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A town where donkeys have right of way

WORK LIFE
By | March 5th 2009

By Hans

Planning for a trip involves getting as much information about the place as possible. With the Internet, searches have been made easier as there is lots of written documentation on sites, especially on historical places.

In one of the bookshops in Malindi, I found a small magazine called Chonjo, which is published quarterly. The magazine contains very interesting background information about Lamu and various other places at the Coast, including Malindi. Most importantly, it contains a map of Lamu.

An aerial view of Shela Island in Lamu. Photos: Courtesy

Lamu is within reach of many Kenyans. To get there, I booked a seat on a Tawakal bus for only Sh500. The bus left Malindi at exactly 9am. The scenery along the way was stunning and interesting, especially around the Tana Delta where I saw doom palms and large settlements of the Orma community with their typical coined shaped huts.

It took us an hour and a half to get to Garsen on a tarmac road and another 30 minutes to Witu. From there the road changed to murram. After a comfortable ride, we arrived in Mokowe (mainland) three and a half hours later. Many people surrounded the bus, eager to help passengers with their luggage and to offer a myriad of services.

I was impressed to see polite police officers patrolling this area to ensure passengers were not harassed or mugged in the confusion.

Scenic and relaxing

Several boats waited to sail people across to the Lamu Island at a fee of Sh100 per person. During the 45-minute ride to Shela, I enjoyed the ocean view of the island. It is scenic and totally relaxing. Strolling through the narrow streets, I was surprised to see a lot of construction coming up.

The walk, though, was a daily pleasure as I ogled at the beautifully restored houses, old and new carved doors.

Donkeys, which are well taken care of here, have right of way here and I immediately felt like I was living in another century.

Cook and houseman

There were donkeys on the beach, some carrying sand through the dunes to a building site. At night, the donkeys are left to graze. Somehow, they find their way to their owner’s homes the following morning. Fascinating!

Shela residents seem to love growing vegetables and ornamental flowers. All over the small village, people kept watering their little plots in the morning. Even the smallest spaces in the cemented streets boast flowerpots, which hang on the walls of the houses.

Accommodation here is affordable. We stayed at the Shela Sunset House and our apartment on the top floor was just perfect with a bedroom and sitting-cum-dining area.

The spacious verandah has access to the roof where one can enjoy a magical evening. The seven-roomed house comes complete with a cook and a houseman. Hot and cold water is no problem and meals are served whenever you like. What a luxury! And all this for only Sh2,000 per person per night, inclusive of breakfast.

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