Tag Archives: Walking

Next stop Lamu Island, Kenya


We drove out of Tsavo East and headed to the town of Malindi on the Indian Ocean where everyone but us got a Covid test for their return flights home. Afterwards we hopped on a plane and 25 minutes later landed at the Manda Airport on the Island of Manda.There is something magical and primitive about landing at a tiny remote airport. It’s informal – no jetways or sidewalks just earthen paths. Everything is dulled by a layer of red dirt. Our luggage was loaded into a old wooden pull cart and rolled to the nearby boat ramp.

We boarded a boat taxi and headed across the channel to Lamu Island. A UNESCO World Heritage site and Kenya’s oldest and best preserved Swahili settlement on Africa’s East Coast.Our reward for finishing the walk was to stay at the renowned family run Peponi Hotel in the adjoining community of Shella.

Lamu and the Peponi are listed in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and rightfully so.

Carol and her daughter Elke run the hotel. I’m sure they don’t like the reference but I had visions of Mama Mia. Elke is stunningly beautiful, make up free and bare footed. Her mum is clearly a spitting image of the same girl just years later. They are hands on and make sure your every need it met.

Previously warned by Tropical Ice that we should extend our (included in the safari) one night stay and enjoy the pole pole (Swahili for slow, slow) lifestyle. We had booked two nights. A perfect end to a perfect walking safari.

Our original plan grew into five nights. Covid was starting to affect our trip. The flight to Zanzibar had been cancelled and the Islands of Comoros and Madagascar closed their borders to tourism. Coupled by civil unrest in others countries – we needed time to hatch a new plan.

First things first. We girls headed out just behind the hotel to explore the narrow streets and pathways that wind through the village of Shella. There are no cars and donkeys are used to transport goods and people. We set out with a map highlighting the “best of” and no sooner than we made the first turn and we were lost.

What a place to be lost. It was a maze with a muted palette of dusty paths and creamy buildings with stunning carved door, offset by bright bougainvillea, drying laundry and women in colorful hijabs and dresses.

It’s a certainty that every country has its one percent. This was evident at the Hemmingways and Peponi. Lots of lethargic people wearing $1,000. sunglasses and designer clothing. Safari clothes – not appropriate.

Shela and Lamu Island are Muslim communities. 50 mosques for 50,000 people. My shorts and skirts from the safari wouldn’t suffice so I was on a mission to purchase a modest dress. Shoulders and knees need to be covered. It was a request but not enforced. Light and airy dresses were what most woman wear. Scarves worn for coverage work as well. There was one boutique shop in town where all of us found a treasure. One dress worn over and over will suffice.

A lot of the homes and fenced walls are built with coral. They’re rough, porous and plentiful. 350 members of the Luo tribe live on a nearby island and spend their days harvesting the dead coral from under trees and transporting them by boat to Lamu Island. Beamed ceilings are made with Mangrove poles and therefore rooms are narrow since the trees do not grow tall. Floors and walls are mostly rough dead coral and the coated with coral limestone for smoothness. Many homes have a “daka” entry porch where men gather to visit.  Inside are are small niches carved into the walls of stone structure.   Inside elaborate “vidaka” walls – small niches carved into the walls of stone structures – are a stunning focal point.  Decorative but also used to reduce echoing in the home.

Iain’s wife, Lou, flew in to join everyone. Our first evening, the last that we were all together, we had a Swahili feast. The setting was stunning. We sat in a lush area near the pool on ground height couches surrounded by vibrant fluffy pillows. The men were not quite sure what to do with their legs which prompted us to become silly children once again. The food was spicy, flavorful and bountiful.

After a luxurious night’s sleep six of us took a dhow (ancient Arab sailing boat) to the old town of Lamu. It’s within walking distance to Shella Village at low tide but the dhow was a more traditional means of entering this famous town. The bustling streets where “pole pole” meets the fast pace of commerce, donkeys are the beast of burden and hawkers try to lure you into their shops.

Lamu is bursting at the seams with cats, cats and more cats.  Unique cats.  The only place in the world to have the same physiques as the cats depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics. 

