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3 travelers at this place

  • Day77

    Exploring Lamu

    March 18, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    I actually carried around my DSLR today (I don't usually in cities), so unfortunately for all of you, I don't have too many pictures of Lamu to share! The ones I did post happen to have been taken right now, as I eat the fruit I bought at the local market from my hotel's balcony by the ocean front. Just as hot throughout the morning. Nice and breezy in the afternoon. We spent the morning getting somewhat lost in the back streets, somewhat following this walking tour suggested by the lonely planet. I was grumpy not having eaten, so we made a small detour to feed me. Sorry Jack...

    The doors have beautiful carvings, all houses have these inner courtyards, the women get to remove their veils inside so there's always a curtain in front of the door. Mini streets leading to more mini streets, and just as you think you've hit a dead end there's an opening somewhere. As soon as we exit the 2 downtown streets, again people are all saying jambo, smiling at us. Welcoming us. Truly warm people. There's cats everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Locals here feed them. There's donkeys all over also, including a "donkey sanctuary" just around the corner.

    I think both Jack and I are feeling the end is near, and we're reacting to it differently. Jack seems unable to make decisions, she wants to do it all but she wants to stay in Lamu for always. I want to relax, anywhere really. I feel very satisfied with what we've accomplished, I loved my time here, and I'm ready to relax before heading home and to work. I work a night shift within 24 hours of my arrival, so relaxing here is my only option. I've been short tempered for 2 days now, and I think my mind just doesn't know how to act when the end is so near... It's angry at me and won't let me relax and enjoy. Little annoyances like food taking too long to arrive are driving me crazy. I don't have time to waist! So many mixed emotions.

    That little rant comes from us spending the morning trying to decide when to leave. We made the decision to take a flight back to Malindi to save the bus time, but when to take it took a while. I was OK with staying in Lamu if that meant I could relax, which means Jack would have to go off and explore on her own. I was also OK with leaving and trying to get all our "planned" stops in (planned used losely here). Jack couldn't bring herself to chose. Staying here means not going to Watamu or the Gede ruins. She wants it all. Apparently our conclusion was to spend a lot of money. Lol.

    We booked a flight Sunday afternoon, a boat trip for tomorrow and just to top it off, a home cooked traditional meal with local music in some guy's house for tonight. We're going all out ladies and gents! I'll get to relax, and probably burn to a crisp, tomorrow all day on a sail boat. Jack will get to explore the streets when we get back and Sunday morning. Easy peasy.
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  • Day78

    I love boats!

    March 19, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ 🌙 29 °C

    First off - the dinner last night. How funny! The guy selling it to us said we would be served 10 traditional meals from his home, cooked by his wife, tea, coconut wine, he said he'd be playing the drums and a local violin thingy, his wife would show us the cooking of the meals, someone somewhere was going to belly dance, and we would be accompanied by two Canadian guys, students in Nairobi. So we settled on 500 each, he had started at 1500. Keep in mind, Jack and I can have a meal at a local restaurant for 200-300 total (we had diner tonight for 78 shilings total). How much of that do you think we got?

    We met him at our meeting point, he says the Canadian guys were coming from the other end of the town so we would meet up with them. We get to his house, we ask about the guys, he says someone else is bringing them over. We pass a family member sitting on the ground making chapati in the hallway and sit in their main room, on the floor, which also has a TV playing an Indian soap opera and a bed. A couple family members were watching TV, so Jack and I are sitting in front of them.

    They start bringing food out, Canadian guys aren't there. He says not to worry, we can start without them, there's plenty more food. He served a plate of beans, chapati, tiny half plate of fries, these grilled breads apparently (about the size of a Joe Louis) and finally this lobster meat pie, pie being made of chapati dough. Oh and tea. Add all these items together in a restaurant and you're looking at roughly 320 shillings if I'm being generous.

    No coconut wine, no music (he said a neighbour passed away today so they had to be respectful), no Canadian guys (he said they must be waiting time drinking beer on the boat that was bringing them over), no dancing (he said his sister would bring us to a wedding tomorrow when he knew we had booked a boat trip for tomorrow), and if you counted, that was 4 dishes, not 10. Having already paid 500 shillings as a "down" payment from him to buy food, we waiting to be out of his home and away from his family to argue that he wasn't getting a penny more. We had to argue quite a bit, he said it was his money and we had to give it to him, when we said it was 4 out of 10 dishes he responded "if you're still hungry, no problem, we go to shop right now and get more" referring to the restaurant we could have gone to ourselves... It wasn't until Jack started raising her voice once we were around many locals that he suddenly changed his gears, begged us to lower our voices, and said "I agree, I agree, 500 is enough".

