Here we go in a little 18 seater plane from Nairobi to Lamu. The first part of that journey, from Kampala to Nairobi, was a kind of extended torture, as I described in the comment on the earlier entry. It cost about $10 and lasted 16 hours…

[Inside the plane]
…this flight cost almost three hundred dollars and took just under two hours.

We stopped over on this dirt runway…

[Indianna Jones]
… with a thatched hut and khaki Land Rover to meet the wealthy white Kenyan family who were on their way to a lodge on another (more exclusive?) island. As we took off from this one the guy behind me was humming the theme music from Indianna Jones.

[View of Lamu]
Lamu, as you can see, is on the coast. It’s actually an island.

[View of Lamu]
The airstrip is on another island; so that first thing I did after landing was get onto a boat. This hazy pic is what it looks like as you approach.

[View of Lamu]
The front of the town is very pretty with a wide street/promenade…

[View of Lamu]
… good for strolling, and for checking out the pretty tourists.

[View of Lamu]
Harambee Avenue is the ‘main street’.

[View of Lamu]
As you can see, its a good deal narrower.

[View of Lamu]
Also good for strolling.

[View of Lamu]

[View of Lamu]

[View of Lamu]

[View of Lamu]
Here’s the guest-house where I stayed.

[View of Lamu]
The room had a good view of the dock.

[View of Lamu]
And of the donkeys. The island has one car, operated by the District Commissioner. No others are allowed…

[View of Lamu]
… recall that the roads are somewhat narrow. Harambee, here, is wider than most. The DC is, therefore, restricted to moving back and forth along the seafront. But I shouldn’t think that matters; his car (like so many things in Kenya) is more about status than utility.

[View of Lamu]
Everyone else makes do with hand carts…

… donkeys …

… and boats.

Check out how the mast is secured with flipflops.

[Beach babes]
Shela — half an hour’s walk down the coast from Lamu — is the posh resort where the beach is…

… where big crowds turned out for the annual new-year’s day Dhow Race.

Dhows are these wooden sailing boats. They get really worked for the race, with extra crew members to counter-balance (Im sure that has a technical nautical name) the boat when its leaning into the wind.

The winning team (this pirate one of them) capsized their dhow as they beached after passing the finish buoy then went beserk with celebration, song and splashing….

[Goes around, Comes around]
… but remember there’s always next year.

[Nairobi from the air]
And finally Katie and I flew back to Nairobi, this time in an even smaller 12 seater.


  1. Mark Says:

    The middle part of that epic journey was from downtown Nairobi to Wilson Airport. I took a bus for 20 shillings. The bus dropped me off somewhere past the entrance to the airport. I think the conductor tapped the side of the bus (signal for the driver to stop) a bit late for the correct stop so I ended up at another one. I asked him which way I had to go next (no airport was obvious in sight). He pointed me in completely the wrong direction and off I walked.

    I made it to a supermarket and the guard told me I had to go back the way I’d come. About a bloody mile! Where I was was close to the airport but outside the perimieter fence. There is only one gate. Finally I arrived at the toll gate to the airport.

    “Whats the fee for foot passengers?”, I asked.
    “No Charge”. says the man in the booth
    “Good. I want to fly to Lamu today, can you tell me where I have to go?”
    “Over there”, he pointed, “to Kenya Airways”
    “Thankyou, happy new year”.

    At the Kenya Airways desk I showed my receipt (The travel agend hadn’t issued a ticket but told me to present the receipt at the desk as my reservation was made). The lady inspected my receipt and told me I could check in shortly and directed me to the toilet in the meantime, which was just what I needed after the long walk in the sun. I emerged refreshed and took my place in the check-in queue. When I got to the front of the queue the other lady told me my receipt was for “the other airline”.

    By this time my healthy time margin was wearing thin. I had to take a taxi to the other side of the airport: inside the perimeter fence but close to where the bus dropped me off (no, the conductor didn’t know what airline I was traveling with!). Taxi driver only tried to charge me twice the proper fare (200 vs 100 shillings) and, as you might expect, declared himself my friend. He took the details of my return flight to collect me.

