Parting is such sweet sorrow

I’m in Manda airport, Lamu. Saying good bye was ghastly. I’m going to miss all these guys so much. The crew of Brage sailed her to the wharf to see me off, waving and blowing kisses!! Gorgeous guys. So sweet.
As for saying bye to Chaps, we made it fast, to bear it. He’s not well either, maybe malaria. I so don’t want to leave. I’m not ready.

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It’s now 1515 and I’m waiting to get from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam. Very tired. Stayed up too late with everyone. Must order coffee.
See you soon New Zealand. And, guys at home, I’m very much looking forward to seeing you all. It’s just that I feel I need more time here with everything that’s happened. Unfinished business, so to speak. Xxx

Last Day in Lamu

0330 : Wednesday 24th February.
Too hot to sleep, and I’ve woken up feeling like I have a cold. So annoying. I guess I really haven’t had any quiet time and every day has been busy in a odd way.
Yesterday I went to see the family, all in full mourning again. Ahmed’s brother, the only boy in the family who didn’t get MD, was deeply upset and Bushekhe didn’t seem to know what to do with himself. He just held me, weeping, and I did my best to comfort. This time I find I am out of tears. I couldn’t stop with Ali’s death but somehow I think it is a kindness that they say goodbye to Ahmed now. It would have only got tougher for them.
I ended up having lunch with them, before coming back to Peponi and meeting Bea, Mary and Chaps. Mary went off sailing with a friend for the night. Bea went to see Ali’s family. I visited with Ken, having another enjoyable philosophical discussion. My ankle is healing well now, btw, thanks to him.
Chaps had arranged to meet me after 5pm to help get my suitcase to Bridget’s. I got to Peponi at 1710 and was still waiting for him two and a half hours later. Bea had joined me, as had others, coming and going, so it was a nice evening. However, my patience ran out and I headed home, to find my suitcase there already. I was so pissed off.
So Bea and I went to the nearest place for local food, and Chaps turned up. He got a flea in his ear, to his friends amusement. Apparently he’d got to the meeting point early and I wasn’t there so he’d tried Bridget’s and she’d been home. All was forgiven – I can never stay cross for long.
Bea went back to Lamu town and I spent time packing. I only get 20kgs on the flight to Dar es Salaam which isn’t helpful.
Today Chaps is taking me to see his farm on Manda Island. I wish I felt better for my last day.
0840 : I did get back to sleep and have now done my washing so I have something clean to fly in!!  Chaps is picking me up in 20 minutes. It’s a hot, still day already.
It’s 1230 and Chaps is cooking me rice and fish he caught this morning. We’re at his shamba on Manda Island. It’s very peaceful and I’m being spoilt. When we arrived on the beach, courtesy of Sidiq, Chaps asked if I could drive a 4 wheel motorbike. I said of course! So that’s how we got here. There’s no water here so it’s all brought from Shella when the water tanks run dry.
We just spotted a cow limping past the kitchen window. I went out to check her, naturally. It looks like she’s had a wire or, more likely, string too tight round her leg, causing a heinous constriction injury. I’d say the best option for the poor animal is to be put down.

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Lunch was delicious. I love the garlic and chilli based sauces they make here. Everyone cooks so well. Chaps is no exception.
He’s just said he’s not feeling well and upon feeling his forehead, I find he has a decent fever. So I’ve ordered rest on the verandah, Panadol and water. I’m doing the clean up!! I feel terrible. He’s been waiting on me like a bloody princess, refusing all help, and he’s sick!! It just goes to show, neither of us are quite recovered, much as we like to think we’ve bounced back no problem.
I’m grateful to him for bringing me here today. It’s quiet and restful, something we’ve had little of since our swim. I’m enjoying the solitude. I might go for a snooze too. Chaps has crashed, dear man. What a friend I have.

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Midnight – I had a nice last evening too. Sunset sail and dinner with Bridget and Selime. Caught up with Yusuf too, after popping in to say my goodbyes to Ali’s family.
Mimi napenda Lamu. Asante sana na kwaheri.

Nearly Home Time

0600 23rd February :
It’s hard to believe my time is almost up. It certainly hasn’t been the trip I envisioned. I had pictured Rangi ready for sea, relatively comfortable, cruisy sailing, wine on deck with the auto helm engaged…. a basically peaceful exploration of the East Coast of Africa!!
The reality had been way more intense, lol.
I may not be heading home quite the rested and relaxed sailor but you know what? The only thing I’d change is losing Ali. If only we could have got him home too. Everything else is manageable and has ended up with me meeting and living with amazing people. I have friends for life, a second family, who will always take me in if I return.
I am going to miss this place and these people more than I would have ever imagined when I headed off blithely just before New Years.
I’m going to especially miss all the huge genuine smiles that really reach people’s eyes and come from the heart. It’s a truly happy culture. If I could bottle the attitude to life here and take it home, I’d be a millionaire!! This photo of Lali shows it clearly.

