What was the best time, and place, to be on holiday? Lamu Island it is, and this blog will explain why. It might seem quite early into the year to declare best destinations of 2017 but I am confident that Lamu Island is it for me. I’ve wanted to go to Lamu, specifically Lamu Cultural Festival at least twice in the past five years but as fate had it I didn’t, mainly because I couldn’t get any time off at my former TV job. But good things don’t always come easy – my first time in Lamu turned out to be truly relaxing and just perfect for meditation and preparation for 2017.
I hadn’t planned to be in Lamu on the first week of January but did last minute after my boyfriend Tomas and I decided that it would be nice to spend some alone time together in the island, with some friends visiting from Europe. Tomas never prepares anyone for anything. In any journey you take with him just be ready to discover and adapt quick! He’s been to Lamu severally and even has family friends around. I don’t know what to expect or our itinerary for the next few days, apart from plans of sailing to Matondoni village, about thirty minutes from Lamu, over the weekend.
I am just happy that I am headed to my dream destination and he’s coming to pick me at Manda airport located in Manda Island. There are many foreign tourists in the plane and fascinating that I sit next to a Kenyan man who says he had just come from Czech Republic – where I had just been coming from too. Very rare for me to be talking to strangers in the plane; regardless, we talk Kenyan and Czech polity and Kenyan security.
We cross over into Lamu town from the bay in a speedboat named “Rose” 🙂 It takes about six minutes to town and another three minutes walk to the house where we are putting up. On our way we pass by the Donkey Sanctuary, where several donkeys take refuge and rest when not at work. Tomas reminds me, “No other mode of transportation here – only donkeys so be prepared to be only walking for the next couple of days.” I want to take a donkey ride but will pass on second thought *Giggles*
Lamu’s narrow streets and alleys make it a little tricky to navigate through. You are sharing the tiny space with fellow humans of Lamu and donkey riders. After a few mishaps we deduce that the only dangerous thing to watch out for in Lamu are the donkeys and their riders, who most times spread out their legs wide apart while riding. This can easily take up all the space on the alleys to squeeze you or instantly take you down.
For the next couple of days we dine like Kings and Queens at Lamu’s famed Swahili restaurants like Seafront, La Banda and Mangrove. Most of which always have fresh fish as catch of the day. The Fish Biryani at Seafront was so delicious I would fly all the way to Lamu just to eat it. The street food like Mshikaki and Swahili Pizza was too good. From Samaki wa Kupakwa, Coconut Fish, Pilau, Prawn Cocktail, Fish Samosas and their version of Matoke in peanut sauce to breakfast delights like Katlesi, Kitumbua, Kebabu and lots of other sweet things – I highly recommend Lamu if you want a proper show off of a traditional Swahili meal. The temperature in Lamu during our stay is always at about 30°C so their fresh juices like Tamarind and Lime in Paw Paw or Mango are delightful!
Lamu people are friendly, patient and calm. Of course there are exceptions, you meet a few rude island boys demanding for tips or taunting you in show of unnecessary supremacy or some sort of seniority. Generally Lamu people are pleasant because you won’t walk down a street or alley and not have at least six people say “Jambo” and “Welcome to Lamu” to you. Some will even go ahead and ask you if you’re enjoying your time. They are also patient because of their main economic activity in the area – Fishing. To be a fisherman – you have to be patient and to be the ones relying on the Fish you have to treat the fishermen with tolerance. Like life’s up and downs – there are days when a fisherman gets nothing, and then on some they catch a whole wheelbarrow full. Regardless, on all these days, a fisherman has to consistently put in the same measure of hope, and precision in his endeavor and flair of casting the net or guessing on where the fish might be across seasons.
I admire that quality in the people of Lamu. It reflects in their societal set up. Old men sit down at popular corners in town to talk, quietly on issues. They will wave at you when you are passing because they know tourists when they see them. Boat captains and riders will wait for you for as long as you want to prepare into the boat, unlike impatient matatu touts who will throw you in or out of a moving mat if they have to.
There are no rough and loud political street meetings like in Nairobi. There are no matatus hooting, no traffic, no pollution, no touts yelling out, no sirens, no police waiting to harass you on the road, no fake Swahili Food restaurants, no AlcoBlow – you can just eat, drink up to the brim and walk home happily. As we did.
More blog posts on my recent travels coming up soon …