The evening commenced with a sunset dhow cruise sipping wine and drifting by patches of mangroves. When the sun began to set we turned course and met up with masses of dhow boats where we all raced towards the sunset. It was stunning.

I’ll have you know it took me three days to shake having to look for predators while traversing the garden lawn from our room to the restaurant!

We said goodbye to everyone on day three and it once again became the Bill and Paige show. Time was spent exploring Shela and Lamu Town, walking the beach, lounging, catching up on emails, posting a few blogs, making plans, eating too much food and having sunset cocktails.

Sand life and art:

 

The Great Walk of Africa Day 9

What you don’t know won’t kill ya. Apparently that’s not the way in the bush. 

This morning I felt like Emily Blunt in the The Quiet Place movie.  The predators are out there….  There’s no Jaws movie music Da dant da dant da dant.  Not only have we taken the oath of silence so have the predators.  It’s a quiet killing grounds in Tsavo. The only things making noise are the harmless birds.  HA!!! The stuff I think about…..

Lots of game sightings today – zebras – elephants – gazelles…

Click to enlarge photos…

It was a peaceful day with no heart pumping events.

Until we were about to cross the Galana River back to camp. Toiko and Washii started into the water when a crocodile’s tail took a swing at their ankles. Both jumped back to the shore quicker than a Kenyan runner. Toiko minus a sandal. He returned to camp shoeless. Poor guy.  It will be a long time before the guys stop teasing him about this one.

The surface beneath our feet is a bit of a conundrum – harsh, dry, and barren like the surface of the moon and closer to the shore there’s beautiful fine white sand. There are a few springs of greenery sprouting.  Otherwise, food seems either non-existent or inedible.  How any animal forages and lives in this area is baffling

Look who tried to wander into camp. Yes. That’s Bill at our tent.

Hello Bill – do you see the elephant?

On our evening game drive we drove up to a male and female pair lounging in the sun.  Jokes about the manly lion ensued… To prove his virility the male jumped on the female. Big her in the shoulder and did his thing. Who’s king of the jungle now?

Tomorrow is our last day of walking and it will be a full day. We leave at our usual 7 am departure time and will not be returning until 6 pm…..

Mzima Camp

Good Lord. Oh dark thirty. We had just fallen asleep.

Breakfast at 5:15 am so that we could be ready for our 5:45 start to Tsavo.

Our flight didn’t leave until 7:30 and the airport was only 15 minutes away. Leaving before gridlock would leave down time but ensure we made the flight.We boarded a 12 seater prop plane. Some of the guys had to crawl to their seats. It was a quick one hour flight to Tsavo West. The welcoming crew was two grazing giraffes just on the side of the dirt runway. The real deal. Not a zoo. Just two giraffes hanging out.

We hopped into a modified Land Rover Defender. Bill and Stephen sat behind the driver. Kim and I loaded up in the next row with Washii, our spotter, sitting on the back roof. Within no time we were standing on the seats with our heads and shoulders peaking out of the roof spotting game.

The rest of the crew loaded up in second Rover and we headed to breakfast at the Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge 45 minutes away.

Cape buffalo, warthogs and zebras (the Brits say zeb-bra) grazed while we stuffed our bellies.

Two more hours to the first camp – our jaws wide open as more wildlife started to appear.

Click on photos to enlarge.

According to Iain we were very lucky to see a leopard lying next to the road. A rare occurrence since they are nocturnal. Looks like he got in a scruff only hours before.

 

Meet our fearless leader Iain. Iain started Tropical Ice and the Great Walk of Africa 43 years ago. Born in Scotland and raised in Kenya since the age of six. A lover of the outdoors, modern day Indiana Jones, avid reader, movie buff, John Wayne impersonator, comedian and head man in charge. This will be his 93rd walk.

Yes, we fools paid lots of money to walk 100 miles across Tsavo West and Tsavo East. We’re the chum to the predator’s delight. No pussies allowed.

The safari of my dreams has been altered.

Yes, we have tents, twin beds and even woven rugs. It’s a throw back to safari’s from the golden years. Everything we need and then some. Bathtub and chandeliers are foolish childhood dreams. This is a big girl’s camp.  It’s like drinking black coffee.