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I am at Bridget’s place in Shella till I go. I have both Mary and Faisa asking me to stay another night with them but there’s only two nights left and I’ve moved around so much I’d like to play tourist for just a wee bit.
I still have a sore throat off and on, so am not 100% back to top energy levels. I do have to be back at work on Tuesday.
Bridget is a Kiwi too, working here, and her place is just behind a lovely beach and restaurant. So I can swim if I want, buy food and drinks and use the restaurant WiFi.
Mary introduced me to a rather unique man here who has a very interesting (to me) belief system, rather more how I view the world on a spiritual level. So we got on very well, with great discussion and I’m going to visit with him again before I go. It was nice to talk without having religion stuffed down my craw!!
There’s a million donkeys in Lamu, even a dedicated donkey hospital. In general, I think thanks to the education of the hospital vet, they are well cared for. Ditto cats, though they are often a bit thin. People like them though so they’re not precisely unkind to them, just left to fend for themselves mostly. A few are ‘restaurant cats’, well fed and healthy. Not many dogs, no horses, some sheep and goats, and a few cattle. The sheep are those Arabic ones with the fat pad on the tail. They’re adorable, I think anyway, lol!!
The donkeys get taken for a weekly swim in the sea, to keep their skin healthy. They hate it and it is the most hilarious thing to watch them being dragged in. Their owners basically walk them in by lifting up their front legs and they have to follow or fall over!!
There’s almost no vehicles on Lamu. You either walk or go by boat. Yesterday Bea and I decided to walk from Lamu town back to Shella. It was really hot and we were carrying my bags but it’s only about a 40 minute walk so we were happy. But one boat driver after another begged  us to let him take us round, saying it was too hot for us to be out in the sun. In the end one guy was so distressed he said he’d take us for free, and we gave in!! It is rather nice being looked after so well!! I’m going to be in shock when I get home – haven’t cooked in 2 months. Love it!!
The food has been wonderful. I certainly haven’t lost weight, though am in better shape, fitter. Samira seriously tried to fatten me up after our long swim!! Men don’t like skinny women here though and for the first time in my life I’ve felt totally comfortable about myself. Most men at home are very quick to make negative comments about ones size, though why they think that’s OK when they’re not perfect themselves escapes me. To be fair, Igor doesn’t, but it’s a first for me!!
Another thing I really like here is the openness of houses. Because the climate is so nice you don’t need glass windows, insulation or hot water!! Homes are very airy and I love going to sleep able to hear the wind and sea. I think I might have to move to live near the water.
I haven’t missed TV!! Don’t think I’ll even bother with it when I get home!! I haven’t even missed wine and coffee which has been absent from most places I’ve been here. The coffee is really good, though, when you do get it!
I was kept awake a fair bit by a neighbour who Bridget tells me has a respiratory problem of some kind and struggles to breathe. She must be using all her accessory muscles and each breath is accompanied by a loud groan. It’s heart rending. It made me think about Ahmed all night. I’m going to see the local GP this morning and see if I can get his Mum some help.
0945: Bridget and I have been for a swim. It was great and I felt good in the water again. Yes, guys, the sea is my friend again!!
I was surprised to run into Chaps in the Peponi restaurant on our way back, as he’d said he was going fishing this morning early.
But he had sad news. Ahmed died over night. While I feel so sad for his family, in mourning again so soon after Ali’s passing, I am happy both Ahmed and his Mum haven’t had to go through the terrible last stages that can go with this condition. Chaps said Ahmed asked to see his father last night and told them he was ready to go, then died not long after. The human spirit is an amazing thing. What a brave young man. I will go over to see the family soon.

