favorites. I really wanted to stay awake and party but my eyelids refused to cooperate. I ordered my seafood pizza, which was delivered to my banda before I had even finished showering, lay back on my king size 4-poster bed, pulled back my net, and brought my rosemary scented thin-crust, mozzarella melting lover closer to me. I gently ate him until I fell asleep.
There is nothing more gloriously operatic than an early morning shower in the open air, especially when your shower is a piece of driftwood with a wooden handle and an ergonomically designed square rain-shower head. A concrete slab drains all the water into the ground, surrounded by a hardcore stone floor, and an ochre meanderingly smooth mud perimeter wall interspaced with colored glass bottles. You are shielded and exposed at the same time, singing in tune with the birds in the trees and the construction men next door, building the next eco-banda with its own fully recyclable plumbing system. Everything goes to feed the plants. Here plants rule, not humans.
After a rather gluttonous non-vegetarian breakfast of chilli cheese fries with bacon, and watermelon juice that quenched thirst like no other, I waited for my afternoon trek to the nearby Giriama village by tormenting my friends in the neighboring banda with my playlist on their Bluetooth speaker. Make no mistake, despite the family clientele during the day, this is a party house and visitors take full advantage.
Saidi Chengo, my guide for the afternoon arrived, and we set off for our first stop: drinking palm wine (Mnazi) with the village elders. As the only woman in the group, I felt very honored. Palm wine ferments itself, and is an acquired taste that many rave about but for me has an initial taste of champagne with an after-taste akin to nausea from the naturally occurring yeasts. I politely sipped at it but soon got into the spirit and it flowed a little smoother. The longer the wine sits, the less sugar and yeast and the stronger it gets. By the time I got up, I was a little happy. We proceeded to his mother’s village where she was in the kitchen cooking up a Giriama feast that included, rice, chapati, fresh tomato, a mackerel type fish, steamed moringa leaves and Kinolo, a variation of steamed banana bread that Giriama anti-colonial revolutionaries used to pack into battle because one portion was enough to fill the stomach for the entire day.
We ate our feast at the Giriama Paradise, Saidi’s late brother’s home, a Rasta paradise with a million-dollar view that would inspire any gardener. Saidi spoke to me about Giriama cultural practices, as well as how diseases like COVID were handled in ancient times using herbs and roots, which is also the essence of the eco-lodge’s permaculture and regenerative design philosophy. A spectacular sunset graced us with its presence and reminded us that we are after all, nothing but Distant Relatives.
To book a banda at Distant Relatives Kilifi costs $35 for a cottage with a double bed as well as a bunk bed and it’s own private bathroom courtyard. There will be no Kilifi New Year Festival this year but there are instead pop-up events organized by the local tourism community that should not be missed. Check on their Facebook page Distant Relatives Crew https://www.facebook.com/distantrelativeskilifi
You can also contact Baraka on:
+254 741 17 66 95
+254 702 232323
Seahorse Road, Kilifi, Kilifi Town
To watch The F.O.M.O. Travel show Episode 52:
A Happy New Year 2021 to you all from the F.O.M.O. Travel Show team!