    I checked in at the SafariLink airline check in desk and was put in a minivan with the other passengers to be taken back round the perimeter fence to the main entrance to get on the aeroplane and fly to Lamu!

    When Katie and I arrived back at Wilson a week later that same taxi driver had sent his mate to meet us. He had my name and flight details and whisked Katie’s bag off and stowed it in the boot of his car before I had a chance to tackle him on issues of destination and cost.

    “No problem”, he reassured me, “we normally charge 800 shillings to town but for you I’ll do 700”.

    Now, remember it cost me 20 bob to get here on the bus. I told him as much and asked to pay 200. I mentioned that all we had to do was walk out onto the main road and we could take a matatu for 20 shillings each.

    “OK”, he said, “if you want to take a matatu, go ahead”. He didn’t remove the bag from the boot though, I think he was trying to call our bluff. I pointed at the boot and he removed the bag. We took the matatu, paid 40 for both of us and saved 660 shillings on a 200 shilling taxi ride. Hakuna matata. 😛

  2. Katie's Dad (John) Says:

    Hi Mark!

    We do enjoy your blog a lot over here in the Colonies! “We” would be Linda and John Riggs. Such a welcome addition to Katie’s e-mails. Kinda gives us a visual accounting of some of the goings on over there! One of those pretty tourists looks a lot like her as a matter of fact! Just want to commend you on your excellent and informative pictures and narrative.

    We thank you,
    John and Linda Riggs

  3. Mark Says:

    Thanks John, and welcome to

    Well, I’m well and truly back. I’m actually sitting under a tree in the college compound enjoying the sun now that its getting a bit less intense at 6.05pm (it’ll be dark in an hour!) and surfing with wireless from a laptop on batteries. This is probably the only time I will ever get to do this in Africa so I thought I should record the fact here.

    An email from Chris/Mungbean correctly observes that the narrative on these pages is rather factual. There isn’t much to report. I had a great time both in Kampala and at Lamu. Jackson took care to make sure I moved around a lot in Uganda in the short while I was there and in Lamu I did as little as possible annd just chilled out. We all loved the food in Lamu, Tamarind jouce (not Lime, Christine) was my favourite. Amazing breakfasts of bananna and mango juice and pancakes and such like, and (For me) seafood suppers: crab, octopus, calamari, snapper, baracuda and other fishes.

    Lamu and Kampala are both somehow different from my experience of Kena, each in their own ways more chilled. At the coast they are a bit used to Mzungus wandering about in their swimwear (though I dressed very conservatively compared to most tourists from habbit in Kenya, and only uncovered my knees on the beach). Kampala also seemed less supprised for there to be a mzungu around. Although I heard the word a lot there among people we passed, the Ugandans I passed didnt seem to share Kenyan’s urge to shout out greetings or requests for money.

    It was lovely to have a family christmas with Jackson’s family and lovely to hang our with a bunch of other Vols — peace corps and vso, for new year. I’ve just walked back from Tala where, despite having lived here for almost two years, people seem supprised — nay startled — to see me and one guy followed me down the road making a sad story about how ‘we are starving for food’ so he could ask me for assistance.

    And I hope everyone has heard that Kenya really IS suffering a famine. The rains have failed here twice in a row, in the North cattle and people are dying in increasing numbers. An early radio article I heard about this quoted some Kenyan official saying something allong the lines of: The Donor community will have the deaths of hundreds of Kenyans on their hands if they don’t respond quickly. Im happy to say that a radio report I heard this morning said that the Kenyan government itself was going to allocate several million dollars to buy available foodstocks (Maize) within the country to help those in the areas where drout and food are becoming a very serious problem.

  4. Sophia Says:

    What an enchanted place your photos are showing. And what a great eye you have to
    catch the interesting detail, Mark.


  5. jan Says:

    hey did you give the medical books to jackson they were for him ?

    and it looks a really wonderfull xmas heeps better than mine I have to say !! xx Jan