MAZERAS is just 20km up the hill from Mombasa. If you’re coming from Nairobi, this small town marks the end of the long vistas of scrub; it’s perched right on the edge of the steep scarp, amid bananas and coconuts. If you’re travelling by road, it isn’t a bad idea to break your journey here and savour the new atmosphere. The hotelis serve good, flavourful, coastal chai and there is a slightly unkempt botanical garden on the Mombasa side of town, which makes a good break for the travel-weary. Across the highway (on the southwest side) and up the hill a little way is a mission and its century-old church, signs of an evangelical presence in the hills behind Mombasa that goes back, remarkably, more than 150 years.
For historians of Methodism and the Church Missionary Society or, perhaps more likely, connoisseurs of palm wine, the road to Kaloleni, 22km north of Mazeras, is a required sidetrack. It’s a wonderfully scenic drive in its own right, looping through lush vales, with a wide panorama down to the coast to the east. Masses of coconut trees sway all around and, invariably, there are groups of flamboyantly dressed Mijikenda women walking along the roadside: leaving the highway you’re instantly back in rural Kenya.