Lamu disappoints with construction, smelly streets

(Cassandra Mercy) Lamu has a very distinctive smell the moment you land at what I consider the most charming airport in the world. No fuss, open air, a minute from the ocean and an almost creepy number of felines.

Lamu Island looks beautiful as you drive past the water front. The crowds soon thin out though as you go along the coast and that’s when the moored catamarans start to catch your attention as do the houses that look like they stepped out of an interior design magazine. I found it nice that most of these palatial homes have windmills and solar panels; everyone needs to get off the national grid at some point I think.

We stayed at a lovely resort and had an entire island to ourselves which was bliss. One of the disappointing things about Lamu is that no one really ever has an out of this world experience, but as an R&R destination it is a sure thing.

Back to that smell I mentioned earlier – I found the source the next day during the day tour of the main hub of the island. There is a reason why many town ordinances forbid rearing of livestock. Lamu is a good example of what happens when you let livestock run around willy nilly. It is neither “charming” nor sanitary to have that amount of donkeys running the streets. What it actually is smelly and downright scary as most of the donkeys don’t canter; they operate at sprint levels of energy.

This is a tricky walk because there are so many obstacles to avoid – people, donkeys, donkey poop, cats, cat poop, gutters and the people who just sit on their stoops being “Lamuans” I guess. I shudder to think what it’s like with a little bit of rain. The word compost heap comes to mind. Having evaded enough donkeys to last us a lifetime, we went to the waterfront which has its old world charm. That’s the bit just before the ocean after the road. There’s the bit you actually have to walk on, which is where all the hotels and shops are.

Since the restoration buzz there is construction work going on all over the place. It’s like being in Industrial Area but with a view of the ocean. There are piles of coral stone all over the place, defunct boats, furniture displays on the foot walk and all manner of dreadlocked men to harass you to your heart’s desire. This is really an award winning obstacle course.

We finally headed back for the serenity of the island and spent the rest of our vacation holed-up in there ignoring the reality that was Lamu. I love Lamu and have been going there since I was kid. I guess the veil is waning and it is disappointing to see something you romanticised under the harsh glare of the hot midday sun.



Guest Contributor: Cassandra Mercy


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