Sailing Dhow Bruge

Sunday 21st February :
Yesterday was AMAZING. We had a truly wonderful day. Mary arranged for us to go out on a local dhow to an island called Mandatoto. We went snorkeling on the reef there.
The crew were a simply adorable bunch of young men around Matt and Danny’s ages. They are Reja, Lali, Mohammed, Salu, Adama and Malik. They have a wonderful approach to their job, full of laughter and singing. All, except Mohamed, are experienced sailors.
Sailing a dhow is totally different to a regular sailing boat and I loved watching them at work.
Our group consisted of Mary, Bea, Gill and François (who are guests at Mary’s place) Mwanase and myself. Mwanase is Mary’s daughter and is half Swahili Kenyan, totally gorgeous and fun. François is a fishing guide with a marine biology degree and insanely passionate about fishing. He had a line out almost the whole trip. He caught two fish to add to the ones the crew had caught for lunch, one a barracuda which is the nicest eating fish I’ve had yet.
We left around 0800 so were at the reef mid morning. When the time came to get in the water I suddenly realised I really wasn’t sure I wanted to. Everyone dispensed hugs and encouragement, and those lovely lads promised to be watching me every moment and come for me the instant I wanted out. Mohammed said he’d snorkel too and stay close, as did Mary. I gave myself a mental harden up talk, put on my gear and got in.
Initially I had to concentrate to keep my breathing slow and even but as I relaxed I started to enjoy it again. It was a good experience and I stayed in as long as everyone else.
The crew collected us at the other end of the reef and asked if the sea was my friend again. Sweet guys.
We then anchored at Mandatoto and they cooked us lunch. It was super good. Barbecued fish, rice, vegetable stew and fresh fruit. We lazed about for the afternoon and François fished, catch and release, to the horror of the lads. He was trying to teach them to conserve the resources, to let the young fish go. Good luck with that. Lovely as the people are here, they really live for today, so the concept of long term planning like that is not in their psyche.
We picked up the anchor around 1530 to motor round the island and let François trawl! The sea gave us a treat. We saw two huge green sea turtles mating. They were massive, really impressive.
Then we turned for home and the sail went up, with a following sea. It was simply beautiful. On the way François caught a big barracuda which got off as they tried to get it on board. Shame, would’ve been delicious, but we weren’t too sad!! It’d been a fantastic day already.
The boys sang and drummed on any handy object nearly all the way home. We watched the sun sink into the horizon and came alongside the wharf under an almost full moon.
I adored the day with these guys, it was like having my boys and their mates around again. Hugs all round (some lasting longer than strictly necessary – these are Swahili men we’re talking about!!) and I gave them pretty generous tips. They didn’t expect anything but this was one time I truly wanted to give a bonus. Their time was ours and they’d gone to every effort to look after us.
We went out for dinner. I had steak but I think the cow it came from was 100 years old! Tasty though, and a lovely South African sauvignon blanc to go with it.
The boys were waiting outside the restaurant for us and came back to Mary’s with us so we chilled on the roof top till after 0100, smoking bufti and I gave out massages!! I bailed, so not sure when the guys turned in!! I suspect they slept there!

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Cultural Differences

18th February : I’m learning a huge amount about the way of life here, as a Muslim.
As usual, most of what we think we know is wide of the mark. If nothing else this trip has shown me that western society is unbelievably arrogant and uses ridiculous amounts of propaganda to hold itself up as pure as the driven snow. Such crap. I guess I knew it but hadn’t examined it!
The basic tenet, as far as I understand it, is that everyone is brother and sister in their faith, that you care for and love each other unconditionally. I’m not religious, so even if you look at their faith from that stand point alone, taking out all the prayer etc, you can see why they are such a happy bunch. They are the most accepting people I’ve met.
It’s made it easier for them all to accept Ali’s death. While I rant in my head at the unfairness of a young father dying before his time, they say it was Ali’s time. They believe everyone has their life span decided by God at their conception. Chaps and Samira (and many others!) have tried repeatedly to convince me of this logic. I don’t believe it is so, but I can certainly appreciate how that belief eases their grief. I find them comforting me, ironically.
Yesterday, while we women were lying around in the living area with Faisa and the kids, Samira told me that Faisa had to stay indoors for four months and 10 days. She’s not even allowed to look out the windows. All widowed women must do this. They dissolved in hysterics at my reaction. Needless to say I was horrified and said I would die, if it was me cooped up like that.
Then this morning, Faisa’s 11 year old son, Omar, was due to go back to boarding school. The school was temporarily closed due to a major fire, so not only was the poor wee man afraid of fire but has just lost his Dad. He was beside himself, refusing to go and all of us nearly in tears. We women talked it over through breakfast. The school isn’t even a regular one but a place where they rote learn the entire quran. Of course my feeling, and Samira’s too, was he stay here with his family and go to a proper school. In fact I think we all agreed on that. But his uncle, whom I do like very much but is, after all, a Muslim man, came in and hauled him off screaming and crying. It was devastating and poor Faisa is wrecked. She’s such a darling and my heart bleeds for her.
I have been urged to stay here every day and marry locally. I’ve even had offers!! But, boy oh boy, I could not conform to being a Muslim wife. I’d drive any man here insane with my disobedience and independence. Even Chaps, though he’d be better equipped to cope with it with his worldly experience!!
I met Bushekhe’s son today, Ali’s nephew. He has muscular dystrophy. His younger brother has already died from it. Ahmed is at the stage where he can’t move but he has a lively mind and speaks English well. It broke my heart I couldn’t tell him we have an amazing cure in New Zealand. His Mum cried when I said there was still no cure. I can’t convince them, no matter how often I say I’m a nurse, that I’m not a doctor!! This family has had much grief to bear, and I’m sure it’s true of many families here.
Samira made an observation that there seems to be less illness and early death in Mafia. I wonder?
Omar called us from school and apologised for his behaviour, saying he was fine. I hope so. I suspect Bushekhe made him ring but it was good all the same.
Chaps, Samira and I did some retail therapy this afternoon. I could do with a wine, but water it is. My liver will be out of practice!!

