I was here to volunteer my time at the Ekialo Kiona Bicycle Project on Mfangano Island, just off the shores of Kenya in Lake Victoria. Originally, I had planned to come to East Africa and spend a couple months riding my bicycle, but upon discovering Ekialo Kiona I was fascinated and drawn immediately to their story. So I changed my plans and decided to spend a month living on the island, offering my skills as a bike mechanic. In return I hoped to learn about the people and history of the island, while developing my own skills and experiencing life in a new place.
After a two hour minibus ride, and about four hours getting sunburnt in a large wooden canoe, I finally arrived at Sena Beach on Mfangano Island. I was met by a young man named Tielen, the manager at the Ekialo Kiona bike shop. Tielen is a friendly, easy going guy who’s a skilled carpenter and electrician and served as the grounds keeper at Ekialo Kiona before becoming the bicycle shop manager. He was to be my host on the island. I would live on his land, eat with his family, and spend most of my time working with him at the shop.
My first impression of the island was its staggering landscape. It’s the largest island in Lake Victoria, and at the center, rises to over 5500 ft in elevation. Villages dot the shores, and farms sprawl up the slopes, where they meet rocky cliffs and thick forest. Banana, mango and coconut trees lay closer to shore, where most of the population lives.
I made my way through Sena, getting my first glimpse of the bustling market place, the islands largest. Shacks put together with sticks and tin served as restaurants, bars, electronic stores and the like. Hand painted signs boasted “Ghetto Electronics” and “Pimp Ass Hotel” etc. The trickle down of western influence was everywhere. It was busier than I expected on a Friday afternoon as we made our way by motorbike to the village of Malamasa, where I would be calling home for the next four weeks.