    To be honest, I enjoyed the experience. We got to see his home, meet his family, eat a meal on the ground with our hands which is always fun, and in the end pay almost the same as we would in a restaurant. Worked out OK. We ran into him the next morning and he ran in another direction to avoid confrontation. It was nice of him, lol.

    That being said, today was AMAZING! Mohamed met us this morning at 9am, as promised, and brought us over to the pier where we waited for our boat. He had said he would be our captain yesterday, but by now I knew to expect otherwise. He finally admitted once asked that Masjid would be our captain, the man who is coming with the boat. Our only question - does he speak English? And he does! Turns out, I guess we were good company, because Mohamed decided to come along for the day anyway! He, Masjid, a third guy that I can't remember the name of, Jack and I had an amazing time on the boat and on the beach.

    We drove and sailed to an island called Manda Island. Hung out on the beach for a little over an hour while our lunch was being grilled. The water was clear. The island deserted. There was maybe 2 resorts on this beach, and no apparent guests. One of the resorts was 150,000 shillings per night (1,500$us) and I believe it! It was absolutely gorgeous with sun beds and private beach and anything you could dream of. Except for guests. We got to see Lamu from the water. Just cloudy enough to offer shade in the morning, and bright and sunny in the afternoon. The third guy on the boat assured me there were no jellyfish here, not the season he says. So I swam!

    Once lunch was ready, we hoped back in the boat and drove though a gorgeous mangrove to get to the Takwa ruins. Ate some coconut rice, fresh grilled fish and fresh fruit. Believe it or not, it was perfect. I know fish isn't my thing, but it fit too perfectly with the day. The ruins were nice. I never know how to describe these things without sounding super boring. They were made of limestone and coral rocks from the island itself. There was a mosque which showed the Muslim faith was present a long long time ago. It was deserted because the well water was contaminated with salt water, so the whole community moved across the waterway to Lamu Island. It was honestly interesting to see, maybe you should google it?

    Jack hopped back into the water, this time being on the other side of Manda Island, therefore being in the big Ocean as Mohamed said, so enjoyed blue waters and big waves. It was again a deserted beach that went on for days. Kind of happy no big development company took over this land, because it's emptiness is part of it's magic.

    We sailed back home in perfect winds, kicking back and talking politics with the boys. We even talked about the kidnapping that happened in Lamu in recent years. They were laughing that the women was kidnapped from Manda Island by a boat with a 50 horsepower engine... That was the same as our boat, and it's really not the fastest! They said it was 3am, and the boat had to pass by 2 naval bases and 1 police department to return to Somalia. They said no one moved, no one acted.

    We also chatted about their identity as Lamuniens, not Kenyans. They're separatist. They say the port brings in most of the money for Kenya and yet the port offices are in Nairobi. So all the big money makers aren't in Lamu or on the coast at all, but in Nairobi, profiting from their labour as they saw it. They believed that Kenya wouldn't survive without the income of the coast, which is the only reason they are still associated. Makes sense, coastal countries always perform better.

    All in all, a fantastic day. I feel completely relaxed, pleased with my day. Happy we made the decision to stay longer in Lamu. I got to enjoy a local tea from a street vendor along the shore, watching people walking by, some working, some just enjoying the stroll, donkeys and cats a plenty... Nice.
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  • Day76

    The World of Lamu.

    March 17, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ 🌙 29 °C

    What an interesting bus ride... We drove north for about two hours, at which point the bus stopped on the side of the road, but not for long. The driver chatted with an armed solder, and was cleared to continue. The next check point, everyone had to get off the bus with their belongings. We lined up in front of the 4 standing soldiers, as they checked our passports (ID for the others) and looked into our bags. Once the bus cleared again, we continue maybe 5 minutes and wait on the side of the road. At this point all the buses are waiting to just accumulate, so that all together we continue our journey with a military convoy leading us. There's about 6 buses following a military truck for about an hour. One last time, during this hour drive, we all had to get off again for ID check, this time no need for the bags. Talk about heightened security! Everything went very smoothly of course, but all the check point were interesting.

