A side trip to a lost land
For our last hour in Lamu I was completely preoccupied with finding the captain who I had lent money to. Not that I cared so much for the money which was not a great sum but I just wanted to believe that he had been sincere. Dianne had sworn she heard someone knocking on he security door of our hotel during the night but I had slept straight through. In the end we waved good bye to Lamu and the money at around 9.
Back on the mainland our bus was waiting. In much the same fashion as the trip north we returned to Mombassa. Around halfway down we picked up a couple of soldier escorts and I was concerned that maybe the violence had flared up again. Fortunately it was all just routine security and we arrived safe and sound.
By the time we arrived in Mombassa it was already getting on. We found a hotel and passed time on the streets doing not much of interest until it became dark.
In the morning we caught a matatu down to the Likono ferry. With no bridges joining Mombassa island to the southern beaches every Tom, Dick and Harry plying this route needs to take the ferry. The lines for the ferry were reminiscent of the cattle yards back on the farm in many ways. The races were filled with locals plying for a good position, none were more aggressive than the ever present porter women carrying 20 kilos on their head, some balancing seemingly awkward objects such as water bottles with the greatest of ease.
As our ferry pulled away I watched a similar procession on the other side of the water. People were lined 10 across and 100 deep as they waited for their turn to board. With the recklessness of all Africans our driver ploughed towards our landing point and dropped the ramp before we had even slowed down. The cars then took their cue and drove off the still moving punt.
Again, like livestock we were herded towards the taxi rank where we found a matatu bound for Diani. Two hops later we were on Diani beach. Immediately we were accosted by a group of three beach boys who accompanied us for a few hundreds meters before giving up. We wandered along the beach until we came across a classy looking hotel. We wandered around the grounds to check the place out. Along the way we found a learn to windsurf place. After a good bit of haggling I arranged for a one hour lesson later in the afternoon. In the mean time, Di and I kicked back on the hotel's deck chairs that overlooked the beach. Not much later we headed into the water for a quick dip, a couple of Mombassa born mzungus were out kite boarding at the time and put on a nice display of flips and spins.
Obviously finding my softer side over the last few days I agreed to check out the arts and crafts of a few local guys. We looked for a nice bao board and when we finally found what we were after we began to negotiate. They initially asked for an absurd sum of money, about 10 times what it was worth, we tried to reason with them but in the end gave up. I felt sorry for these guys, who, like many had suffered greatly from the post election violence. Despite being well away from the problem areas their source of income had dried up completely over the last few months and coming into the off season things weren't about to get better. In all likelihood some of them hadn't sold a thing in weeks. As we walked away a guy said that he had what we wanted but that it was at "his" other shop. We agreed to see it but warned that we couldn't promise to buy anything.
While we waited we enjoyed a surprisingly cheap lunch at the hotels restaurant. We realised somewhere along the way that the hotel was all inclusive and as no one realised that we weren't staying there we could have eaten and drunk for free. Unfortunately our damned morals got in the way and we elected to pay.
Straight after lunch I met my wind surfing instructor. The first 10 minutes were a waste of time as he proceeded to name all of the parts of the board and what they were for. Then we went through how to get on, not exactly difficult when the thing is comparable to a boat in size. We eventually got to the stage where I was allowed to stand on the board and for the next 10 minutes I had to practice balancing which was not much more difficult than standing on a footpath. Finally I was run through how to do a basic turn which was what I had hoped for, it was a relatively easy procedure, much simpler than I had expected. For the remainder of the class I just practised turning and tried to associate movements with results. With a little too much, what happens if I do this, I found myself a little too far down the beach but after a few another short stint of trial and error a managed to work my way back.
Throughout the remainder of the afternoon we never really got any rest with the locals desperate to sell us some handicrafts. As one of them put it, they had barely seen any tourists on the beach for months and when they did come they hid away in the resorts and refused to talk to the locals, for someone like us to come along was a "miracle". The desperation was real, the same guy that had offered us a bao game earlier made four separate trips to "his" other shop and each time came back even more exhausted. In the end we bought the bao game which we had looked at originally, this time for the right price. I was almost heart broken when I saw the look on our hard working friend's face so when Di wasn't looking I slipped him a coin, nothing much but at least his family would eat that night. Again succumbing to my heart strings I bought a small item from another vendor, it was a pitiful price I gave him but we both understood that it was a mercy purchase. Then we made it clear that we didn't want to be hassled for our last hours on the beach and astonishingly they obliged.
I went to the bar to grab a couple of quick drinks and noticed than even the cocktails were included in the price of a room. I made a remark to the bar tender that suggested that the rooms must be expensive. Another guy at the bar, who turned out to be the manager said that they would be cheaper than I expected. He made a call to reception and told me that a room would be $95 for the night, all meals and drinks included. I told Di and we decided to stay there for just one night. We went to reception but they gave us a price three fold on what the manager had told me. We followed it up and it turned out that the manager had just offered us a ridiculously low price, unfortunately he asked that we stay for a minimum of three days.
We enjoyed our last hour in the tropical paradise with a swim and a sun bake. When it came time to go we lamented the fact that we couldn't stay for longer.
We returned to Mombassa just as it started to get dark. We collected our bags from the hotel and walked to the bus area. We arranged a ticket on the night bus and found an eatery next door in which to pass the time. The manager was a fat friendly local who wore a smile that let the whole world know he was happy. When we left to board the bus a couple of hours later he made a scene in the bar as he embraced me three times in the Ethiopian style.