February 24, 1978

To-day was the seventh day of the Datsun rental, and the first thing I saw was a herd of giraffes against the rising sun, around 05:45 - a very romantic scene! I drove off seeing the moon sinking on one side and the red sun continuing to rise on the other. After some 50 kms I thought I could venture to take a branch road leading to the coast. I passed through a very primitive village and ended up in a more "civilized" town, which proved to be Garsen, so my computations had been off; but at least I was on the right road to Lamu!
I tanked for ks 89, (km xx859), and bought some tea and cookies for ks 2. I also filled the waterbottle.
Next, I took the free hand-pulled ferry across the rather narrow but swift and muddy Mara River. The population was a mix of Muslims with head gear and native blacks in shorts and skirts. It started looking like the Biesbosch again except that the birds either reacted the wrong way or were tired of life and cared less about their survival than I did; the cormorants were different in this respect.

I also saw some groups of baboons and noted how the leader always pretends to be fearless. There were all kinds of palm trees, and also the baobab which is very thick at the bottom but grows rapidly thinner higher up.

I passed through Witu, of Wituland - fame, a pleaaantly cool village with real houses, and Hindi, where I tried to get my flat fixed at Milimani's Shop.
I parked the car at Mokowe and left my unnecessary luggage with a man who told me that the only way to Lamu was by taking a fixed rate ks 40 boat. The alternative was to go by air.
It so happened a group of tourists went by which I joined so I only had to pay ks10 for the passage. I met some warty French girls, one old pro with ropey breasts, a fashionable British Lady with a jolly Prince Edward type consort and a German couple that kept quibbling about their single camera.

It was a pleasant trip through a channel with mud banks on both sides and swift sailing boats with double keels passing by. We soon got to spectacular Lamu, where we had to disembark and climb across several moored boats. Here the German lady did very well while her husband was rather fragile and gladly accepted my helping hand.
I carried my two bags to the closest bank where I had to wait for 3/4 hr. In the meantime, I talked with several of the numerous tourists, including Bernie, an Australian who had a diving shop at the Barrier Reef and invited me, a girl from Montreal, a teacher of San Jose State with a blue and white capuchon and a moustache, and, finally, a very tall lanky flat chested girl; all of them were ready and eager to exchanging plenty of dollars for shillings.

There were a lot of hippies around, wrapped in wraps, shawls, towels or whatever. I ventured to think that my friend Vic Anderlini from KISR would love it here!
The Australian referred me to Hotel Kadara where rooms cost ks 35. I walked tither and had some trouble finding any staff, till I ran into the cook I was given a pleasant room with balcony and view across the mangrove piles on the quay. It was there I wrote up my diary at sunrise the next morning.
There was a good breeze and the place was labyrinthine with a fine courtyard.
I parked my bags and went for an unencumbered walk, starting along the quays, where laborers were manually unloading various loads of mangrove sticks - which are exported to Saudi Arabia for construction work - , all kinds of staples, as well as boat loads of baskets filled with coralline rock. It was low tide and I heard several loud generators at work.

I found the main shopping street, parallel to the quay. This "Usita wa Mui" was narrow, cool and busy. There were many beautifully carved doors and windows, and several stately mosquees. The side streets had wide and deep gutters to take the water downhill.
I bought a booklet from which I found out that this street had been the quay till last century, when ambitious traders had extended the sea front some 100-200 m seaward to the present quay - a process of landfill I had recently witnessed in Kuwait and Jeddah.

I visited Petley's Inn, named after Percy Petley who was without any doubt the worst (or best?) hotelier in the world. All by myself on top of the roof I was served a good Kingfish luncheon and beer for the kingly sum of ks 40.
After that, I took a siesta in my room and woke up in a panic to find out that my watch had stopped - a bad omen? The dhows had been pushed up much higher by the incoming tide.
I read in "Lamu Town - A Guide" on page 40:
"the oil pollution on the beach of Ras Shaka is appalling at practically all times of the year."
This cape lies south of Lamu and north of Malindi.

I took a bag and my swimming and sampling gear and walked to the beach. I was still stiff and sore from yesterday's ride, and found the dirty water a good excuse not to swim here.
I guess it was the onshore wind that carried lots of vegetal debris ashore, since people were swimming from the dhows.
To my surprise, I only found one piece of tar in my survey of this white beach.
Back at the hotel, I did my laundry and hung it out to dry, possibly to the chagrin of my neigbors, a family of surly Scandinavians.

At 19:00 I walked to town again and had a much cheaper dinner of rice and vegetables, yoghurt and lemon juice for a mere ks 11. I also bought films and noticed that more people were shopping now. I looked into the overflowing bar at Petleys and decided to skip it. So I sat down near an old canon (see photograph below) and tried to hypnotize a girl with an Indian headdress. "Three Days to Mombasa" sounded like a good title for a romantic movie should I succeed...

photos of Lamu Palace by Sylvia Roses, Spain, on Tripadvisor

Once again, I walked from one end of the street to the other, skipped the movie theater and went back to the hotel through some other fairly lively parts of town. It was still early when I went to bed under my mosquito net. The baby next door cried and trigggered a mother cat who miauwed heartbreakingly till her tiny kitten came over to be licked. I thought of my daughter Erika just before I fell asleep.
It must have been hot because not only did I sweat but I also smelled the sweat of my predecessors in this room. Good night!
I also suddenly realized that to-day was hardly a "normal" day, since it was Muslim territory !

Lower Tana water wars - Lamu - World Heritage - Elspeth Huxley on Lamu - Petley - More Lamu
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