There’s something incredibly glamorous about being picked up from the airport by boat. Especially at sunset and especially in Lamu where it’s balmy warm and you are on the Indian Ocean and the view of old the Arabic town on the island opposite the airport jetty almost takes your breath away.
Never mind that our plane landed an hour and a half late and thanks to that, we had definitely missed the better part of the day. But the fact that a young chap wearing mirror RayBans with a wide smile, white t-shirt and artfully draped kikoy waved in welcome, grabbed our bags then guided us to his boat, made all the frustration that I’d felt about our low cost (but actually quite expensive) airline’s last minute schedule changes, melt away.
“I’ve lived in many places. Switzerland, The States, my brother lives in Hounslow, but for me, Lamu is the best. This is home.” Says the suave Hassan and I can’t argue with him. Especially as I struggle to picture Hounslow pavements in the rain in late October, in all of it’s grey and chilly glory while speeding over the water – eyes on stalks.
In spite of the bad press on security in Lamu and the fact that these days international tourists stay away, Lamu seems magical to me. It’s obvious why the rich and famous flocked here in the past and it’s sad that Lamu has lost out but this is my first visit here and finally I’m in on the secret and frankly, I’m delighted to have arrived.
Our boat ride took us past Lamu town and then the Governor’s house set in a large patch of government land with a pleasant waterside walkway, or promenade, featuring solar street lighting paid for by the World Bank (there’s a very fetching poster depicting a World Bank head looking ‘Big Brother’ like) and on we motor to Shela. Hassan explains that there are only x3 motor vehicles in Lamu, the governor’s car, an ambulance and a donkey ambulance – since, thanks to the ancient, narrow streets, donkeys are the only feasible mode of transportation for most. That and boats. Dhows mostly.
Once arrived at Shela, having had the full spiel about sundowner cruises, doughnutting for kids, Lamu town tours and various other excursions to consider during our stay, we duck behind the famous Peponi Hotel, winding through narrow streets, climbing steeply and out of puff as we go, to arrive at the house on the hill. #notdisappointed. I can’t wax lyrical enough about the house. Raised high enough over Shela village to catch the breeze from all directions, beautifully laid out on 3 floors with countless terraces to eat and hang out – such stylish decor featuring contemporary art and traditional Lamu furnishings, plus an army of house staff who prepared for us sumptuous meals of fresh fish for 3 days, while in between times we flopped slothfully back and forth to the pool. We did manage a fairly epic Lamu tour but more about that later.
The beach was a short walk from the house. It was impossible to ignore the mix of cultures, especially on the beach, but the joy was that all was laid back in Lamu – and nobody seemed to mind.
Next post: Exploring Lamu Town
Oh and I forgot to tell you about the muezzin call to prayer.
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