February 25, 1978

I woke up at 06:00 and watched the sunrise. I was very sweaty and took delight in the cool water of the shower. High water again. Chatted with the sweeper whose brother was studying in Kuwait. Wrote my journal till 07":30 when it was already getting hot. I decided to write a number of letters, which took me to 08:30 and covered my wife and children, my parents, friends at KISR: Vic Anderlinei, Atta Hassan, Jim and Anne Parks, Samani and Slingerland in Bermuda.
I walked through the cool shopping street and had a good omelet and tea breakfast with excellent service by a bare foot waiter. The next stop was the Post Office, where a friendly clerk sold me the required postage stamps of ks 1 each for Kuwait and S.Africa and ks 1.35 for Holland and America.
I climbed the hill for a nice view, and talked with an Englishman sitting there.I asked if he happened to be Mr. Allen, the author of the Lamu Guide. No, but he did know him. I asked him to thank Mr.Allen for the info about the serious oil pollution along this coast. He would do so, but remarked that the pollution had been much less than before, probably due to the fact that tankers could not pass through the Suez Canal and had to round the Cape. Pollution had been worst from 1968-70, especially in Mombasa where he had kept a hotel for 7 years and been a member of a committee to try and make Mombasa a free port. They had not succeeded in that endeavo(u)r, which he partly blamed on Japanese mother shrimp vessels , which had now been outlawed in connection with the change in legal status of the continental shelf (EEZ)
He also told me that the East African Oil Co refinery used to send out questionnair-postcards about oil spills. I thanked him and went on my way.
I walked through some cool palm tree groves and met two men with a donkey loaded with coconuts. We stopped and talked, and the father, Mohammed Hassan (POB 28, Lamu) kindly opened two young coconuts for me to drink and eat with a spoon carved from the shell. I took their photograph and promised to send them a copy. This man earned ks 7 per day. He offered to take me to the beach, but I found out to my dismay that it was 11:30 already. I was tempted to stay another night and wanted to walk to Shela, an old town buried in the sand, but decided to defer that to my next visit.
Instead, I visited the museum, located in a genuine Lamu house. I made some notes of the names of various such objects as :

agali=headcord, amamu=white head dress, bushti=(Mecca) robe.
People wore sarong and kebaja similar to those in Indonesia.

There also was a "mandi" tank, from which to dip water and throw it on your head by way of taking a shower. At the bottom , it was inlaid with blue porcelain, and small goldfish swam around to take care of mosquito larvae.
There were two bridal rooms, and I learned about the custom that the groom had never seen the bride but now had to spend seven days (and nights) in a yasmin bed with her and show the bedsheets to the family after the first night.
There were stories about a princes and a German, and there were many swords and daggers, models of dhows and tombs, ceremonial horns and silverware. In brief, it was one of the best museums I have seen.
But it was running late, so I had a quick lunch in the courtyard of the hotel, settled my bill for room and drinks, a total of ks 40, or roughly a working man's working week salary.
I carried my bags and purchases to the wharf, where -at low water - the ks 3 ferry boat was being overloaded with passengers . Next to me was a voluptuous young mother with two kids, who during this all too short voyage managed to rub every part of her body against every part of mine, without flinching or showing any emotion.
Everyone took off on the bus, but I walked to my car and paid ks 5 for overnight storage. It was almost like coming home and I enjoyed the drive so much tat I got lost once again, but everyone I asked greeted me friendly and confirmed that I was on the right road (or track) to Kipini. Nevertheless, when I picked up some hitchhikers they persuaded me to drive back and get on the official highway, somewhere near Mkunumbi,

I raced on back to Witu where I turned off and drove the remaining 17 kms to Kipini on a fine road.
I greatly enjoyed this country which reminded me of the scenery in "Bruyn the Bear" tales which my grandfather used to clip out for me. Somewhat strange within all these palm forests was the sudden appearance of an "agricultural prison"... Kipini itself looked a bit neglected, with ancient native huts, European-looking houses, a hospital and a dilapidated post office.
[note: they apparently issued their own stamps during the rather brief German protectorate of Wituland, which- together with German East Africa and South West Africa - was traded for British-held Helgoland under Bismnarck]

credit for this photograph of the Tana River near Kipini

When I took a sand trail to get to the beach, I got stuck and some young boys helped to push the Datsun. It was now 16:00, so I parked the car and climbed over a low dune ridge with trees past an old fortress to the beach which was bloody hot.
There was a strong wind, and the beach showed some interesting "aeolian pavement" and ripples. The water was very brown and when I swam there, it was almost uncomfortable warm.
Initially, I thought there was no tar, but nevertheless I did some profiles as follows (the tar I collected in labeled plastic bags, which I weighed later):

Location Tar in grams per
square meter
Tar in grams per
meter coastline
1 Between Ras Shaka and
Tana River mouth
0.374 25.7
2 200 m south of
Profile 1
0.315 19.7
4 1,000 m south of
Profile 2
0.780 09.5

  • seawater brown and full of seaweed
  • the tar concentrations diminished southward.
  • the tarballs were fresh and round, largest about 5 cm
  • smaller pieces high up on beach.
  • many seaguls, fishing canoes and a few shrimpers near the mouth of Tana River.

  • It was a hard walk back with high tide and sand sticking to my skin everywhere especially in uncomfortable places. I reached the car at 17:00, where I broke my Egyptian side bag twice and drove first to the hospital to fill my water bottle. I walked through both wards smiling as if I were a (medical) doctor.
    Back on the road, I picked up a heavily packed hitchhiker and dropped him at his wife's hut, only a small detour through pleasant country. At sunset, I watched their children perform an impromptu sword dance with two drums while he served me three coconuts and gave me a guide along to show the way back.
    By 19:00, I reached Witu again. "No accommodations," they said at the country store which only carried such essentials as candy and transistor radio batteries.
    In the dark, I drove on to Garsen, on the way catching some civet cat with a beautiful marked skin (in my headlights) .
    I made one stop to drink one of the coconuts, then reached the ferry which was slow and hot and full of mosquitoes.
    In Garsen, I was told that all hotel rooms were taken. In a bar, I met a friendly man named Geoffrey who told me that at 23:00 I could go home with Mary the bar tender who rented one room with just a bed and mosquitoe net for ks 50.
    I had some meat and rice for late dinner, washed down with beer. To while away the time, I had some nice chats with the other customers who were very friendly.
    At Mary's, I finally could wash off the sticky sand and slept not too well under the net and in the smell of abundant spray. The odometer reading was 17,159 kms.
    Fishery Statistics and Gear of Kenya, FAO - Tana River Delta - The Kenya Navy
    BLO fecit 20070806/7 - 1978 TOUR - previous page - next page