Ali’s Family in Lamu

Wednesday 0640
I’ve woken up properly now, with the kids getting ready for school, having been half awake from the calls to prayer anyway. Not to mention eaten alive by mossies last night.
We arrived here on Lamu Island at about 1730 yesterday on a very fast outboard driven boat. The driver took off so fast I was totally swamped from head to foot. I was fairly annoyed, since I have so few clothes and was about to meet Ali’s family, but had to swallow it. I’d have liked a shower and to change before meeting them but his father was right there on the beach waiting, and led us straight to the rest of the family.
It was every bit as heart breaking as I expected. Everyone weeping and holding each other and Samira. I was led to Ali’s wife and mother, feeling dreadful for them and somehow responsible. All I could say was “pole sana” (sorry) over and over.
Chaps rescued me, bless him, getting one of Ali’s daughters to show me to the shower. When I’d washed of the day’s dust and seawater and donned a clean set of proper Muslim dress, I felt better and joined the women and children again. Ali’s young son looks just like him and it nearly undid me. Then Chaps took me out to meet his Dad, brother and nephews. His poor father is just devastated and I found that harder to see than the open distress of the women. His brother took us upstairs to eat and Mary and Bea showed up. We sat round the table talking it over. Quite a few of the family have some English so it’s easier to communicate than I expected. They’re a lovely family with a nice home and very caring.
BTW, don’t be tempted to imagine a house like we have in NZ. Homes are very simple here, without any of the conveniences we take for granted. When I say they have a nice home, I mean they have more space than average, but then it’s a huge family, limited electricity, an actual shower head rather than a bucket and cup, some beds and a table. Most people here eat sitting on the floor in a circle. They eat using their right hand, though most times I’ve been offered a fork or spoon. A wash bowl is passed round before and after eating. While I love it here, it’s not the travel experience for anyone who can’t adapt cultures or needs five star treatment.
For myself I will miss them all so very much. My second family and much loved. Napenda swahili familia.

Mombasa

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the wonderful men in my life – Dad, my sons, Igor, Josh, Chapsie and other friends who have helped or protected me one way or another. How related we all are. My perspective has shifted.
We have arrived in Mombasa on the bus and it’s about to cross on the ferry. I was very pleased to have Chaps at the border, though all the Tanzanian and Kenya border police were fine about our recently wet, smudgy passports and visas.
They made us all get off the bus while it went on the ferry, a few minutes ago, but then the busman told Chaps to put me back on for safety. Apparently the thieves are a bit crazy atm here.
I admit to feeling a moment of intense panic at being separated from him. What has happened to my usual insoucient self sufficiency?
I feel I am in some kind of no man’s land. I’m looking forward to seeing my family but I don’t want to leave Africa. The way of life here, the love people show for each other, it all wraps around one’s spirit and a sense of pervasive well being envelops me here. I found it hard to say goodbye to Josh and Bernie this morning, and sad Michele and the girls weren’t there. Such lovely people I’ve met here.
I recognise my life at home for what it is. A never ending treadmill of pleasing society. Material objects, bills, others’ expectations, questionable necessities, trying to make time for the ones we love.
I find I no longer want that. I want joy and peace, love and laughter, time…. Am I dreaming? Perhaps.
I have been given a second chance. I need to consider what I want to do with my future. One thing is certain – it is not what I’ve been doing.

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I’ve just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. Loved it. There’s a wonderful exert from The Oddessey at the end.
“Now from his breast into his eyes the ache of longing mounted, and he wept at last, his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms, longed for as the sun warmed earth is longed for by a swimmer spent in rough water where his ship went down under Poseidon’s blows, gale winds and tons of sea. Few men can keep alive through a big surf to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind: and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband, her white arms round him pressed as though forever.”
Appropriate really. Karibu, Chaps. Welcome home.

