Watamu, Gede and Lamu

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August 8th 2011
Published: August 8th 2011
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Watamu July-Aug 2011 108Watamu July-Aug 2011 108Watamu July-Aug 2011 108

View upto the house I was staying at in Watamu
On Tuesday 26th July I headed off to Watamu for 2 weeks voluntary work on the coast. Decided to take the overnight train 'the iron snake' from Nairobi to Mombasa. Departure time was 7pm and due to arrive in Mombasa at 9am the next day. Had booked a taxi to pick me up at 5:30 to get me to the station at 6pm but due to a great thunderstorm just before I was to set of all traffic in Nairobi came to a standstill. Didn't get to the station till 6:45pm. Was starting to panic that I might miss the train, needn't of panic as true to form the train left 30 mins late. I decided to book a first class compartment as it was only £25. This got you a 2 berth compartment, dinner and breakfast. As I was travelling alone I got the compartment to myself which consisted of 2 bunk style beds, cupboard and wash basin and bedding.

Decided not to eat before I left home as I was getting dinner on board, big mistake. Dinner consisted of chicken soup, which I'm sure had never been anywhere near a chicken, main course was a piece of chicken and 3 cold roast potatoes and dessert was a very small portion of fruit salad. At least the beer was cheap, £1.20 for a big bottle of Tusker.

At about 11pm decided it was time to turn in. Now you have to remember that trains in Kenya are not exactly modern, so all you here is the good old clickerty clack of the wheels and a lot of swaying to and fro. Think I fell asleep at about 1:30am.

Breakfast was a little bit better, egg and bacon. Not quite as good as in the UK but ok. Got into Mombasa 2 hours late at 11am. So far I had travelled 320 miles in just over 12 hours, the coach takes 6 hours. Apparently the train is only allowed to go at 30 mph due to the state of the rails. Still it was worth it for the experience.

Then it was off to get a Tuk-Tuk to go and get my bus to Watamu. Eventually got to the house where I was going to be spending the next 2 weeks at 3pm 20 hours after setting off and travelled only 400 miles.

Got to say

View from Bedroom window on lamu
once I got to the house it made the trip worthwhile. I was going to be staying in this lovely private house right on the beach. On the large balcony facing the beach is a dining room table where we eat lunch, a table to sit around while drinking and playing cards and a bed if you fancy a sleep. The view down to the beach to through a coconut tree lined path. Yep it's a hard life being a volunteer.

The next day I went off to do my first days volunteering at Gede Clinic. For those of you who have been following my blog you will know that I was meant to be volunteering at an orphanage but when I got here I got talking to one of the other volunteers, Clare. Told her that I had an interest in working for an NGO that deals with HIV and she said that she is at a clinic that has and HIV clinic there so decided that I will go and volunteer there. So glad I did.

Got to the clinic and Claire introduced me to Simiyu a local guy who also volunteers at the clinic doing HIV outreach work. Simiyu is an amazing guy, he was diagnosed with HIV about 6 years ago and was very near death but with the help of treatment made a full recovery. It was at that point he decided to give up working and dedicate his life to HIV outreach. Simiyu has very little money and only works every now and then when he needs money to pay for his daughter, Sally, to go to school. The rest of the time he is at the VCT, Voluntary Consoling and Testing Clinic.

During his time there he has helped to set up 3 support groups and a group that has brought tents which they hire out to help provide an income to people leaving with HIV who don't have jobs. Also within that group that have a small savings scheme whereby people can borrow money when in need that they can't get from the banks and pay back with a very small interest rate as and when they can afford it.

My main job was helping Simiyu, going out to the nearby villages doing home visits, speaking at the support groups using what knowledge I know about HIV and helping out around the clinic. I have to say there were a few times that I was close to tears, especially when do home visit to talk to the people that are bed ridden because they can't afford to go to one of the main hospital in either Malindi or Mombasa. They do get their HIV treatment free but all other treatment they have to pay for and it is not cheap here.

