Monday, September 10, 2012


I was looking for paradise, and found an island off the coast of Kenya called Lamu, where there's no motor vehicle traffic, just an old town where most of the buildings are made of cut coral and mangrove, with a fort and a mosque, and a beach. Lamu is also a center for trading in antique jewelry, such as this necklace of African trade beads with a very old Indian silver coin pendant.

There aren't any roads there, just footpaths and, in town, alleyways. So no trucks -- if you've got a load of groceries to deliver, or a pallet of building materials, you have to use donkeys.

The settlement was founded by Arab traders in the 1300's, and strong Arabic and Indian influences remain among the ethnic Swahili population. The pace of life is very slow there, and the climate sounds ideal, if somewhat breezy.

There are a couple reasons, though, why it's not paradise. For one thing, you can't get there from here. Travel from Mombasa, less than 100 miles away by land and sea, is either reasonably priced, but tortuously slow and unreliable, or quick, efficient, and extremely expensive. One source I read suggested that travelers to the island might be in danger of attack by Somali pirates or bandits, and another suggested wearing cowboy boots to Lamu rather than Nike walking shoes, because of the donkey-generated pollution.

Come to think about it, I'm forgetting Lamu, because if I ever get out of here ("here" being Seattle), I'll just shuttle across the water -- go west, young man -- and assume that if the peninsula I know so well already isn't paradise, it's as close as I'll get in this lifetime.

If I ever get outta here, that's what I'm gonna do-oooh!

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