Tuesday 16th February – It’s 0630 and Chaps and Samira are just taking her family to the bus for the long trip to back to Dar es Salaam and Mafia Island. They had planned on coming to Lamu with us but Kenya has changed its rules and their temporary travel papers are invalid.
Yesterday morning I was woken to Samira tapping on my door. She, Sauda, a friend of hers, her Dad and two other religious guys had arrived to join us in the night. It was so good to see her again. We spent the day with some of Chaps very large family! His younger brother, Muhammad, and sister, Zahra, both speak English so it was easier for me than I expected. Muhammad especially talked with me a lot and seemed to appoint himself my guardian!! A sweet young man, and father of four!!
These religious teacher guys, I don’t really know exactly what they are, and Samira’s Dad, led a prayer service in remembrance of Ali. I didn’t understand the words of course but found it very difficult and upsetting. More to come in Lamu, I suspect. They asked if I wanted to say a few words, which Chaps tells me was a sign of respect. I did, and Samira translated.
I feel very guilt laden; that we didn’t get Ali home, that it’s me here and not him. I know it’s illogical and that we did our damnedest to save him, but this worm is still in my brain, making me want to cry, and upsetting Chaps in the process. He tells me everyone has huge respect for me, a woman surviving when the man did not. And I see that in their reactions to our story, but I still feel guilty.
We went with Samira to the optometrist as well. He was a character. Asked about my face and got the whole story. He was so astounded he pulled it straight up on the Internet!! He gave Samira a big discount and, upon my mentioning Chaps’ sunglasses were at the bottom of the sea, gave him free choice of the shop!!
Samira is the bargaining guru. She’s a joy to watch. She asks the price and it’s barely been uttered and she’s waving a regal finger in the vendor’s face saying “No, no, no. Do not tell me this!” before reviewing the price continuously downwards, then walking off. I don’t even try if I have her with me!! Her grandfather is a Chief and her husband mzungu, so she carries it off with absolute aplomb.
0835 – Just passing through Kalifi. Saw the supermarket I bought my pillow and sheets from when I first arrived. Josh hadn’t even cleaned the sheet on the bed for me so I got myself new stuff. Then when I returned, Linsay had moved my clothes out of the room and taken over my pillow and sheets which I’d left clean for my return. Another reason I got Chaps and I rooms at the hotel. No respect.
1340 – We are standing on the road side under a small acacia tree while the driver tries to fix the brakes on the van. Great!! They’re stuck apparently. I did think I could smell a rubbery burning smell, but as everyone burns their rubbish on the road side, I hadn’t thought too much of it.
We’re about 100kms from Lamu but it’s a dirt road and the police put checks every five minutes. They’re so bloody corrupt it’s incredible.
Two hours later and the end is in sight, bumpity bump.
I shamelessly took off my sunglasses and used the blue eyes and blond hair on the last bunch of cops. Got us through in record time too. Samira and I had a giggle over that routine!! Works all over the world, lol.
This cop, Peter, solemnly informed me I must feel so safe seeing him and his colleagues everywhere. Also that he’d be at that checkpoint for the foreseeable future should I wish to see him. I was actually more intrigued with the C19 they had set up on its tripod by the truck. God knows why they’d need one of those for their job!! Useless weapon.

Peponi Beach

Saturday 13th February.
Today we’re having a lazy day at the beach. A friend of Josh’s, Werner, drove us in his land cruiser to this place. There’s eight of us which is fun. Neat bar, so I’ve just had a mojito, very refreshing pre lunch bevvie!!! Have to learn to make these. Bernie is so sweet, he’s in total shock over what happened to Chaps and me. Michele and the girls are still in Zanzibar.
Peponi means paradise and it’s not far off. We’ve had a lovely day: great food, fresh water swimming pool and good company. We’ve watched the tide go out and now it’s coming in again. I still have absolutely no desire to go into it!!!
Funny that!!
There’s a gorgeous steel grey tom cat in the bar. Chaps and I have been spoiling him, against the rules I think, but no one has the heart to tell us off. We might be exploiting our status a little!!
I did have a swim in the fresh water pool, after two mojitos and about four savannas!! Chaps and I went for a walk on the beach to the fishing village. They had the days catch of sardines drying on mats on the beach. Poe!
I’m feeling very concerned about what has gone into the NZ Herald at home. I’m really not happy Matt did this without asking me. I did not want it and had ideas of my own. It is my event and I should have been in charge of how it was used. Still its done now. I just hope it doesn’t cause me problems.

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On the move!

11th February – Samira, Chaps and Omar took me to the Kariakoo Markets yesterday afternoon. What an amazing place. Streets and streets of vendors, so many colours and products. Music everywhere that makes you itch to dance in the streets. Samira and I did, and got cheers and laughter from the guys around us. We shopped till we dropped!! Chaps and I needed entire wardrobes, of course, plus gifts for Ali’s family. Got Samira and Omar things as well.
After the markets we taxied to the Slipway and settled in a restaurant there. First drinks in a while and a toast to Ali, and new friends. I messaged Mini and she came straight down to join us. It was wonderful to see her and she promised us all help of any kind if we needed it. I truly have been blessed to meet such delightful new friends here.
We were later back to Samira’s Mums place than we should have been and she’d cooked us a lovely meal. Then a cold shower and bed.
This morning Chaps decided his new trou were a bit too snug, though I thought they looked pretty fine, lol. So we taxied back into town, had iced coffee at the Holiday Inn cafe, entitlement to free WiFi! And the others went back to the markets. I badly wanted time to message home and everyone. This was the first consistent WiFi I’d found in ages. So I had a lovely bit of R&R internetting. Managed to post the things I’d written since Zanzibar, including the account of our harrowing sea survival. I wanted to get something special for Samira too and found some sweet emerald studs in the hotel jeweler. Perfect, she wears green so well. She loved them too.
In case you’ve wondered, this is my original cell phone. Talk about a vote for the Lifeproof case. After 30hrs of being wet, it started straight up. Amazing. Camera and binoculars are dead. Sorry Igor! I’ll buy you new ones.
Then it was on the bus for Chaps and I, to head for Tanga, 6 hours North of Dar. We watched a hilarious movie on the bus, I read my book and we slept. Didn’t arrive till 9pm and the yacht club bar was nearly empty. No sign of Josh, though I was sure I recognised Rangi’s masthead light out in the bay.
So I rented us rooms for the night in the hotel across the road.
12th February: We both slept in this morning and met for breakfast about 9am! There’s four obviously related cats in residence here who watch hopefully as you eat. We succumbed to their big eyes last night so they felt entitled to plague us this morning. No joy this time. I wanted my sausages!!
Then down to the beach to find Josh. A local guy was just heading out fishing so Chaps collared him and he rowed out to Rangi and roused them. (Just a note, ladies, if you’re travelling alone anytime here, hook up with a swahili man! So useful to have a fluent speaker at hand!! Plus it’s their culture to really look after a girl… )
Josh appeared shortly and collected us up. We met Linsay, really great lass, and caught up on each others news. Josh had shaved, lol. He was so annoyed, he had to for some ID or other!! So the pirate look took a hit.
Then we headed back ashore, thinking to get our gear and take it to Rangi. However I decided to shout Chaps and I rooms for the next two nights. We’ve got a fair bit of stuff to take to Lamu and the thought of trying to be comfortable in Rangi with all the floor plates up and mess everywhere, was too much. We’re still easily tired, though Chaps won’t admit it, and I think we need decent sleep. Well, this old bird does!!!
Chaps and Josh have gone into town. I’m relaxing.

