I think Lonely Planet describes it with words like “paradise” or “magical” and says something along the lines of “You haven’t been to Kenya until you have been to Lamu.”
Lies. Lies. Lies.
If someone said to me: “Here is a cage full of mosquitos that are probably carrying yellow fever. Stand in here or go to Lamu.” I would walk into the cage full of mosquitos.
Ok, fine. It wasn’t that bad but it was a huge let down from everything I had heard it would be. The place has no cars so donkeys are used all over the island. Sound great, doesn’t it? The only problem is that the town has a bunch of donkeys but no one to clean all the donkey crap. So, when you walk around you literally feel like you are swimming in donkey poo. But just in case I didn’t really feel like I was swimming in donkey poo, it rained and poured for almost the entire time we were there. So, donkey poo was literally running by in rivers. My feet will never recover from those three days.
So, the place was really stinky. There was not much to do. The food was sub par. But before somebody calls the waaahmbulance, I’ll talk about some of the good stuff there too.
A few magical things actually did happen during our few days there.
The first day we arrived, we walked around the town which actually does have some charm to it. There are lots of winding little alleys and the narrow roads give the place a very intimate feel. There were indeed women who floated by in full burqas and the little children everywhere were ridiculously cute. (Unfortunately, there is a three month residency requirement or I might have tried to adopt right then and there.) That night we hung out late at one of the cafes along the water. We were trying to wait out the rain but finally realized that we would have to head back to our hotel or we would be stuck there all night. When we first left, the rain was coming down pretty hard but not so hard that it would knock you over and soak you so thoroughly that water would end up in places you didn’t even know existed.
Just a few minutes into our walk, the rain came down in watermelon size drops. I have not laughed and screamed so much for long as I can remember. Before we knew it the small alleys were overflowing with water. We rolled up our pants but it didn’t matter, the rain had soaked us. Holding an umbrella was useless but we clung on anyways. Finally we ran under a small awning where a man was making kebabs. A small group of Kenyans were huddled underneath and they seemed to know that the rain wasn’t going to let up, but they waited in the shelter anyway. It was one of those moments that I should have written about right away because it is already running away from me. All I remember is laughing and laughing. The night was so dark and through the lights of the street lamps, we could make out the sheets of water as they came down.
So, for every bad thing about Lamu, it was more than worth it for that. This was a rain like the rains I remember from being a young girl in Pakistan. I remember looking to my mom to see if it would be ok to run outside and before she had finished nodding her head, I would be out in our courtyard screaming so hard I could hardly breathe- choking on the rain because I was staring up at the sky laughing. I would feel like I was part of the earth and the rain and the mud and me were all one and the same thing.
I have searched for that feeling ever since and in this poo filled island, I found that magic again.