    Once at the dock where we are supposed to take a ferry to Lamu (it's an island), these boys we met on the bus signalled for us to follow them onto their choice boat. There's speed boats and regular ferries, apparently being 5 minutes long and 45 minutes long depending on the choice of boat. We got a quick one, and thank God. The two boys kept trying to chat with us, making obvious efforts to make plans to party together, or go to an island together, Jack says the guy next to her kept touching her... 5 minutes was enough, we basically ran off the boat so we could lose them at our arrival on the island.

    What a different world! The waterfront and pier is beautiful! Restaurants with patios align the boardwalk. The touts though, of boy. There's maybe 5 different guys trying to take us to their hotel, or whoever's hotel for commission. Their trying to sell us a boat tour for tomorrow. A nice meal. Anything you want, I'm sure they would make happen. Thing is, I just wanted to be left alone, as usual.

    We set out to explore the island and find a home for the night, but the touts, seeing us with our backpacks, were relentless. Finally we actually followed one and got a room simply to get the guys off our backs. Now we could set out to explore with no one bothering us.

    This Swahili town has strong Arabic influence, their roads are simple, small alleyways weaving between homes and store fronts. The doors are all beautifully carved, making for these grand entrances. Just a couple turns off the main alleyway and we can already tell we were no longer on the typical tourist trail. Everyone was saying jambo (hi) to us, smiling, some even saying kariboo (welcome). A large percentage of the women are veiled, some of which with full face coverings, some of which with simple head coverings.

    The sun was going down, so I didn't want to be too deep into the maze of the Lamu back streets. I think Jack could have continued for hours, but we attempted to head back to the waterfront. We both no longer had a clue what direction to go in. Not the faintest idea of where the ocean was. Asking directions was actually quite difficult. Words like "waterfront" or "boats" or "pier" were not recognized by most. We got a school age boy to point in the right direction, and eventually a man with decent English helped us. Funny part is, he pointed to the alley next to him and said "just go straight, don't turn, straight straight". As if that's possible in here. I think the alley went straight for about 1.5 minutes and came to a wall. So you zigzag through, attempting to remember the intended direction.

    With plenty of time to spare, but still lost enough to make me nervous, we make it back and find a cute little roof top restaurant next to the main square. Not having been in such a strong Muslim space before, it was interesting to people watch. We definitely no longer feel like we're in Kenya anymore. This is all new. Men sitting all around the square, either playing some kind of dice game, or just chatting with their neighbours. The women, very few, were always walking to a destination. None were just sitting down, not even amongst themselves.

    Night cap tea along the waterfront, feeling the breeze coming in, slight sense of salt accumulating on the skin, smell of the sea... Just perfect. Again, the people have been welcoming, smiling, and I'm feeling perfectly secure. I was afraid that coming here I would constantly be looking over my shoulder, or always afraid of anything happening, but I'm at ease. This is a really nice town, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
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  • Day79

    Airport thoughts

    March 20, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

    While I was sitting in the airport on Manda island, I was deep in thought on my impressions of Kenya. Not really, I was drinking coke and eating chips out of boredom, but still in thought! Coming into the country through Kitale was a rough start: I thought Kenyans were rough around the edges, not helpful, all calling out muzungu! They saw us as wallets again, or as intruders. Seems as time went on, I grew to enjoy Kenya and Kenyans. We found towns, or at least areas of towns, that I really enjoyed. Kenya is the first country that actually has public parks in most of their cities, the other countries never had green space to sit in. I got to enjoy some tea, or whatever drink, sitting in a park people watching, which I love. More and more Kenyans have started yelling out to us "welcome to Kenya" or "kariboo Kenya" for a change. There's always the ones that have no interest in helping or serving you, but others that will actually help out. Some try to help us with buses, tell us the real pricing, and of course there's the one who send you the wrong way or triple the prices. Kenya's got it all. Just a little more abrupt about it. The matatu drivers a little more aggressive to get you on their buses. The touts a little more loud about staying in their accommodations. 

    So back to sitting in the airport! We just took a ferry boat (more like a canoe with a motor) from the jetty in Lamu, across the waterway, to the deck of the airport... Coolest airport ever. Security was a metal detector that went off when I went through and a bag scanner that very clearly showed my huge fruit knife, but no one said anything. I checked my bag in with the knife, but I'm sure no one would have noticed if I hadn't! Destination: Malindi, where we'll make our way to Watamu.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Lamu, لامو, Горад Ламу, לאמו, LAU, ラム, ლამუ, 라무, Antiga Cidade de Lamu, Лама, Ламу, 拉穆

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