There is a mess tent where we are served three outrageous meals a day with tea and crumpets each afternoon. It’s perfect. The only downside is we are in Tsavo which means “Place of Slaughter”. Predator’s stomping grounds…. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night is scary!!!

This camp is named Mzima (alive in Swahili). That’s because it’s the start of the journey and at this point we’re all still alive.

Time to relax and settle in. The walk starts tomorrow.

Panama City, Panama

Believe it or not immigration in Panama did not ask about our flight out of Panama. Go figure.

The airline clerks in Lima were more about Panamanian Immigration than the Panamanians were.

It’s all smoke and mirrors!

The good thing about the whole ordeal was that we didn’t have to spend the night in the Panama Immigration Hotel.

The first day was the hop on hop off bus and Yup…. it was a national holiday – diá de bandera (flag day) and half of the bus stops were closed. One being access to the historic district – Casco Viejo and all the museums. Flag day in Panama is a big deal. We caught a glimpse from the bus and hundreds of thousands of people were out packed in like sardines celebrating. It was great fun to see.Lucky for us we got to watch a huge ship go through the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal. I was able to experience locks growing up on Saranac Lake in New York. It’s a tedious and meticulously planned operation. Train-like engines guide the ships through the canal keeping the boat in the middle. It was a bit like watching water boil but thrilling none the less.

A malecón (seaside walkway) called Cinta Costera Park links the wildly growing modern urban center to Casco Viejo – Panama City’s spectacular old town and UNESCO World Heritage site.We baked ourselves in the sun walking from our hotel to the historic center on the Cinta Costera but enjoyed the seaside breeze in the evening on the way back. Skaters, walkers, joggers, dancers, vendors, kids and their parents, novias and amigos relished in the cooler night temperature.
Casco Viejo is a mixture of crumbling abandoned buildings and new or newly refurbished ones – stately, ornate and adorned with Spanish inspired balconies. Fantastic restaurants, super cool hotels and fun bars.Oh yeah – the moon righted its self. Explain that to me please!We happened upon a runner, Jan-Casper Look, who just completed running from Vancouver, Canada to Panama City. Phase one of his journey. It took him a year. He runs pulling a cart behind himself averaging 30 miles per day. You can follow him on Instagram @jclloo21 where there’s also a link to his blog. And we thought walking a few Caminos was a big deal.

Strange and crazy. This Camino Pilgrimage symbol was on a building in Casco Viejo!

The Day After Finishing the Via Francigena

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. ~ Dr. Seuss

Today we went the office of the “Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi” in St. Peter’s Square for our Testimoniums (certificate for completing at least the last 100km of the Via). The pilgrims who started Canterbury get the same document.It’s just like the Camino de Santiago. Walking the last 100km (62 miles) gets you a Compostela.Chappy, Bill and I weighed ourselves. Bill was the winner at losing the most.Bill and I hoofed it to our new luxurious hotel where we will veg for the next three nights. Soft sheets, a bathtub and a huge TV with English channels. Not sure if we’ll get out of bed tomorrow. Chappy, Darrell and Roxanne stopped by to check out our new digs and we all walked to see the Trevi Fountain (along with 1,000,000 other people) to hug it out and say goodbye.Chappy is heading home tomorrow and Darrell and Roxanne are off to discover Italy by train.

Roxanne’s post and photos:

Completing our pilgrimage to Rome and receiving our Via Francigena Testamonium today means farewell to the Fab Five and hello to the positive memories we’ll share with each other back home in Nevada. Thanks Paige for sharing your blog with our loved ones! Luxury is clean cloths!Well done Pilgrims!

Day 39 the Final Day on the Via Francigena

La Storta to Rome – Sunday October 14th (Preston’s birthday – love you honey) – 13.3 miles in 7 hours 14 minutes.

The Fab Five made to Rome all in one piece and blister free.

What an experience! We’re so appreciative of our health, the ability to perform such a task and friendship.

Our walk today was…. well… you decide…. (photos are in order).Obstacles to climb over…95% was on pavement.We’re staying at the Vatican Garden Inn. Don’t stay here!

Roxanne’s post and photos:

The Fab Five have landed!
St. Peter’s Square, Rome.