It was the end of the holy month of Ramadan – a cause for celebration at the end of the last day’s fast. A fast which included,
not only food, but any liquids, including water, sex, and - even cigarettes! It was a fascinating time to be there, but food was
hard for us hungry non-believers to come by during the daylight hours.
|Beers in Lamu Town
After lunch, we walked through the always fascinating Lamu
Town and out into the jungle behind it, constantly hearing
“Jambo! Jambo!” from passers by. On our way back through
town we stopped at the “Police Administration”. There was
an incongruous beer garden attached which was frequented by
locals. When we stopped in and sat down, a quite large man
at a nearby table insisted on buying us drinks. In a persistent
but friendly way he offered us a second round. We agreed – if
we could join he and his friends at their table. His name was
Abraham, but he told us he was called “Brick Shit House” for
obvious reasons. His friends introduced themselves as Joseph
and Lucy. It was very pleasant chatting with them. While
their English was a challenge to understand, we learned a lot
about the forty-eight tribes in Kenya. Of course I had to buy
another round – at 85¢ a piece much cheaper than the places
frequented by the Wuzungas in Shela.
We spent several delightful weeks absorbing the culture, the sun, and the smiles. The morning call to prayer
woke us shortly before dawn, the most beautiful, poetic call to prayer I have ever heard.
"It’s so quiet; about seven in the morning now. From a neighbor’s house, interminable, quiet chanting is emanating,
occasionally I can hear a motorboat pass by in the channel between the two islands of Manda and Lamu. I can see the dark
man across the way. He is looking through his curtain, holding his baby – while the chant continues. It rained hard last night
and the soil is clean. What will it be like when we are again in the outer world? The modern world; not this ancient one but the
one with cars, trucks, noise, bustle?"
It i s a very friendly place
After finally leaving Shela, we traveled south, down the coast, where we spent several days in the fascinating port of Mombassa.
Mombassa – Nairobi Train
It was raining hard when we got to the tired old station. We retrieved our bags – and there was Kristy and Laurie from Lamu! We had a
beer in the soggy café together, and then boarded. Our car was in first class (still cheap), so we had it to ourselves, just two bunks. No
lights, but they did come on, as promised, when the train left Mombassa.
Shortly after departure we joined the two girls for dinner in the dining car. It was elegant in a scruffy way; lots of knives and forks – a bit
bent and seldom matching. Dinner was ok. And we shared a bottle of wine. As there was only one seating we were allowed to linger
before retiring to our rooms which we found had been made up for us.
Sleep was tough. Trish had potty problems, while I was up on the precipitous top bunk. The bedding was rough and hard to manage.
Going to the toilet – a squatter at the end of the car – was a challenge for both of us. I felt terrible for Trish which made sleeping even more
difficult. It seemed that I heard our faithful watch chime all the hours; but must have gotten some sleep.
Trish and I woke at the break of dawn and adjusted ourselves with our blankets and peered out our small window. There we watched the
sun rise over the high plains of Kenya! It was a beautiful morning, and a dramatic sight. The eighteen car train stopped while locals ran
through their fields to board the third class cars at the end. We were spellbound as we watched herds of zebras, elands, hartebeest – and a
single, monumental ostrich.
We went down for breakfast at seven and stayed in the dining car until shortly before our arrival in Nairobi at nine am, exactly on time! The
four of us took a bus to the suburb of Karen. It took quite a while getting out of the traffic in central Nairobi, not a place we cared to
explore further – it’s all cars and traffic, not a place friendly to walkers.
A town in Africa
We wandered through the typical spread-out town with its ramshackle shops behind iron gratings; bananas hanging out as if to dry, men and
some women hanging around.
“Jambo” everyone said.
We bought some groceries at a small shack, and then stopped into a bar that also functioned as the local butcher shop. There was a carcass
hanging in the window along side a slab of what looked like liver. There was a nice patio in the rear where we drank our warm beer and
soda. Three men were having an African lunch consisting of ugali and komchari, eaten with very large helpings of salt – perhaps needed to
get it down. Ugali is a staple made from maize or cassava flour, served in large plain blocks.
Upon our return to Nairobi we settled into the house in Kitengala. Almost two weeks quickly passed as we enjoyed the comforts of our
Kenyan home. (Unfortunately, our camera broke, so there are no accompanying photos of our time there.)
Trish wrote to the kids in her wonderful style about the magic.
“Dad and I are sitting here on the lawn in the sun looking out across at the Nairobi National Park…We see 4 elegant giraffes nibbling
from leafy tree tops, zebras grazing, wart hogs, Elands, even a black Rhino, as we listen to crickets and lovely bird calls in the jungle.
When we first arrived it was very dry but now that we have had the “short rains” – the heavier “long rains” come in April – it is lush
and green. The planting around our cozy adobe house is full of cacti, succulents, birds of paradise, violets, and hibiscus. The river
below us is full and you can hear it singing. There are so many noises that we are not in tune to…the lions at night; but there are layers
We have seen many special places and made lots of new, colorful, and unusual friends. Our little enclave here is full of myths and
mysteries. There are lots of zebra, ibis, gazelles and storks. The Maasai shepherds with their cattle and goats walk on land that was
The potholed roads are enchanting, lined with little dukas, shacks selling vegetables and dried goods. They have wonderful sukuma
wikie, “to stretch the week” in swahili – a spinach like vegetable with tomatoes and garlic all cooked together; sambusas, and mandazis
– flat sugared donuts. Nyama Choma – roasted meat – is the big favorite. We have cooked a lot here in our little kitchen. The views
surround and envelope us!!! There is also Wilson, a Maasai warrior who is our night watchman. He circles the grounds at night with
his dim flashlight and Maasai weapon. He is not very ferocious!!!
We sailed in Native Dhows,
And watched the sun set
Walked the streets of nearby Lamutown
The celebration took place at the magic time of exactly 6:12 on the last of thirty days of fasting.
Explored lovely Shela
“The New Palm Tree Hotel”
was a bit seedy - matching
Mombassa, but we found a room
which seemed adequate.
Our friend Joanna was born in Kenya. For several years we have listened to her stories about growing up in the savanna
listening to lions roar at night and seeing myriad wild animals on her way to school. Recently she mentioned that the family
This was our first trip to that huge expanse of Africa that lies South of the great Sahara Desert. As we flew over the vast,
apparently vacant stretches of Egypt and the Sudan in the gathering dusk, the world seemed to become more mysterious.
The main highway from the airport into the center of Nairobi was dark. We were a long way from the brightly lit streets and
boulevards of Paris. The road stretches from the port of Mombassa on the Indian Ocean to Nairobi; then continues on into the
interior of Central Africa. Huge trucks, belching black fumes attempt to navigate amongst the heavy traffic and are often forced
to drive on the on the sandy creviced shoulders. We found few roads in Kenya that did not consist of cavernous holes, deep
mud in the rains, and choking dust at other times.
This is a tale of Africa.
After settling into our new African home outside of Nairobi, we almost immediately set out on what proved to be an
adventurous Trip across Kenya to Lamu Island on the coast of the Indian Ocean. Our destination was the village of Shela, a
truly magical place. A place where we found the swahili culture so all pervading that we just has to relax and soak it in. We
settled into a traditional house, complete with a - I dislike the term - "houseboy". Jango took care of our every need for our stay
of several weeks .