Falling in Love over again – My Lamu Adventures

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The name of this small viallage sounds like “Huioni”looks like its built somewhere in the ocean. If you drop something from the balcony forget it unless you can swim.

Everyday I walked to school and sat through GHC lessons but never in my wildest dreams did it ever cross my mind that one day I would be able to touch the waters of this big blue ocean. Don’t roll your eyes just yet, I was born and brought up in a small village far away from the coastal part of the country. The closest thing was a small stream that separates my dad’s piece of land from our neighbor’s.

One day, a telegram came knocking. Back in the day we didn’t have mobile phones or internet and we had to rely on good old telegrams or letters to get messages across town.My big brother was wedding.Was I excited about the news? Yes and no. Yes because we’ll have a new family member in the house and no because he lived far off from home and their was a possibility of not attending the wedding. But luck was on my side being the last born and mama’s baby I had to tag along and accompany my mom.

I didn’t know what to expect because I had never gone past the capital city. A new dress was bought, packed a few of my stuff and off we went together with my other brother. We left the village in the morning, got to Nairobi in the evening and took another bus to someplace I had no clue what it was known as at the time. A few year later I now know the place we landed after we left nairobi was Malindi. My brother lived in Lamu and that meant being in Malindi we still had a long journey ahead of us.

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Outside Riyadha mosque, Lamu

We strolled at the beach for awhile as we awaited our departure time. At the time we didn’t have al shabaab but we did have bandits that hid in a forest near Witu and this meant buses heading to Mpeketoni or Mokowe had to be given police escort. We finally left once the buses were fully booked and it was a long tedious journey and all my eyes could feast on were bushes and forests. I couldn’t sleep it off because of the fear of being attacked while asleep and this meant a little story telling with my mother and watching the trees run by. By the time we got to Lamu it was late in the evening around six actually not Lamu but Mokowe – this is where buses stop and you have to take a boat to cross over to Lamu island. I stepped out of the bus and almost froze because I couldn’t imagine myself crossing the Indian ocean on a dhow. I tried asking if their was option ‘B’ and I was met with a blunt ‘No.’ Well we had travelled all the way from a tiny village in western Kenya and we couldn’t just turn away and head back and miss attending a wedding. I was scared, my mom was scared as for my brother he tried to play brave but I can bet he was scared too.

The dhow that was to take us across to our last destination was almost filling up and we had no choice but to hop in and secure a place. Their was no place to sit expect at the edge of which I wasn’t about to do. The locals seemed comfy sitting their some even chewing ‘miraa’ and catching up on the latest gossip and politics. Me and mom found a place somewhere in the middle next to that pole that holds the sails (not sure what its’ called) and held on tighter than tight because our lives depended on that. Three villagers crossing an ocean with no knowledge on how to swim, you can imagine how scared we were. Our hearts were beating so hard we had to keep looking over our shoulders incase our dhowmates could hear them. They sounded like a diesel generator that was being forced to work. We tried to fake smiles and engage in small chit chat but deep down we were worried souls. Double trouble was when we got in the middle of the ocean–from Mokowe to Lamu jetty is about thrity minutes –and the damn thing was too old and leaking. Everyone treated it as a normalcy as they used a bucket to fetch the water and pour it back into the ocean but I was scared and almost did some unwanted business in there. I hadnt been the best daughter in town and I wasn’t sure if I died at that particular moment what was awaiting me so I closed my eyes and said a little prayer for my naughty soul as I started visualizing what it would be like to drown, not a pretty sight for sure. I’ve never been so relieved in my entire life like that moment I was told its now time to alight.

The moment I stepped out, I was wowed by this beautiful town and its friendly people. A land with no cars, just white sand and buildings that are so close to each other you can easily pick something from your neighbor’s house without leaving your own. I spent the days strolling on the beach, going to the market and drinking some fresh coconut water. Life was beautiful and I thought I would be back again to visit, unfortunately the one who made me visit the place died just a few months later. It was painful, loosing a young vibrant man like him wasn’t easy to swallow. I didn’t go back to pick his body but I knew one day I would go back and walk on those streets again. I nursed a couple of months of constant headaches but had to brave on for the sake of my health and studies. Looking back I think I was depressed though I didn’t know it at the time. A year ago, the one who tagged me along and made sure I experienced the beauty of this town breahed her last and my resolve to visit Lamu one more time was renewed.

Coming back I decided to use a shorter route. I asked questions but someone lied to me along the way. I was told they land in Lamu island and I breathed a sigh of relief knowing I won’t be subjected to another leaking boat ride. Shock on me, the airport is at Manda island and you have to take a boat to get to Lamu though its only a fifteen minutes ride. This time round, I got a decent looking boat, it was not crowded because it was picking guests for a specific hotel and it was not leaking. I was more calmer and almost sat at the edge as I comfortably chatted with the other visitors.

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The highways of Lamy. Very well lit at night you can comfortably walk around. I’m told the crime rate is close to zero in this area.

Today I walked through the streets of this old town and nothing has changed. It’s been twenty years since I was here but the people are still friendly, the streets are as tiny as they used to be a very welcoming town that you should pay a visit to. My tour guide is one charming old man, with no formal education and only knowing only Swahili, he worked briefly at the jetty assisting visitors by carrying their luggages. He picked a few word here and their and begun to master his English language. Things were not rosy at the Jetty and at the age of 16 he left for Malindi to try his hand at what his brother was doing, selling handcrafted merchandise to tourists. A quick learner he was and within no time he could speak German and Swedish. As we spoe today he claims to be able to speak five foreign languages and has previousl worked with tour companies. He’s sixty seven but walks like a twenty year old. Previously married three wives in his hey days when he used to make upto 45K a day and divorced all of them when the economy went down south. He’s now looking for a new catch, he actually showed his intended new catch. Whether she’ll say yes or no to his proposal only time will tell.

 

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Criss crossing Lamu old town with my guide

Tomorrow I take another tour to Shella and hope to see some hidden beauty. As for the food in this town, some places deliver delicious stuff while others you regret parting ways with your money. Anyway food will make for another post.

 

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