It‘s been a few weeks since I returned from colourful Kenya, and despite being fully back in the work process and high speed western life, my mind has still been wandering on dusty roads of Githurai, dry savannahs of Masai Mara and breathtaking beaches of coastal Lamu. It is unbelievable that exactly a month ago I was strolling along the endless Shela beach at the coast of Kenya.
I haven’t shared the story of my last trip yet not only because everything went very fast since my return (we are always busy in Europe, aren’t we?), but also just like Masai Mara, Lamu trip was something so very special, it took me a while to absorb it all and be able to put it down in words.
Sweet Lamu island
Locals call their beloved island ‘Lamu tamu’ – sweet Lamu – and they have a point. Lamu island dominated by the UNESCO World Heritage Lamu town lies in the blue Indian ocean in the north east of Kenya cursed by the proximity of Somali border and relatively recent history of a terrorist attack and tourist kidnapping. For a daring traveller, it means top notch services, welcoming locals, unspoilt beaches and undiscovered beauty. Tourism is slowly coming back to Lamu, locals really value their visitors and make sure their stay is unforgettable. I know a few people who cannot let Lamu go and keep coming back. For a good reason.
Time stops at Shela
Upon a friend’s recommendation, I found a lovely guesthouse in Shela village about 30 minutes beach walk away from the more lively Lamu town. Shela is tiny, but so cute and cosy with white narrow streets and an endless beach, where you can walk for hours without meeting more than a few strolling counterparts. And that’s exactly what I was doing there.
It is the perfect spot for a peace seeking blogger. I spent hours on my private rooftop terrace, reading and writing, beach and dunes walking, dipping in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and enjoying seafood and honey-sweet fruits.
As much as I love and need action most of the time, I cherished peace and solitude for the first two days. There was a lot to contemplate, digest and absorb from the experience packed stay in Githurai and my previous trips. And when I longed for company, I enjoyed delicious dinner or yet another walk with Francesca, who I met as randomly as possible only when travelling. We shared the same newly discovered passion for development, social change and Africa, both finding ourselves at the edge of an unwanted but necessary return to our countries, to work, to ‘normal’ comfortable life questioning what ‘normal’ actually means.
Magic dhow nights
We loved the Saturday night sunset dhow cruise and couldn’t resist when Yusuf, the captain of the famous Hippo dhow, talked about beach bonfires, full moon sailing and barbeques on his Hippo dhow. Can we do this tomorrow? It didn’t take us long to convince him and so I was trying to master the art of dhow sailing again on Sunday evening. The sun was slowly setting down when we were packing the dhow, a wooden sailing vessels typical for coastal East Africa, with fresh fish and delicious local food cooked by the crew’s wives. From then on it was just us, the sea and the power of wind in our sail.
We stopped at a wind-less spot among mangroves when red, orange and pink sunset theatre came to an end. We made fire and started barbequing what later became the best dinner I ate in Kenya. Lamu is hugely influenced by the Arabs and it shows in the local cuisine as well. Fish and seafood is marinated with master combination of Arabic spices or stewed in coconut milk resulting in heavenly meal.
Once dinner was over and our bellies full, Hippo turned into a large chill space full of soft pillows, mellow reggae music and conversations went silent. The sky took the spotlight. Billions of stars big and small were twinkling on the pitch black canvas, with Milky Way all over and an endless ray of shooting stars. I could lie there and stare into the universe for ages.
When the moon rises
Thoughts and memories of my life were coming and going like a fast-forward movie as if they wanted to be imprinted in that overwhelming space. Only there I realized that I am living the life I dreamt of ten years ago. I couldn’t be more present, more grateful and more content.
An excited scream took me back to the ground, or rather on board. ‘It’s starting!’ Indeed, the moon started rising up to dominate the sky. Literally like sunrise in complete darkness, first just a little piece and then a quarter, a half and more, the whole full moon, like a blood orange appeared on the black horizon, rising up the sky and down on the water surface. It was magical.
My flight back to Nairobi was not before Monday late afternoon, so I could still enjoy plenty of beach time. Started the day with quickly established Lamu routine – barefoot walk on the beach – to enjoy well-deserved luxury brunch in a lovely Mjali resort on the opposite Manda island. With plenty of swimming and beach time, my time in Lamu ran way too fast.
I am rarely sad when leaving a place as it means I am already looking forward to discovering the next destination. But when I hopped on Abdul’s boat taxi to be taken to the airport, and watched the Shela village beachfront buzzing with laidback holiday life still bearing the pictures of the previous night in my heart, I felt unknown deep sadness.
I promised to myself I will come back.