When I got to the house where I was staying there were 7 other volunteers here, 3 British girls Claire, Amy and Charlotte, 2 American girls and one guy, Alissa, Daniela and Dan and 1 German girl Mira. Claire, Daniela, Alissa and Miya were planning on going up to Lamu, a small island just of the very top of the Kenyan Coast just south of Somalia, for the weekend and they asked if i would like to join them. Since my cousin Julie had just been there and said it was lovely that i should try and get up there while here I decided to go.

To get there we decided to catch a bus which would take about 4 and half hours followed by a 20 min ferry trip, what we didn't realise was that for about 1 hour it was along a very pot holed road and for the last 2 and half hours along a very dusty and bumpy road. The bus was very old and had holes in the roof which collected dust and every time we went over a large bump you would get covered in dust. Then to top it all off just as we pulled into the ferry terminal the heavens decided to open up and so all the dust on us turned to mud. But once again, once we got to Lamu it was worth it all.

Lamu is a described in Lonely Planet as 'medieval stone towns of narrow streets, a tropical island paradise, delicious local cuisine and star-heavy nights that are pregnant with the smell of spice and possibility' and it is all that and more. The small narrow streets remind me of a Greek island, the food is great and there is a 12km long white beach which is one of the best I have seen.

Our hotel was in Shela a 40 min walk or 10 min speed boat ride from Lamu Town. It was a nice B&B with great views over the sea and a great roof top terrace. The 12km beach is just past Shela and it is amazing. On the Saturday we had a wonder around the narrow streets of Lamu town, went to see the fruit and veg market and the fish market. In the afternoon decided to try and catch some rays on Shela beach but just got sand blasted by the wind so decided to head back to the hotel.

That night we went for dinner at a roof top restaurant, was great but would of been better during the day as the views would of been amazing. That evening we went to one of the few places that serve beer, Lamu is mainly Muslim. Next day is was time to head back. The bus was slightly better so no getting covered in dust. The bus was back and next to me there was a 5/6 year old boy that was having to stand in the aisle so I let him sit on my lap back to Malindi. The only was that he was sick half way through the trip, lucky he was sick in the aisle. Then just as we puled into Malindi he was sick again this time all over my bag.

Back in Watamu it was back to work at the clinic at Gede. On Monday we helped finish off building a hut for one of the patients. Then on Wednesday we went to a village called Mida to do an out reach clinic for Mother and Babies. They have to weigh the babies and in order to do it they hung some scales of a tree and but the babies in a cloth bag and hooked them on the scales.

During my time at the clinic I made friends with a local guy called Kasi. We both got on really well and for my last night he invited me out with Simiyu and other worker called Authman. As we were going to be out late Simiyu invited me to stay at his place with his family. He lives with his 2 Mothers and 4 brothers and 3 sisters and their families. 2 of the brothers live in brick houses and the rest in mud and stick houses. I was going to be sleeping in one of the mud and stick houses.

Before heading out we all had dinner of very fresh duck, killed that night with rice and Ugali, bolied grain flour cooked into a thick porridge until it sets hard. I've had Ugali before and lets just say it is not the most tasting of foods but Charlotte, Kasi's wife made it by making her own grain flour straight from the maize they grow. Also got to meet Karen, Kasi's 2 year old daughter.

The next day Kasi had to work so his 4 brothers made me feel very welcome. Had Chai, a sweet milky tea which I have got very fond of, Chapati and bread. Then it was back to the house for my final day on the coast.

On Sunday it was up at 5:30 to leave the house for 6 to get 2 matatu's back to Mombasa and then my luxury coach back to Nairobi, and I do mean luxury, air conditioning and 3 classes of seats, Business, First and VIP. I had book First which was a nice large seat at the front of the bus.

I am really going to miss the guys at the Clinic but hopefully I'll be back there soon.

Additional photos below
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Shela Beach

Shela Beach

The girls in Lamu

Lamu fish market


Model Miya ;-)

On sunset Dhow trip

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