Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lamu: the last day.

When we last left our heroine, she was up on the roof of Amu House, in Lamu, Kenya, watching the stars.

My soundtrack for the evening included the light twitter of mysterious night birds, calls to prayer from at least two mosques, and in the distance, the thump of music from a beach party with a bonfire. Farther away still, a helicopter patrolled the coast (there's a navy base nearby). I'd turned down the opportunity to attend that party - I was just too wiped and in need of solitude - but it was sweet to hear it from a distance.

I think I made it to bed around 3:30 am.

For some reason, I spent Saturday napping. I can't imagine why.

Sunday was our last full day on Lamu. We spent the day thusly:

That's fellow Amu House guest David, at left, and Kevin passed out on one of three day beds up on the roof. There's also a hammock. There were also two other people - David's coworker, Jason - they work for an outfit working to bring clean water and a medical clinic to areas hard-hit by Sudan's civil war - and Bonzi, a friend of theirs and of Mary's who likewise, spends his life doing good deeds - largely centered around sustainable building practices suitable for developing countries. It was a very chill time - shop talk, mostly, and shop talk with people devoted to making a difference in very challenging situations is pretty cool.

More rooftop views:

That's an infestation of bougainvillea. Rough life, eh?

That spot, above, is where I'd been perched the previous night gaping at the stars.

In the late afternoon, Jason and David invited us to join them and Bonzi on a boat ride across the channel to Manda Island. I wasn't sure I was up for it - I am extremely prone to motion sickness - but I put on my big girl pants and off we went.

First order of business: refueling. This is out in the middle of the channel. Diesel being decanted from one jerry can to another via an empty water bottle. Oh - these are Bonzi's pictures.

So we cross the channel and cruise along the side of Manda for a while. There was a whole lot of this:

Lush green. The island has no source of fresh water, so it's largely unsettled...or at least, settlement has traditionally been limited to a handful of homesteads. Although there are a couple of exceptions.

One exception showed up pretty quickly, as we made our way up a side channel that cuts into the island just shy of the ocean:

Here's a dhow - a traditional fishing boat - loaded with coral blocks. There's also a guy sitting on the floor toward the stern, bailing it out. Coral is the main building material on Lamu and on the coast in general. It's gotta come from somewhere, right?

Turns out there is a mining town on Manda.

Here's the town dock. The yellow containers are for fresh water, as again, there is none to be had on the island. The boys - see the group of boys, to the right? - they're entertaining themselves by pushing one another off the dock.

This kid put up a fight, but in he went.

We were puttering by pretty slowly, and soon the boys invented a new game: chase the boat. They all leapt into the water and started swimming after us.

Ali, our boat captain, cautioned them not to get too close to the propellor - well, I think that's what he said (this was in Swahili) since it produced the desired effect. I was relieved. I kept thinking of that scene from "Galaxy Quest" when they make a quick stop on this planet to pick up beryllium for their warp drive and come across these seemingly cute little kids... who turn out to have sharp fangs and an insatiable appetite. Packs of boys are awesome...from a distance. We motored on out of there and continued our tour up the channel and then back out again into the main channel that separates Lamu from Manda.

And now we come to the second form of development on Manda, which sadly, is a reminder that wherever you go in the world, you can count on people to ruin perfectly good natural areas with ugly and inappropriate crapola.

For over the past 15 or so years, the channel coastline of Manda has been gobbled up by people with more money than taste.

I believe Ali told us the one one on the left belongs to Chirac.

This whole hodgepodge, above and below, is a single hotel complex.

Blegh, blegh, and more blegh. There is a big back story here about how this happened, which I won't go into because I'm not familiar enough with the details to speak with authority, but it doesn't speak well for all the parties involved.

Then we saw this:

A handmade, floating bar. We agreed it bore further investigation.

Pretty cool, huh? That's me, talking with the guy who built it.

Me, Jason, Kevin, David. Most of the guys had beer, but I hate beer, and Kevin can't drink it, so we went with white wine. It had, not surprisingly, made its transition to its final state of paint stripper, so when the barkeep wasn't looking I accidentally poured mine into the water.

But I wasn't complaining. We watched the sunset, and headed back to Old Town.

And the next morning, we headed back to Manda, this time, to the airstrip. Bye bye, Lamu!

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