Kwaheri Mafia

Wednesday 10th February 2016 : Any moment now our tuktuk will arrive and we’ll be leaving Mafia for the foreseeable future. I’m very sad to say goodbye, even though the circumstances in which we arrived were so heart breaking.
Chaps and I found it hard to believe, last evening, that it was a week since we dragged our sorry carcasses out of the sea. While we’ve been trying to recover, both physically and mentally, we have been busy in a weird way too, especially Chaps. We spent an astounding amount of time in the police station, reiterating our story too many times. I think it was the most exciting thing to have happened to the Mafia CID in a while. They are very kind and helpful but the fact we needed water, food and rest seemed to escape them. Generally it was me losing tolerance and pulling mzungu rank that got us out and into a cafe. They worry inordinately about upsetting mzungus.
It might interest you to know that mzungu doesn’t mean white person but is derived from a word relating to an outside force that comes in and changes things. I find it both appropriate and telling. It’s certainly apparent in Mafia that they still live a very traditional life and don’t really want much change. They are happy and healthy, loving and just wonderful people.
Ali’s body came ashore on Wednesday afternoon. Chaps joined the other men at the mosque, preparing him for burial and laying him to rest on the farm by Samira’s house outside town. The women aren’t allowed to be involved, which I found hard. Poor Chaps looked shattered when he finally got home late that night and needed lots of tlc from us. We have become very close, hardly a surprise given what we’ve endured together. My swahili kaka (brother).
We also spent a lot of time going village to village telling them to look out for Ibis or our gear being washed up. Chaps and Samira seem hopeful that will happen but Omar and I are more pessimistic. Ibis is old fiberglass and I think will stay sunk. Still, you never know.
We also bought five Mbuzi (goats) to give to the villages to slaughter and make a communal meal, to pray for Ali. Chaps and Ali had talked about doing this as we tried to stay positive in the water overnight. Chaps was determined to make it happen. Delivering them was fun. The kids played drums, sang and danced for us. Adorable. And talented.
I’m taking longer to come right than Chaps, to his satisfaction and my intense annoyance!! Physical wounds are healing but my usual stress response of sore throat and inflamed lymph nodes is in full force. Coupled with an extremely blistered and painful mouth and lips, I’m not altogether a happy camper yet. The rest of my face has peeled and is no longer red and black though. Chris Porter would have had a fit!
As all we had was on my back, Chaps and I are living in borrowed clothes. I’ve forgotten what underwear is and the loose colourful Muslim clothes are growing on me. Samira has been so generous. Chaps told me he thought I’d been so respectful of their culture, which is nice, coz I’ve tried to be. The only thing I said I must have was toilet paper. I couldn’t cope with the alternative. It upset my theatre nurses hand washing obsessive sensibilities too much!!
We’ve spent most of the week at Wayne and Samira’s place called Bweni Beach Camp. It’s a beautiful spot where the waves make music and leave gifts on the beach. I have some amazing shells to take home. It’s good spirit food for washed up sailors. As I write this I find I can think about Ali without wanting to ball my eyes out. Chaps has made me promise not to cry. He says he can’t bear it, so I’m trying harder. I warned him, after Ali died, while we were still swimming, that I was good in a crisis but would very emotional after!! So here we are.
Goodbye Mafia, I’ll be back!!

Tragedy Strikes.

