10/09/04, Masai Mara, Kenya
We arrived at The Crossing to find professional photographers waiting for the first wildebeest to cross. After ten minutes it happened. We watched as a crocodiles fought with an adult wildebeest and were amazed when the beast got away. After the stampede the photographer nearest to us enlightened us. They had been waiting for the crossing to take place for two days! We arrived ten minutes before and took it for granted.
09/09/04, Masi Mara, Kenya
Jo and Paul, our friends from Hamilton joined us in the Seychelles and sailed across to Kenya with us. We then did some inland traveling with them and did several safari's with Jo taking most of the photos on their digital camera. They are all amazing it is so hard to choose from. This is one of my favourites.
A short distance from Lamu town is the small village of Shella. With a small expat community and a number of secluded bungalows Shella attracts its share of the tourism trade. A few wealthy, not to mention the odd Royal, have purchased waterfront properties and built some pretty swanky holiday homes here, but thankfully all in the spirit of the historical past. Being a world heritage site there is some very strict criteria and it's gratifying to see that the new merges so well with the old. In the middle of Shella is the minaret that dates back to the 14th century.
The mostly Muslim population is a mix of Arab and African, bloodlines. Unlike the inland areas of East Africa it was never colonised and remained under the control of Arab traders.
An event that is trying to establish Lamu and Shella on the tourist map is their local dhow racing.
Dhow in its strict meaning is a trading vessel of 150-200 tonnes, lateen rigged on a single mast, which is indigenous to the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
In this case we are using the name as it has been extended to encompass any trading vessel in these waters. The racing fleet where predominately the local designed Jahazzi's, with two Mozambique, wider beamed trading boats added to the mix.
All of the dhows make use of a twenty-foot plank that tucks under the gunwale rail to leeward and extends out over the windward rail. Up to five men stand out on this plank and they are as nimble as they need to be to anticipate the changing pressure of wind as the gusts come in from the open sea.
Their dhow are work boats, carefully maintained and tirelessly used, and these people know how to sail them. With the opportunity of competing, the dhows are careened, bottoms scrubbed, the newest sails bent on, and the best crews chosen. To encourage tourism, it is a stipulation that each crew must have two paying crew (yes the tourists) on board... the true meaning of ballast! The races start off the beach. All the crew in their best clothes and colourful turbans are primed and enthusiastic, tension is running high, as the time draws near. The race official draws the racecourse in the sand surrounded by a representative of each dhow. One of the favourite dhows has trouble with a jammed halyard sheave and no amount of wrenching will get it free. As the seconds tick down to the start, increased shouting, knives and hammers are the only option to free the stuck halyard and finally on the gun, it's freed, but the dhow has lost valuable seconds as the fleet break out sail and jostle for position to the cheers and encouragement of hundreds of onlookers lining the shoreline. Just watching makes for a heart pounding half hour and feeling for the beleaguered crew knowing full well what its like to duff the start of a long anticipated race.
The skill with which they sail these dhows is clearly a reflection on the importance they play in the day-to-day life of the people on the African coast.
The winning dhow is mobbed when it returns to the beach. The chanting as the winning crew approach the finish line, sets their supporters into a frenzy and the pounding of a log in the bottom of the boat sets up a undeniably good rhythm, a resonating sound of percussion, and it's not unusual to see the winning boat swamped or even sunk under the weight of supporter as they clamber aboard to join the celebrations.
The women, shrouded from head to toe in their traditional black purdahs, are very much a part of the day, although it would seem, encouraged to remain in a group to themselves. There is no less enthusiasm there and although the purdahs hide their facial features, they get right into the festivities, encouraging their children they cheer and laugh.