Flickering Dreams of Diani

By on June 6, 2021

On 21st March 2020, Uganda was plunged into a sort of chaos that had eaten through many parts of the World but had taken its time to wiggle its way into the beautifully resilient Pearl of Africa. The little East African nation had for days been praised for having no reported cases of the deadly Coronavirus. The ruthlessness and seriousness with which Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng dealt with the news of COVID-19 was nothing short of remarkable. The Press had quoted her as having said that she would fight hard to make sure Uganda’s borders were protected from COVID-19 infiltration.

And fight hard she did. 

Sadly, on the ill-fated Saturday evening of 21st March, the President announced Uganda’s first case –  a 36-year-old businessman who had traveled to Dubai safe and healthy only to test Positive for COVID-19 on his return. Uganda’s first case came hot on the heels of the other East African countries that had announced their first cases days prior. Kenya had announced its first case on 12th March and 2 days later, Rwanda had reported its first case too. Tanzania had followed suit and announced its first case 2 days after that, on 16th March. 

It was March Madness in East Africa and the World at large! 

In the days that followed, as the Pandemic swept through the world with reckless abandon, life ground to a halt. Lockdowns were instituted in all East African countries and people were confined to the four walls of their homes. 

The tourism industry started to panic because bookings were canceled in their thousands and millions of potential tourists were forced to abandon their travel plans. A few friends and I had planned a trip to Diani and bookings had been made.  We quietly looked on in sadness and disappointment as our plans crumbled and almost fizzled into thin air. 

Hope & Despair – Two peas in a Pod

At the turn of the year, there was a sense of hope that the situation was beginning to ease up – if only a little. The world would probably not get back to where it was, but surely the resilience of the human race would ensure that somehow, we would find a way to survive this pandemic and maybe even thrive. And so my friends and I made fresh plans to visit Diani. The plans were made for April – the month in which I have my birthday. 

Excitement was beginning to build – again, and this time, there was a determination like never before. Each of us paid up and made sure we packed our bags in advance. The itinerary was recreated with several changes and bookings were made afresh. As the day of travel came closer, I began to have dreams of what Diani looked like. I had been to Mombasa before, but never to Diani specifically. I had been to Kilifi as well, but never to Diani. And my excitement was basically through the roof. Finally, I was going to visit the place of my dreams, a place that has been voted Africa’s leading beach destination for the fifth time running since 2015.

On March 26th, a week before the Easter Holiday and three weeks before we were supposed to travel, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced measures to curb the Pandemic as infections hit record levels in the country. He announced that travel in and out of the counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu, and Nakuru was banned. Essentially, we could not go to Diani because our travel plans involved going through Nairobi – via the SGR. 

Disappointment – yet again!

I have always thought that the Universe will give you what you deserve only when the time is right. Any attempts to fight that natural order usually ends in disaster. And so, I begrudgingly allowed myself to feel the pain, knowing that my time to see Diani had not yet come. 

On the Road, Finally! 

On the evening of 12th May, when the Pandemic dust momentarily settled in Nairobi and the surrounding counties, my friends and I repacked our bags and hit the road. We were not as many as we had initially planned since others had given up and dropped out for various reasons. I knew that the Universe had finally given me a green light to visit Diani and despite the fact that it had tested my patience, there was a sense of finality with the decision. Yes – I would have preferred to travel around the time of my birthday and Yes – I would have loved to travel with a few more friends than I eventually traveled with but I also knew that I was lucky to get this opportunity. 

For all the stars to align, several things had to be in place, and for once in a very long time, all these were falling in place perfectly.

Having tested for COVID-19 and gotten my first shot of the Vaccination, I was determined to travel with as much caution as possible. I was finally happy to travel to Diani but I was also aware that there was no point in traveling all the way to the Indian Ocean and then returning with the Virus. And so my friends and I made sure we protected ourselves as much as possible. With plenty of hand sanitizer to go with, several spare face masks, and restricting our company to just those of us who traveled, it became apparent that the trip would have ‘contained enjoyment’. This – my friends and I were willing to settle for, especially after waiting for over a year. 

As we traveled the stretch that is Kampala to Mombasa via Bus and SGR, I had to keep reminding myself that I was lucky to travel and I was not going to throw away this luck by catching the virus. As soon as I returned from Diani, I took a COVID-19 test that turned out negative.

It is very unlikely that the world will ever get back to where it used to be – especially in terms of travel and tourism. It is going to be harder and more expensive to travel but the truth is – where there is a will, there is a way. Several people have abandoned travel plans, many players in the Tourism industry have shut down because of the pandemic, and several would-be travel enthusiasts have taken on new easier, and less stressful passions. Despite all this, the few of us who thrive on tourism will do whatever it takes not just to get back on the road, in the air, and on the sea, but to make sure we stay alive to tell the story to future generations. 

In next week’s blog, I shall share in detail what the trip was like; stories of gorgeous women with cow hooves, an encounter with strange sea creatures, sneaking Ugandan alcohol into Diani, flying the Ugandan Flag at the beach, getting sloshed on Coconut Wine, silent strolls on the beach and locals hounding me with shells of various shapes and sizes.

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”― Isabelle Eberhardt,

Bernard Ewalu Olupot
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
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