A tale of a Dhow and a donkey race
So after living the city life of Mombasa, I left for Lamu up the coast a few hours, or so I thought! Its actually an 8 hour journey through probably the most potholed road of Kenya. It all starts well and then 4 hours in you hit the bumpy coastal road. If you can call it that as there is limited tarmac to be found. I then spent the next 4 hours wishing that I had worn my sports bra as we flew down the track! Lamu is well worth the journey though, its the most amazing place. It's an island full of narrow winding streets that are similar to those found in Stone Town, Zanzibar. The difference is that there are no roads and only donkeys for transport. They are everywhere you look, trotting around and hauling everything in sight from 'a to b'. Being an animal lover I was slightly apprehensive about arriving to this place and hoping that I wouldn't have to spend all of my savings somehow adopting them all, or settling down and opening up a donkey sanctuary! Luckily for me the island already has its own donkey sanctuary and for the most part the people did seem to treat them quite well. The not so luck ones were treated to all the fruit and veg peel that myself and a girl that I met could muster up. One night we pretty much got mother and baby into our restaurant to feast on our left over chapattis! Donkeys eat everything so it seems. You'll see them eating cardboard boxes or pieces of old clothing. I asked one boy what he fed his and he proudly told me 'rubbish'! Wasn't entirely the answer I was looking for.
Whilst I was in Lamu there was the annual cultural festival held there which was absolutely amazing to experience. It certainly wasn't the kind of festival I am used to seeing that the island was Muslim and there is very limited alcohol to be found but great all the same. Every man has his poison though. There is something called mirra in Kenya which looks like a bunch of coriander minus the leaves. Its perfectly legal and involves chewing huge bunches of these stalks for hours on end to ultimately feel'high' I have actually tried it before and all I can say is that it's a lot of effort to just feel more awake than usual but some swear by it! They are not quite the good Muslims that one may think as everyone was busy chewing away with mouths like hamsters full of green stuff!
1000's of people pour into this tiny island though for music, food and good festival times. It's a celebration of Swahili traditional ways of life. There were numerous cultural events held but by day the donkeys and dhow boat races were the highlight. The donkey races were definitely an experience. Huge crowds of people formed the race track (no barriers of course) whilst 6 donkeys at a time were ridden up and back through the crowd in heats and then a final. There is nothing like having a donkey hurtling at you with nowhere to move should it be shoved by another rider in your direction! There was big money to be won by the winner so it was a fiercely competed event and I think the donkeys must be very glad it's only once a year. Even more so as they had nowhere to sleep for 4 days whilst the swarms of people took their sleeping spaces.
I met some interesting characters during my stay in Lamu, not least a man called Satan! Yes he was very proud of his name! Pretty sure I wont be coming across another so it's worthy of note! I also met Captain Happy Flower a dhow boat sailor. He turned out to be not such a happy flower at all and more of a money grabbing tout but he did sort out a dhow sailing trip for a group of us. We took off for the day for a sailing trip around Manda bay for some snorkeling and fishing. It was truly amazing to sail through paradise bays and mangrove deltas for a day at sea.Luckily the snorkeling was a lot more successful than the fishing and the fish we saw were spectacular. We even saw a huge octopus. Since there were so many fish under the sea I'm not quite sure how we caught so little. The fish barbeque for 9 people consisted of 3 tiny barracuda fish which were probably in still in nappies or the underwater world equivalent!
I spent nearly 6 days in Lamu, enjoying the festival and the more relaxed days after. It was great to enjoy a place that was so relaxed and friendly. I have easily changed my mind about Kenyans. They do equally compare to the Tanzanians for being so welcoming. Its nice that they nearly all speak English as Tanzania put my Swahili far more to the test. It means that you can genuinely get to know people and they are for the most part wonderful. However I must say I could easily be married by now. One thing I would say about African men is that they fall in love very easily. (normally within 5 minutes of meeting you!) There are lots of them wanting a mzungu girlfriend out there. I think they fall in love so easily as there is no such thing about being faithful for them. A husband back home is not a good enough answer for you absolutely are allowed an English and African boyfriend at the same time!
Not quite sure what my next plans are. A few more days in Kenya then off to Uganda. I have decided that I'll come back to Kenya as it is a tiny bit pricy for the backpacker budget. I am slightly concerned that I'm already planning my next trip back here. Not sure where the career is going to fit into all of this!! Ha. Never mind. Two days off a week is no way to live I say. So I'll be in Uganda to hopefully find some chimpanzees and climb some mountains. Will keep you posted. In the meantime I need to go forth and search out some gaffa tape to fix my backpack which currently seems to be falling to pieces. Never choose Vango will be my future advice. I also need to consider the fact that I really need a haircut soon. It's a fairly worrying fact as hair types are very, very different if you compare westerners and Africans. They have afros and we have long locks. Not quite sure the damage that could be done if I enter a salon! ….