Why you should ALWAYS carry your sandals at the beach

As a Nairobi girl, I looked forward to spending time with friends on the Kenya coast. My visit began on my host family’s day off.  We drove into town to their favorite coffee shop and then on to the beach. We were in Diani and I realized we were probably not far from Vindigo Cottages- the place where my family had vacationed many times. I hadn’t been there for years!

I asked a guard how far it was and he said about one and a half kilometers. Just before noon, my friend Heather and I waved goodbye to her husband Adam and the kids and walked barefoot down to the water’s edge under the brilliant blue sky and sauntered off. The water lapping at our feet felt good, but the dense seaweed wasn’t so nice.  And then we came to coral, which covered the width of the beach. Some of it was slippery sea-weedy stuff with shells and who knows what. We carefully stepped from place to place, avoiding dark watery holes and sea urchins and razor sharp edges. We kept walking and walking and the coral just kept coming and coming. We had moments of relief on a few brief patches of sand, but generally it was close to a mile of coral. I apologized a dozen times for my underestimation of the distance and for the awful beach. Heather was a good sport and we decided it was a bonding time and a story to tell our families for years to come.

Vindigo Cottages

Several times I thought surely Vindigo was just around the next little bend or past the next clump of bushes. Finally we came to the cottages and limped with sweet relief up the path to the house. And there it was- The Lobster Pot!  So many happy memories of our family building sand castles, playing cards, reading The Princess Bride and eating seafood and buttery crepes. I took photos to send to my kids and kibitzed with the couple staying there.

By that time, Heather and I had agreed we would go back on the road. Surely it couldn’t be worse than a mile of coral. We walked very gingerly up the rocky path- in our bare feet, to the main road.

We headed back towards the hotel and for the next thirty minutes, wove back and forth between the three choices of surfaces:  rocky dirt and grass and pokey stuff, or a very rough surfaced bike path or the blazing hot edge of the tarmac, where you were also in danger of getting run over. I was pretty sure we were burning the soles of our feet but at least we had put on sunscreen.

We had no money which meant we would not be hailing one of the zillion boda bodas (three wheeled taxis) that zipped past us. The road seemed endless, and it crossed my mind that this might be worse than the coral. Finally, it was so bad we did something desperate. I said, “Look, I am going to start running because that means our feet will be touching the ground fewer times than if we’re walking.”  And we started to run. Barefoot.  We looked absolutely ridiculous and a little crazy, but I assure you, we were way past caring.

Because it was obvious (to everybody) that we needed help, a driver slowed down and hailed us and we shouted, “Sina pesa!”  (I have no money) and he roared off.  Soon another boda boda driver hailed us. “Sina pesa” Then a very nice boda boda driver stopped and when we called “Sina pesa” he said, “No, no, just come!  Really. It’s okay!” We crossed the street and stepped up into the back of his vehicle. I will not even describe the on-lookers amusement at this spectacle. The very nice man drove us the last one hundred feet to the hotel. We hobbled down the hot tarmac driveway and softly “ow ow ow-ed” our way through the hotel grounds, down to the beach where we fell unto two chairs. By now we were not only sore, but filthy.  But we were done with that adventure and still had a wee bit of our dignity intact.

Heather and Jan

We only had two days together, and the next afternoon when our feet were a little less painful Heather invited me for a walk through the village. Taking a long walk was a good way to have an uninterrupted conversation when you have a big family.  Believe me, we put on our sandals. The road went steadily down, down, downhill and the surface was coarse sand. My sandal began rubbing my foot and soon I had a blister. Next, I ground sand into it with each step. I stopped occasionally to adjust my sandal and now Heather was apologizing profusely.  After thirty minutes we reached the main road which was the half way point. We turned around and, of course, it was all uphill going home. We soldiered on, finally got home and, once again, fell into two chairs.

I think we’re even now.
p.s. On day two’s adventure, Heather’s oldest daughter bathed our feet in cool water and rubbed them with fragrant lotion. Best. thing. ever.

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