I remember the weeks leading to my leave. I was so excited knowing that I would finally get a chance to visit Lamu. I had heard so much about the island and I simply couldn’t wait to experience it for myself. I went to Lamu by road and since its 16 hours of travelling if you go there straight from Nairobi, I decided to first stop over at Nyali for a day. I then proceeded to Lamu from there.
The road from Mombasa to Lamu is interesting for a first time traveler. There are a lot of small towns on the way, beautiful sceneries and you also get to experience a different way of life. There is a stretch, I think around Garsen where you see many small homesteads, just a number of small huts in one compound. This seems like something you read in a book like “The River and the Source” where a homestead is made up of different surrounding huts housing different members of the family with the wives each having her hut and the husband having the huge hut in the middle of the compound. Another thing I noticed is that women around there work really hard. I could see so many women carrying water from the river, walking in small groups.
At first, I kept wondering where the men were. I assumed that they were somewhere looking for a way to feed the family. I didn’t see any factories around so I thought they were doing something epic like hunting and gathering. You know the stuff I used to read about in school! Anyway, I did get to see the men at some point and no they were not doing anything remarkably manly or something even close to that. They were seated around in something that looked like a huge open hut; it had the thatch roofing but no walls. They were all facing the road. Seriously am not even kidding, it seemed that the men just sat around while the women went out and worked. Maybe there is another explanation but hey, I saw what I saw!
Anyway, another interesting thing about the road to Lamu is that for a first time traveler, it can be a little scary especially if you are travelling alone. Lucky for me, Elvis was gracious enough to pick me at Mombasa and so it wasn’t so bad. One scary thing is that you have to travel with an armed police officer almost all the way. He sits at the front of the bus near the driver with a riffle in hand. You then make a couple of stops at different police stations to pick different officers. At some point, we had two cops! The fact that we needed armed officers for the journey made me scared since I wondered what kind of danger would warrant such security protocol. I heard there were cattle rustlers around the area but I don’t know if they attacked buses.
Another thing that may be a little scary is the fact that there is not much traffic on that road. We were on the road for about 6-7 hours and I can count on one hand the number of cars that we came across. There were no buses at all. At one point, we found a group of people stranded by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. This group was made of women and children largely. The bus stopped and agreed to give them a ride. However, since our bus was full, the rescued group had to stand. As much as we felt sorry for them, giving up our seats for them was not really an option with about four more hours to go. However, we did create room for the kids to sit down.
Finally at dusk we arrived at Mukowa. All I could see ahead of me was the ocean; I couldn’t even see a trace of Lamu. We got into the boat, heart in hand and sailed away to Lamu. Quite an interesting but really tiring journey!