|Day 15, 16 July 2010: A day in Lamu
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
I saw no reason to deviate from the previous day’s breakfast, so ginger tea, maandazis and fruit salad it was. We considered attempting to go on a fishing trip, but the weather was uncooperative. We decided instead to return to Lamu for a proper self-guided tour of the town. We ambled slowly toward Lamu along the sea front. A chap on a punda (donkey - the only form of transport on the island other than feet) took great delight in riding up behind me and shouting “DONKEY!” at the top of his lungs. I shot three feet into the air, much to the amusement of my oh-so-sympathetic friends.
Chameleon would like some coffee?
Where telephone booths go to die
We visited the Lamu Museum first and were met by a tour guide named Sylvester. Yesterday’s debacle gave me a certain amount of trepidation with respect to tour guides. Sylvester, happily, turned out to be the polar opposite of surly Abdul. He was cheerful, informative and provided useful historical and social context for all of the exhibits. The tour lasted an hour and a quarter and I felt bad that our tip constituted substantially less than the hourly rate we’d paid Mr Useless yesterday. We learned more about present-day Lamu from the museum than from yesterday’s “tour”.
Woodworking examples (mahogany)
Sylvester explaining cooking implements
Model of a dhow
6th century anchor
We followed up the trip to the museum at one of the two venues in town that served alcohol and Western food, being in need of a non-seafood-based meal. We had pizza and Tuskers baridi sana (very cold). Thus refreshed, we followed a whim of Liz’s and tried to locate some donkeys to ride. This rather disorganized affair began inauspiciously. The man who claimed to have secured four donkeys for us had, in fact, no donkeys at all. One donkey was procured seemingly at random for Liz. She rode off, disappearing around a corner. The next donkey, the most robust specimen we’ve seen, was designated for Duncan, who is 6’5”. It was capable of carrying him, but he had to struggle to keep his feet from dragging on the ground. The man tried to give the third, rather small, donkey to the bloke. The bloke refused to stay on her for longer than a few seconds, as he could feel its back giving way under his weight. She was transferred to me. She was so pleased by the lightening of her burden that she behaved beautifully throughout the ride.
Liz saddles up
Mind your feet
Exiting prosperous Lamu Town
We traveled to the edge of Lamu Town after a donkey that could carry the bloke was eventually produced. The prosperous centre of town was surrounded by the usual collection of mud-and-tin-roof hovels. Children peered at us from doorways with quantities of cynicism that varied based on age (toddlers: none at all; ten and up: in spades). At the edge of town, a barbed-wire encircled landfill was being picked over by people who didn’t look up at our approach. The donkey handlers turned us around there. My donkey perked up at this point and trotted brisklly back into town. I was left to my own devices by the handlers, as the others seemed to have acquired more recalcitrant animals. We arrived back at the Donkey Sanctuary. I discovered that my donkey had been staying there since she’d recently given birth to a baby donkey, which was pointed out to me. I felt quite dubious at the handlers’ choice of donkey provenance, but my donkey didn’t seem to bear me a grudge or to have been uncomfortable with me on her back, so I tried not to worry about it.
View from the battlements
Into the marketplace
Since our museum tickets entitled us to free entry, we went to the fort. We walked around it unaccompanied. Though there wasn’t much information inside, it was an impressive structure. It was also full of bats. The view over the battlements compelled us to sit and appreciate the city for a while. We returned to the Whispers cafe for coffee and cake and finished the visit to Lamu Town with a bit of shopping, as it was our last chance before returning home to England. We put our bargaining hats on and strode forth. An exhaustive tour of the stalls and shops allowed us to select the cheapest versions of nearly identical items - wooden boxes, dhow eyes (wooden symbols placed at the front of boats for good luck) and silver jewelry. Laden with booty, we secured the services of a dhow captain at the docks. Naturally, he didn’t actually have a boat. He was simply one of the “fixers” littering the dockside. We agreed to pay a bit more to the dhow captain (the real one) to sail to Shela rather than use the outboard motor. He sailed us nearly across the channel to Manda Island before tacking back to Shela, thus affording us lovely sunset views over the water. We tipped them extra for that.
Different Colours, One People
Liz taking a picture of me taking a picture of...
Hoisting the sails
Floating restaurant, up close
Sail above me
Don’t look up the sky so high/You’ll get bird poo in your eye
Straight on for Manda Island
Shela at sunset
Back on our balcony, we couldn’t muster the energy to go out, so we ordered hotel food and ate there. I had the pilau prawns, which were perfectly spiced and didn’t make my tongue swell up. We made cocktails from the previous evening’s stash of fruit juice. Lulled by fresh air and plenty of sun, we retired peacefully.