Published: January 20th 2009January 20th 2009
We decided to stay in Nairobi for a few extra days and get in a visit to the Giraffe Centre. I was intrigued with being able to feed a giraffe, so we planned our visit for Sunday. The Lonely Planet certainly made it sound easy to get to, but after taking two matatus and walking 5+ km in the heat of the day (as always with us!) we were hoping for more of a giraffe experience than we got. It was great to feed a giraffe and I even got to kiss one, but that was pretty much all there was to it. We decided to take advantage of the nature trail included in the admission price and hoped we would see some birds or maybe the male giraffe, but no such luck. With the prospect of having to walk at least 2 km to catch the closest matatu we set off. Lucky for us, just before the main road, a bus stopped and picked us up (we didn't even ask where it was going, we were so happy to see it - we just got on!) and it turned out to be travelling the entire distance to Nairobi. Getting home
This the beach that we were living near for the last little while, with one of the resident camels coming to visit.
was much easier than getting there!
Monday morning we arrived early at the bus station for our 9am bus to Mombasa. The bus showed up around 10:30am and we finally departed Nairobi just before 11am. The bus company assigns seats to each passenger, but what they don't tell you is that the numbers above the seats are incorrect and they don't use them. You can just imagine the chaos and confusion as everyone is switching seats, arguing over seat numbers and moving luggage around. Sheesh! It was mayhem!
Jan met us in Mombasa and as it was already dark, we tried to get a taxi, but the prices were high (as always for "mzungu's" or white people) so we jumped into a matatu and then changed to another matatu and headed up the coast toward his house. The jumping in matatus is not as easy as it sounds as we have all our luggage and there is no room to store luggage on a matatu so it must go on your lap. Even this isn't that bad, except when the person beside you wants out and you have to get out, and then climb back in again and
At low tide the coral is exposed.
maybe do this more than once depending on the location of your seat. I was very glad when we reached Jan's place and were able to put our bags down!
Jan built a small estate, called Melrose Place, near Shanzu, a village north of Mombasa. He has 14 units which he rents out to German and English ex-pats mostly. The grounds are lovely and lush and the pool is a wonderful retreat from the coastal heat. The beach is only 5 minutes walk away and the main road is about 3 minutes walk where you can catch a matatu to Mombasa or to the neighboring village of Mtwape.
Jan sponsors a young woman from Mtwape, Faridah, who lives on the estate and also helps in the managing of the units. Meeting and getting to know Faridah has been delightful. She is intelligent, curious, fun-loving and a great cook! She has been spoiling us and we have been trying to spoil her back by doing some cooking of our own. It has been a real novelty for us to have access to a kitchen after so long without. Our big contribution was Spaghetti, we made so much that we
These are the Aluminium tusks that were erected on Moi Ave. to mark the visit of the British Royal Princess Margaret in 1956.
had leftovers for Christmas dinner!
Our Christmas day was splendid. We slept in, exchanged small presents with Jan and Faridah, ate a leisurely breakfast and then headed out to the beach. This was the first beach Christmas for both Peter and I. We swam in the warm, warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Walked up and down the beach and then relaxed in a lounger with our books and a cold beer. I have to say this is a very nice way to spend Christmas!
Jan and Faridah also had a volunteer staying with them, Johanna, who left shortly after Christmas. Although she had other plans for Christmas day, Johanna was able to join us for our Christmas dinner of spaghetti leftovers - lucky girl!
Our days have been mostly lazy. We sleep in (it is so quiet here), eat a leisurely breakfast, go for a swim or walk to the beach. Maybe we will get adventurous and head to the large supermarket nearby, or into Mombasa or head to the internet cafe in Mtwape. Mostly we read our books either in the pool or in the shade of the makuti roof (a woven reed roof nestled
Jan's dog Mia giving one of the camels a kiss, she had quite a fascination with camels. One of the beach activities is camel rides!
in the trees). The heat is very oppressive here and we spend our time trying to escape it. (Not gonna get much sympathy from the Canadians here - being snowed under and all!) While the daytime temps reach about 30 - 35 degrees, the humidity is the killer that coats your body in sweat during all your waking moments. The nights do not cool off much, but there are fans in the rooms to help move the hot air around.
We celebrated New Year's Eve with a fondue at home and then walked down to the beach to watch the fireworks being set off from all the hotels and resorts. The beach was busier at midnight than at any other time we had been down. It was a very festive atmosphere and the fireworks displays were fabulous. It was also the latest we have been up in a long time, I finally went to bed at 5am and Peter came a short while later. New Year's Day breakfast was definitely served at lunch time - Peter and I made French Toast for our hosts, unfortunately there was no Maple syrup!
After 2 weeks of lounging and taking full
advantage of Jan and Faridah's hospitality we thought we should get off our backsides and see more of the Kenyan Coast - specifically Lamu. We left our big bags in Shanzu and headed off to Lamu with our day packs for a week or so of adventure. The trip to Lamu is about 7 hours (closer to 8 for us as we were on the bus that stopped every 5 feet for passengers) and is hot and dusty. The bus drops you at the "ferry", which is really an open dhow that is completely overcrowded (funnily enough we weren't all that comforted by the 6 old lifejackets that were tied in knots to the boat) and in 30 minutes you reach the island of Lamu.
