AfricaKenyaLamu

Exploring Lamu

Lamu Travel Blog

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View from the Bahati
 

Evenings on the Bahati's hillside rooftop patio gazed out over Lamu Town, weakly lit by candles, kerosene lamps, and the occasional low-watt bulb. Skyward, Orion drifted directly overhead while the upside down Big Dipper tilted above the north horizon, its handle angling east. The Southern Cross stood tall to the south with its two pointers lifting out of the blackened sea.

 

The center of town appeared to be the castle-like prison and a small plaza with an open-air market offering chickens, mangos, bananas, and papayas. There were no cars on Lamu and the main street - Harambee - was only about twenty feet wide. Narrow alleyways wound in all directions like a maze.

Market near the prison
The thick and elaborately carved mahogany doors of shops and houses were trimmed in brass and opened directly onto the alleyways. Those zanzibar doors on the houses used brass knockers representing genitalia to provide visitors a means of identifying themselves by gender.

 

The dock and waterfront stirred with activity as the big cargo dhow prepared to set sail for Mombasa.

She floated low in the water but rocked rather stable in strong winds while the masts of anchored smaller dhows swayed violently. Dug-outs bobbed half full of water. The smallest of the dhows rested on their side, beached by the low tide. Four dhows skimmed by in a race with their white sails snapping. George the Swede was piloting the third craft from the stern.

A dhow
His head was held high and tilted back to peer over the bow while his fluttering shirt and gray beard  trailed in the wind. He had held an early lead but lost precious time recovering an overboard rope.

 

The finest beaches of Lamu were on the ocean side of the island. Instead of heading due east, Scott and I set out to the northeast. We passed the school, the graveyard, and on the edge of town, the mill where hardwood from the mangrove side of the island was being processed into stacks of lumber. Continuing past a few thatched huts, through a coconut grove, and across a grassy pasture, we reached our final obstacle - sand dunes. Thick brush prevented going around them. As we dashed over the dunes in a zig-zag pattern our feet sank deep into the soft hot sand, scorching them even though we wore flip-flops. We finally reached the sea about a mile from the main beaches, blazing not only a new trail but our feet. Seashells of all sizes, shapes, and colors marked the high tide. Crabs rode the gentle surf from turquoise waters to embed in white sand. Only their eyes were visible like small periscopes.  A scattering of travelers swam and basked under the tropical sun. Many were unclothed; another sight that Scott and I were not accustomed to seeing in February.

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View from the Bahati
View from the Bahati
Market near the prison
Market near the prison
A dhow
A dhow
New arrivals
New arrivals
Narrow alleyways
Narrow alleyways
On the Bahati patio
On the Bahati patio
Lamu
photo by: AgniAgni