Monday 1st February : We ended up having a wonderful evening last night. We anchored off a sand bank of a tiny island. Some local fisherman were there and Chaps, being the gregarious, generous soul he is, offered to buy a healthy portion of their catch and have them cook for us.
So I had a divine entree of lobster straight from the sea, followed by fish and locally grown rice, simply scrumptious compared to shop bought rice.
We slept on Ibis, not at all well, I might add!!
We got under way about 6am, all of us being awake anyway. There were light winds initially, through the sand reef area. Once we got into the Mafia channel the winds and sea picked up quickly. The waves were bigger than what we experienced coming from Kalifi, but were big slow rollers and Ibis was taking them in her stride. We were having a blast. I have some great video. My only concern was we hadn’t been able to get the centre board down. It’d got stuck. But we were careful to balance the boat and all seemed fine.
Then at about 1130 a simply huge wave struck us on the port quarter and flipped Ibis right over. We fought hard to get her over again. Ali and I balanced on the centre board casing and hauled on a line to pull her up and Chapsie did the same from the rudder. Nothing doing. She tried but wouldn’t come up. Chaps dived under to see what the trouble was. The mast had been driven right through the cabin roof and wedged in the hull. Also since the sail was reefed it was holding water, making it heavy. We tried and tried. But Ibis was sinking and we realised we were going to be in deep trouble very shortly. I told Chaps to get the life jackets but he was on it already, and got our bags with passports etc too. He was an absolute hero, diving over and over. We also grabbed a plastic bag floating by which contained 3 tomatoes, a cucumber and an onion!!
Then Ibis disappeared beneath the waves and we were on our own. Ali was shivering already which worried me enormously but I said nothing. We were 10nms off the coast of Mafia Island and I knew we had a fight on our hands. I thanked God for my Naval training. I also didn’t mention I had a water bottle in my pack. My first priority was to stress we stay together, so we put on the very substandard life jackets and tied ourselves together. Chaps also was strong and positive, but Ali already showed signs of hypothermia.
Fortunately it was cloudy so at least we didn’t get burned that first day. Ali and Chaps prayed, and I was content to listen. They know I don’t believe in God but I wasn’t going to debate theology right then. I did say, somewhat tongue in cheek, to Chaps saying we could only place our lives in God’s hands, that I felt we could help ourselves too!!
We could just see land as darkness fell. It was going to be a long, uncomfortable night so we shared a tomato, saving more for later. Around 1am we gave Ali one tomato and Chaps and I had the other. I then announced we had water and again we gave most to Ali. He was seriously cold and we were encouraging him to keep going. We took turns towing him and cuddling him to warm him up. Chaps was cold too but I wasn’t too bad. I never thought to be pleased to be menopausal!!!
More than once I could tell by the look in Ali’s eyes that he was telling Chaps to leave him behind. No chance.
Suffice to say, dawn was welcomed enormously. Breakfast was the last sip of water and a few bites of cucumber. The first thing we saw was a little island. We tried swimming to it but the sea was taking us the other way and we realised we were using precious energy. So we kept on towards the shore.
Between us and land was a reef and the tide was going in so no chance of it being a short distance once we’d got through that. Ali was seriously weak and Chaps and I so tired also. I could see the massive crazy waves leaping on the edge of the reef and was frightened for us all. I knew this hurdle would be the biggest of our test for life so far.
Chaps and I tried to decide how best to get through. He suggested putting Ali on his back but, for better or worse, I vetoed that. Who knows if it’d have made a difference. I had tried swimming on my back but found if a wave swamped me it went straight up my nose and into my lungs. Somehow, the body seemed to cope better front on. Ali had already swallowed too much seawater.
So we tried to lever him off the water as much as possible with the life jacket and my wee backpack. Then Chaps towed him and I swam alongside, holding him up and begging him to hold on. We just went for it, as fast as we could.
But after a time Ali’s face kept laying in the sea and I couldn’t hold him. I yelled for Chaps to help and he came beside me. You can imagine our desperation. Ali panicked and tried to climb on top of Chaps. I learned about this in training and got behind him and pulled him off, trying to calm him. Chaps told him to relax and trust us. It was as if Ali heard us and made a decision of his own. He went floppy and his face went under. We tried to pull him up, so exhausted ourselves. Chaps was pleading with him not to leave us. But he died there in that thrashing sea, in our arms. It is no small thing to watch a healthy young man die. My heart broke for his family and Chaps, his cousin.
For me, the next few minutes were cruel and play on my mind. Chaps wanted to be with Ali, saying prayers as is their custom, and hold him. I had to be firm with him and say we must keep towing him or drown ourselves. We needed to get out of that maelstrom. I had to get him to come next to me, with Ali’s body between us, and help me swim us out of there.
We made it through that biggest part of the reef. So so weary. Chaps spotted a buoy. We swam to it and untied the two buoys attached to the line, resecuring the line to a floating container Ali had round his neck, with bufti in it!! We didn’t want the fisherman who owned it to lose out. Chaps was cold and I knew shock was setting in on us both. I wasn’t really cold so Chaps climbed onto the buoys to get his torso out of the water and I swam beside him. We made the decision to let Ali go, in his life jacket, and let the tide take him into shore. Chaps reckoned it was about 11am so we’d been in the water for 24 hours.
It took us till 5pm to reach the beach. We’d shouted and whistled but no one heard us. We came out of the water slowly, in case our legs failed us. Chaps made me walk behind him, a precaution against standing on something nasty. Such a good man.
There was no one on the beach. We stripped off our wet clothes and dried them in the last of the sun and wind. It was blissfully warm. I checked my dry bag, unsurprisingly full of water! But my money was dry enough for Chaps to take some down the beach to the village and buy us water and kikoi to wear. When he got back I’d dried things off a bit more and rested a little. Chaps had brought a couple of young lads with him and they took us to their home where we were given chai and chepati. We only had a little, as I was worried our tummies would rebel if we had too much too soon.
Then we were taken to the village chief who gave us a letter for the police and agreed to get some men to look for Ali. Next stop was the police station. It all took too long. We were shattered but everyone was too interested in our story to think of our welfare!!
Finally we were taken to Samira’s sister. She gave us food and drink. I felt really faint and told Chaps I needed bed. Sauda got her brothers to take us to Samira’s house. Another sister, Hadia, was there and put a mattress on the floor for us. Chaps said he’d sleep on the floor. I said not to be ridiculous. With half a mattress each, we crashed.
So ended Tuesday.

