After I’ve spent a few lazy hours doing nothing much on the beach (mainly trying to take a photo of a yellow, green and red bird flying into a small round nest suspended from the tree), Smiley decides that the currents are now right for sailing to the Takwa ruins.
As we start to sail towards the ruins another dhow slides into view from behind the mangrove swamps. We halfheartedly race them to the creek, but their boat is bigger and wins easily.
We reach a narrow opening to the creek – it’s only about ten metres wide, with mangrove trees growing in the water on either side. The water is very shallow, and we have to chart our course carefully to avoid grounding the boat. I think to myself that they should have withies to mark out the course. Eventually the water gets so shallow that we all have to sit on one side of the boat and lean out to make it tilt, so that the keel doesn’t touch the bottom.
When we get as far as is possible, Ali gets out of the boat and wades off round the corner while we wait in the boat, listening to the sounds of splashing and squeaking of imagined animals in the swamps.
This place is like Secret Water, and Smiley and his crew on the Uhuru remind me of the Death and Glories. I could quite imagine them using an earthenware pot for a chimney if their boat had a cabin. When Ali reappears pulling a flat bottomed boat behind him I feel like shouting ‘Karabadangbaraka’, but of course he wouldn’t know what I’m on about.
I climb into the boat on my own, and Ali proceeds to pull the boat the rest of the way to the ruins. The ruins are vaguely interesting, but not nearly as interesting as sailing to get to them. I take a few photos and then return to the boat. This time Ali stands in the boat and poles it through the water as it is now getting deeper due to the tide. Alone on the boat with my native guide in the middle of nowhere, I feel like Michael Palin! Especially when I say the same silly things that Palin says to his guides – telling them stories about what it’s like in England.
The tide has now risen enough for us to be able to sail out of the creek quite easily. We sail slowly so that as Lamu comes into view the sun is setting over it. The sun is very big and orange and there are a few small clouds floating in front of it. The sky is streaked with yellow and pink which is mirrored in the sea. The guys in the boat say it’s one of the best sunsets they’ve seen.
As I get out of the dhow back at Lamu I decide that this was one of the best days of 2002. I also decide that I’m going to start sailing when I go back to the UK.