“What’s your name?” I asked the smiling, pretty girl who’d been persistently offering to show us a good time despite our polite but firm rebuttals.
“Lisa,” she replied.
“As in Lisa Lane?”
She didn’t get it. In fact you’d probably have to be Scottish to get it. Out of the four of us in the group only Lisa and Andy weren’t Scottish. But Andy, being married to me, was sort of honorary Scottish and has Irish roots, so not a massive difference. Three of us laughed. Lisa looked bemused and slightly annoyed. She knew the laughing was connected with her, but she didn’t know why. She left. It was a result.
It was all my fault according to John and Andy. I had managed to pick up a couple of female friends whilst they had visited the loos.
In my mind, they were the ones to blame. Their bladders were clearly not as sturdy as mine and the thirty minute walk from our hotel along the dusty road to the centre of Malindi (or at least the first decent looking watering hole) meant they had left me on my lonesome as soon as we entered the cosy warmth (i.e. sweltering heat) of the unfamiliar bar.
Within seconds I had been approached by a couple of stunning looking local girls who a) told me I was very handsome and then b) expressed genuine distress when they heard I’d be leaving their beautiful Kenya the following day. Nothing seemed particularly out of the ordinary, just the usual stuff when I enter a bar (yeah, right).
By the time John and Andy re-appeared from the bamboo lined toilets I had a girl on either arm.
“So who are you with?” One asked Andy, quite prickly that another woman had appeared on the scene. Andy pointed at me. One of the girls huffed and puffed and pouted before toddling off.
Lisa decided to stay.
“No problem (I want to say she said hakuna matata but it wasn’t true), we can all have some fun… together,” she smiled.
I’m not sure, but I didn’t get the impression she was talking about having beer drinking competitions and singing out of date songs at the top of our boozy voices.
The bar was intriguing. In many ways it looked like the sort of establishment you might expect to find in a tropical tourist resort – big and open with lots of bamboo and wicker furniture and a huge rectangular bar with plenty of bar stools for people who like lounging on bar counters. It was a nice bar. But the clientèle gave it a totally different vibe.
The men were mostly middle-aged and white. The girls who sat with each and every one of them were young and Kenyan. I suppose we could have been jumping to conclusions but I can’t ever remember being in a bar where I’ve seen a girl go up to a stranger, pull down one side of her dress to expose her breast, then take the man’s hand and place it on it (actually I’m lying… might have seen that happen in Doncaster once).
We had a couple more beers as we watched the interaction taking place all around the bar. There was a spellbinding fascination to the place. The male clients didn’t look like tourists; they exuded a familiarity with the scene that suggested they either lived or worked in Kenya.
We stood out like voyeuristic sore thumbs. But it was a pleasant enough place to have a few drinks and once the regulars knew we were only there for the alcohol, we were left alone.
Our new friend John, whom we’d met at the hotel where we were staying, seemed to be the sort of person who is unfazed by anything and suggested we move onto a club we’d spotted next door to the bar.
Where the bar was fascinating but friendly, the club had an intense atmosphere that was uncomfortable. The clientèle were almost identical in their breakdown, but there was a sense that the scene was more serious and a few girls on the dance-floor glared at Andy despite the fact, I have to be diplomatic here, that she had a ‘couple’ of years advantage over them (phew, dangerous waters).
One drink was enough to convince us that this wasn’t a place to hang out if we weren’t there for… err business reasons. It was time to return to our hotel but – and this is where forward planning is always a good idea – there were no street lights and it was pitch black. We couldn’t see the way ahead and there were no taxis. Or, let me re-phrase that, there were no obvious taxis.
Nearby were a couple of teenage boys banging away at a rusty old tin can in the shape of a car.
“You need taxi?” One shouted.
“We have taxi,” he pointed to the tin can.
With no other option available we squeezed into the back of their car. The driver turned the key and the car sort of huffed and wheezed.
“No problem, no problem,” he smiled. “It needs a push.”
The driver’s mate, John and myself jumped out of the car and pushed the reluctant old car into the darkness. After about twenty yards it stopped wheezing and started growling, albeit with the occasional cough and splutter. The boys whooped with delight… and maybe a bit of surprise that it had actually sprung into life.
When we got back to the hotel we paid them an agreed amount, a lot less than an official taxi would have cost, that had them smiling smiles that threatened to split their faces open.
It had been an interesting night in Malindi and our taxi drivers helped end it in suitably off the wall fashion. They were, and still are, the most honest taxi drivers that I’ve encountered.
Off course, the car didn’t start and we had to give them a helping push to get them going again.