Sailing Again

I arrived at Kendwa without any problem. Humped my pack the couple of kms from the bus stop to the beach. Found the hotel near where the girls are as my landmark, the wandered onto the beach to find them. Saw Ibis straight away and walked towards her. Then I heard my name shouted and Chapsie and Ali piled out of a dhow next to Ibis. It was great to see them.
We went to a bar and waited for Bea and Mary who had gone into town. Had a really nice evening catching up.
Chapsie and Ali said they were heading to Mafia island the next day, if I wanted to come.
So now it’s Saturday afternoon and we’ve nearly been going 12 hours. Had a stunning day on the water. I had a quick swim when we stopped for lunch. We’ll be anchoring in a bay at the southern tip of Zanzibar soon, for the night.
Sunday – Chaps got me a room for the night in the local village which was so good of him. My adventurous spirit balked a bit at sleeping on Ibis. She is only 21ft long. So we all had a delicious shower and awesome local food. The guys slept on the yacht. Rained too, poor things.
The young lad who helped us find my room seemed to think a suitable reward was for him to stay the night with me. My God, these guys!! With extreme patience I said “How old are you?”  “20” he replied. I’m sure I rolled my eyes. I got out my phone and showed him a photo of Matt and Danny. “These are my sons. I’m old enough to be your mother. So I will be sleeping by myself, thank you”!!!
Under way again in the dark at 0530. Kwaheri, Zanzibar!!
It’s now 1400 and man, this is an awesome little boat. We’ve been hitting 16 knots. Bloody amazing. Just had to reef the sail but still getting 10 knots. Great sailing conditions. I’ve given another offering to the old man of the sea. He now has two of my hats and a pair of ruddy expensive glasses!! We were gifted with stronger winds in return. Cheers, Poseidon!!
I’ve had some really great philosophical discussion with Chaps and Ali. They are Islamic so we’ve had great religious debate which of course led to very entertaining discussion on sexual practices. They can have more than one wife so I naturally said why can’t I have more than one husband?!! We had a lot of laughter over that topic.
We have another hour or two till we reach the island we’re going to anchor at tonight. Please can we just get good food and no randy young swahili men today?!!

Zanzibar.

Well, here I am in Zanzibar! I’m staying at a place called Manch Lodge in the old Stone Town area. It’s really cool, narrow alleys in all directions which I’m sure I’ll get lost in.
I spent the evening talking first to an American guy called Bo and later to a German couple. Really lovely pair – Benedict and Leo. Leo went to bed early but Ben and I stayed up drinking whisky!! It was such a hot night and impossible to sleep until the small hours when the heavens opened and we had an awesome thunder storm. It was an incredibly loud and bright display!!
This morning we all met at breakfast. Very basic fare. An egg, a bit of toast and a pancake thing. None of it particularly tasty but food!!
Since the weather isn’t conducive to roaming the town, I got myself some pampering. Had a massage, which is very different to home, and then got henna decorations on my left hand and foot!! Sana poe!! Very cool!!

The guy whose family owns this place, Cholo, said I mustn’t wet my henna today so he went out and bought me lunch. People really go out of their way to help mama mzungu (white girls)!! I find it rates uncomfortably with me but it’s just the way it is. I just make sure I express my gratitude and tip well if someone’s been especially helpful.
Ben and Leo have gone to the market in rain coats! Leo looks such a dag. She has really long dreads and piercings everywhere but still looks so cute! Benedict is pretty handsome and has some really gorgeous tattoos on his left leg and arm, very intricate and superbly done. They’re such a colourful duo. I’ll get a photo of them later.

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This is Ben and Leo. If Ben looks stoned it’s coz he is, lol. Bufti on the balcony.
I’ve been indulging in that wonderful female pastime!! Retail Therapy!! Yes, got the whanau some gifts and got myself some Tanzanite, woop woop!!
The town really is interesting. So much history, a lot of it sobering, to do with the slave trade. The spice shops are incredible, row on row of colour. Cholo was a big help making sure I didn’t get ripped off. He’s swahili but his family are pretty well off and he spends 3 or 4 months in London annually.

I’m going to Kendwa this afternoon and meeting up with Bea and Mary. I think Chaps and Ali are there too. Should get some sailing in as Ibis is anchored there.