Zen by the lake at Hippo Point, Kisumu
Nothing beats the sight of sunrays on water. It is like multiple mirrors, a kaleidoscope of reflections on ripples that wash outwards from the middle of somewhere unknown. It is like a mystery of warmth that fails to go beneath the surface of Lake Victoria and when you touch the water it is chilled.
Watching the sunset at Hippo Point on Kisumu’s Dunga beach was one of my most relaxing, Zen moments that I would recommend any time. Visiting Kisumu City hundreds of miles away from the bustle of free-wheeling Nairobi you get the feeling that you are told not to rush things.
For a moment, you forget that moving from one place to another you need an extra hour to account for traffic, and as I came to realise, the people here do not see a need for urgency. Maybe because the sun is too hot to move around too fast so quite often you hop onto a tuk-tuk and make a decision about where you want to go.
When my friend who was showing me around suggested Dunga beach, we took the turn towards areas in Kisumu that looked too green, and you could literally feel the wealth of plush Milimani estate had something magical concealed and enjoyed in exclusivity.
But then, you quickly get out of the city and it suddenly feels like you are in an ordinary Kenyan village; the cows chowing on the road side as homesteads and expansive stretches of swampy vegetation spread as far as the eye can see.
Then we made a turn at Dunga, and it was underwhelming. No surprise that entry was free and all I could see was economic opportunity forgone here and there; empty parcels that should be buildings, advertising spaces that were simply bush trees and the lack of a big hotel that could patronize the space with comfortable gazebos for sheds in exchange for selling us consumerist things at a premium.
Instead, Hippo Point lies on an empty space on the shores of Lake Victoria where the most lucrative business is car wash boys luring you into a perfect spot where they can give your car a deserved shine.
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There is no dedicated establishment that monopolizes operations here and instead of defined hotels or a bar, the alcohol is sold on open-air lined up on top of tables.
Each seller marks his customers by giving them plastic chairs in exchange for buying booze from them and then you move over to the edge of the lake and claim an area and sip from plastic tumblers as you while the afternoon in heart-to-heart conversations.
I did not see any hippos at Hippo Point despite the fact that I was hoping to see the cows of water and their jaw-dropping fangs, shiny brown backs, and tales of the danger of lurking too close to the world’s third-largest land mammals.
The place, however, offered a moment of tranquility since I could not pick my phone and talk into the whooshing wind that made telephone conversation virtually impractical.
My Safaricom airtime was only left for uploading photos to make my friends in Nairobi and beyond marvel at the beauty of my unnamed location.
And beautiful it was, the water reached right up to the edge and felt so inviting. There was spray in the air as the water lapped roughly on the shore in continuous waves smoothing over the pebbled terrace.
And then came the beautiful sunset; a splash of orange stretched on the water’s surface tracing back to the receding sun and the entire expanse dwarfed our existence. Distant boats looked like little sticks floating at the mercy of the dangerous undulation.
I felt a feeling of intense calm in my insignificance to this expansive body of water and the history it had witnessed. This water had seen my ancestors and their ancestors and would see the children of my children and will not say a thing about it! I felt connected to this commune that had defied time and space and this connection reminded me of what is important to be human and to experience life in quiet contemplation. A source of life for the world beneath and above it. The feeling was priceless.
Even as I return to the life of the busy city, the hustle for a daily meal, the fight to cool inflation and social tension, I felt I had basked in Zen, shaken off my tragic sense of anxiety, and was ready for another dose of the noise of honking matatus and shouting makangas until a time when I could again visit that free empty space that gave meaning to my existence.