Lamu town is a charming centre full of traditional Swahili culture, carved doors, narrow, winding passageways, dhows and donkeys. We got ourselves settled into a budget hotel and set off to discover the town. As there are no vehicles on Lamu (except for the District Commisioner who has a truck), donkeys are the main mode of transportation. There are an estimated 2300 donkeys on the island and a Donkey Sanctuary that assists owners with
Jan's Pool on Christmas Day
From left to right: Peter, Laini, Faridah and Jan. What a great way to spend Christmas!!!!!!
care and maintenence of their animals. When walking you always look down to see where you are stepping! On the other hand, we were treated to several newborn donkeys - they are so cute!
We ran into a fellow (Stephen) that we had met in Lake Naivasha and his girlfriend (Jenny) and found out that they had been in Lamu for 8 days already, with no immediate plans to leave. This was a recurring theme with people we had met who had been to Lamu - planned to stay 3 days and ended up staying 2 weeks. Not us of course, we had other plans so we would only be staying about 4 days. HA! We met other travellers at our hotel and over breakfast found out that they too came for a few days and were already at day 10. In the end, Lamu cast it's captivating spell over us too and on the 7th day we dragged ourselves away.
While Lamu town is a wonderful place to wander up and down the passageways, get lost and find little treasures along the way (the town is reminiscent of Santorini for me) the beach at Shela is another
From left to right:Jan, Johanna, Laini, Peter and Faridah!
reason to stay a few extra days. The beach is about 3 km away, but the pathway along the water makes it a beautiful stroll that passes quickly. There are accommodations in Shela as well, but most were at least double what we were paying in Lamu, so we opted for the walk rather than to move and pay more. Once you walk past the village and around the corner you see a beautiful, untouched stretch of beach backed by sand dunes. We beachcombed for shells and sand dollars, swam in the warm, warm waters and just enjoyed the solitude of this spectacular beach.
We kept making noises of leaving and our new friends from Australia, Joel and Shy, kept saying "stay one more day". As I said, we did finally drag ourselves away, with the promise that they would follow us to Watamu in a few days.
Watamu is a small beach resort area that is predominently visited by Italians. We certainly did not expect to find an area that was a favourite of Italian tourists - but we embraced their influence in terms of the coffee and gelato! Watamu is a lovely little area that is
A lovely little restaurant overlooking the beach. We enjoyed a fresh juice and the view as the food was out of our price limit (the tablecloths give it away!).
made up of three bays: Watamu Bay, Blue Bay and Turtle Bay, which are all within walking distance. We were staying in a budget hotel on the main street, but the Blue Bay beach was literally one minute away. The snorkelling was meant to be fantastic, so on our first day we set out to find the best snorkelling deal we could find. Unfortunately, it seems the Marine Park fees were increased on Jan. 1 and this means the price of the trips goes up too. We eventually arranged a trip with one boat operator and set our alarm to be up bright and early for snorkelling.
Peter ended up snorkelling alone the next day as I was laid up in bed with a bad stomach that had me up all night. Peter was a little disappointed with the snorkelling trip as the boats go out at low tide, in the morning, and it was cloudy meaning the colours weren't as vibrant as they are when the sun is shining. Also, the trip was relatively short at 1.5 hours.
When Joel and Shy arrived later that afternoon, we found out that she too had been sick with stomach
Lamu town harbour.
troubles and also another fellow from the hotel in Lamu too. Six of us had eaten a traditional Swahili dinner on our last night, and so far 3 of us had been sick ... hmmmm .... maybe just a coincidence?? Probably not.
With the illness I was pretty weak and ended up spending a day and a half in bed. The day I started feeling better, Peter started to feel sick. So our stay in Watamu was also extended - but it was not a bad place to rest and get better.
The four of us all headed into Malindi for one night before heading onto Mombasa. Malindi is the largest urban centre on this part of the coast and is also heavily influenced by the Italian ex-pat and tourist population. The beach at Malindi is the only one that we have visited thus far that has any surf to speak of. When the tide came in, the four of us headed down to play in the surf and watch Joel display his excellent body surfing technique!
From Malindi, we left Joel and Shy to return to Jan and Faridah. Joel and Shy found a budget place
Lamu town, one of the many small passageways.
not too far from us and we have been able to see them regularly. Our week-long trip turned into a full two weeks away! The Kenyan Coast has a way of slowing you down!
Today is the US Presidential Inauguration and Obama Fever is alive and well on the Kenyan Coast. It is all-Obama all the time on all television channels. You can buy Obama t-shirts, hats and stickers (probably other paraphenalia too) and one of the bars is advertising "Obama Dancers" at their inauguration celebrations. It is a little over the top, as most Kenyans believe that Obama is going to make life for the average Kenyan better. We are not sure how they have come to believe this, but the overall belief is that because Obama is Kenyan (no matter how thin that thread is) he will save Kenya. We have tried to explain to a few people that he has his hands full taking care of the USA, but to little avail.
We will spend a few more days in Shanzu with Jan and Faridah before saying our final goodbye to Kenya. Our next destination is Moshi in Tanzania. Before Christmas we thought that we
One of the many boats, you can see the workmen ship and carving on this new boat. It is all done with traditional hand tools.
would be home by the end of January or early February. Being the 20th of January already, we can safely say that the earlier prediction is far off. We are now taking the wise advice of my mother and seeing everything we want to see while we are here and are going to stretch our stay with our trusty credit cards (unless someone we know wins the lottery and is generous enough to send us some cash!! :). Our new predicition for heading home is March ... but we will keep you posted!
Thanks for continuing to follow along with our adventures!
Lots of love,
Laini and Peter
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