Written by Hillevi Helm
If you find yourself along the Kenyan coast, heading north from Mombasa, I want to tell you about a place you’ll reach before you get to Kilifi. There isn’t even a sign by the roadside, and it’s a few winding kilometers and intersections into a dirt road, so it’s not something you would stumble upon as a pleasant surprise either. But I think it is well worth a visit.
When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a gigantic baobab tree, around which a two-story bar has been built. The other buildings around have turned into restaurants, shops, and an art gallery. It’s a small mini-community built for community living.
The reputation of this social and pleasant oasis has spread, and there are always people here. You can easily spend a whole day here. The food is locally sourced, and of course, there’s locally crafted beer. You can sit comfortably in an outdoor area surrounded by trees, flowers, as well as dogs and chickens that also hang around. If you’re lucky, there might be a movie or a band a bit later in the evening, unless you have to travel further, of course.
In addition to lounging, chatting, and enjoying all the greenery, you can stroll around and check out the small shops that have sprung up around the café and restaurant, or enter the workshops and studios that produce glass, wooden furniture, jewelry, or clothing.
You might wonder who lives here in the middle of all this greenery. As it turns out, quite a few people do. So many that it’s becoming hard to find land to buy. But it can always be arranged, says one of the founders with a twinkle in their eye.
Those of us who live here appreciate the freedom and the idea that our children can run barefoot without worry. When they reach school age, there’s a very good school not far away. The person telling us this is Tara, with one parent from South Africa and one from Scotland, she’s had the whole world as her upbringing. While traveling through Kenya, she met Jesse, from Seattle, who lived on the coast. He’s a bit of a surfer dude and talks enthusiastically and inspiringly about surfing off the nearest reef. I instinctively understand that I shouldn’t mention that I still prefer my foamboard, and reef surfing feels a bit outside my comfort zone at the moment.
It’s Jesse who has an amazing eye for design and craftsmanship, and he’s built the bar that surrounds the baobab tree. As a bar counter, he’s used an old retired Land Rover, and there are other items that have emerged along the way. It’s a fantastic construction if you can sense a natural design talent and a very harmonious person behind it all.
Together, they have a two-year-old daughter and are building their own home very nearby. We are so curious that we have to go take a look at their house.
It’s a real adventure house, with four fantastic stories, but I can tell that many exciting stories are going to happen here in the future. There isn’t a square meter of the house that isn’t inspiring in some way. It seems to organically evolve by interacting with its surroundings and what is found along the way. One can sense that some people will be very happy here… I’m happy just thinking about it.