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Kenya Diaries: a delicate tummy and onwards to Shella

Monday 18 June 2012
A sunset Dhow trip from Shella
Last time on the Kenya Diaries: I met the brainsquad, pondered eating alone and dined in some cold and disappointing fish. The 'cold and disappointing' part is imperative to the continuation of the tale...

I awoke feeling... like I shouldn't have eaten that fish. Something was most definitely Not Right.

After a few sharpish visits to the toilet, I settled down on my bed and allowed myself a little cry.
I say this not to win sympathy or to whine. I'm a strong believer in a good cry, when it's due. If you try to fight it, you'll only end up bursting into tears when some kind soul asks you how you are. Which is never a pretty sight. Far better to submit to the boo hoos at a time that suits you, and get them out of your system.

That is assuming that you, like me, cry on a fairly regular basis. Oprah usually sets me off. And surprise parties, for some reason.

Most of my tears were down to the fact that I didn't have long before I had to drag my ass and heavy bag down to the port, to get a boat to Shella.

A few of the tears were down to the fact I was listening to Mick Flannery on my iPod.

(Hilariously, I just typed iPood, completely by accident. I can't promise this is the end of toilet humour)

To get out of my maudlin mood, I switched to the 4 Non Blondes. And I realised that the song What's Up was written about this exact situation...

"And so I cry sometimes when I'm lying in bed
Just to get it all out, what's in my head
And I, I'm feeling a little peculiar"

So it's clear to me that one of these non blondes was suffering from a delicate tummy in Lamu.

But the time for deliberation was coming to a close. I picked myself up, and made my way to Shella.

Shella is on the island of Lamu, but about a 40 minute walk or a 10 minute boat ride away. It's the beach side of the island, with miles and miles of unspoilt white sands. I was staying in Fatuma's Tower which is, quite frankly, the nicest place I have ever stayed in my life. My room was absolutely massive, with a beautiful dark varnished bed, colourful throws, and a windswept balcony overlooking the gardens.

And oh, the breeze. That was what was missing in Lamu town. Nice as it was, and great as Jambo House was, there was a feel of oppression in the heat, the sticky kind of air that you just can't cool down in. Shella had the bonus of being a little more spread out, so the sea breeze could reach you.

My room at Fatuma's Tower

From my beautiful balcony I could watch the monkeys (monkeys!) play in the trees, cool down with this beautiful clean air, and hell, I can say it. Finally get naked.

Lamu hadn't been ready for my nakedness yet (it hadn't been ready for shoulders or ankles, so I decided not to push it). I should point out that I didn't want to run through the streets in the nip, but the location of my room meant that nudity wasn't really a practical choice. So oh, it felt so good to strip down, know that no one could see in, and let the cool breeze wash over me. All the signs of a dippy tummy dissipated as I laid back and relaxed.

After a nap I headed out to the beach to set out on my sunset Dhow trip. I waited at Pepponi's Bar, the only bar in Shella and the meeting point for pretty much everyone. I sat with an older English woman and got chatting as I waited for the others to arrive.

"Are you travelling alone, too?"

For some reason, this innocuous question was a sobering moment, and led me to have a mild freak out.
I think what was happening was a funny combination of feelings. There's no doubt that there is a stigma attached to travelling alone, and I felt that along my journey. But I met so many fantastic people who were taking their trip solo, and in the end I believe the benefits can outweigh the negatives, depending on how you view trips.

There are wonderful things about travelling along. You're taken out of your comfort zone, you're free to do exactly what you please with your time, and most importantly, you're pushed to meet other people, something you mightn't do when you're travelling with friends.

It was the perfect time to head out in to the sunset with some of these new people.

With me and Baji on the trip were a Swedish & Ethiopian couple, two Dutch girls and an Israeli guy. The sunset was beautiful, as they are wont to be. At one point, a much more glamorous boat swung past us, carrying my "Very Important People" from Whispers. They called out to me across the water, raised their glasses of champagne and we had one of those glorious shouted conversations where neither party can hear the other.

We pitched up on Manda, an island opposite Shella, and lit a fire. Baji and his gang cooked up some barracuda which we ate with coconut rice, vegetable stew and cold Tusker beers. There's something so comforting about a fire, wherever you are. It always brings people together, and no more so than on Manda.

Kitty, one of the Dutch girls, was trying to get everyone to tell a story, with the simple prompt of "Everybody tell a story!" Of course, as soon as we were asked to, no one could think of a single thing that had happened to them. Ever. My mind was a blank. We were all struggling, and could barely recall how we got to the island in the first place.

Kitty started the ball rolling with a hilarious story that made her look absolutely awful. I wish I could repeat it, but you'll have to track Kitty down and sit her in front of a fire to hear it yourself.

There was a stunned silence for a moment or two after her story. But it was soon followed by guffaws of laughter, and soon the stories flowed like honey. So God bless Kitty and her bathroom humour.

After a while, Baji asked me to go down to the ocean with him. Now, I'm only human. A slightly paranoid human at that. And after weeks of horror stories being relayed to me prior to making this trip, I couldn't help but have my suspicions. Why? What on earth would I have to see down at the dark ocean?

Luckily, I ignored my little voice and followed him to the water, where he paddled into the calm sea and kicked around. In any other place, he'd have just looked a little simple, but in the waters of Manda, he was making diamonds.

Phosphorescence is something I had dreamt of seeing ever since I'd heard of it. It was absolutely incredible. Shards of glitter and sparkles danced upon the black water, leaving trails of light in their path. Intrigued by all of the shouting and splashing, the others came down to the sea. We all stood in a line and kicked on the count of three, sending shoots of silver through the air. We played and swam, watching the glitter swarm around us. One of us couldn't help remembering a similar scene in The Beach.

I can honestly say I could have stayed for hours.

When I got back to Fatuma's Tower, there was incense lit under my bed (an anti mozzie safeguard), the nets were down over my four poster bed, and there was jasmine flower on my pillow, sending out the most beautiful scent throughout the room.

In a scene lifted from an imaginary Julia Roberts movie, I crawled under the nets, took the flower to my nose and inhaled deeply, before rolling over to sleep with a movie star smile on my face.


  1. Hi Nicola, I discovered your blog recently on and I love it already. I love travelling and your blog is a god send for me.

  2. That's so great! I love I'm glad you love travel pennies, hopefully you'll like what's coming up! Drop me a comment if there's anything you want me to cover. And welcome!

  3. You are doing a great job, keep it up. I am reading all your old posts everyday I am already a huge fan. I have bookmarked your blog at work and on my laptop at home. I might not comment much but I assure you that I will always come back to read. xx


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