As I walk from the hotel bedroom the scene that confronts me takes me back to the first novel I ever read at the age of 12; My Family and Other Animals, although set on the Greek island of Corfu the images I can recall , now come to life in front of me. It’s 7am so with breakfast not til 7.30 I have time to explore. Down by the lakeshore a few boats remain from the nights fishing and women in brightly coloured dresses wash clothes – what a way to start the day.
We have a 6.30pm flight back to Nairobi so over breakfast we plot our route back to Kisumu, deciding to take the ferry across the lake to expedite our journey. It’s another day of meetings, each one adding to the learning curve and certainly providing no shortage of enthusiastic and well organised beach management units.
As we queue at Mbita Point for the ferry, an English guy pops his head out the window of a pick-up truck – you’re Irish he said. Apparently he could spot one a mile off, glad he didn’t mean throw the cross hairs of his .22! He was working for ICIPE, a world leading research centre for tropical insects. He explained briefly the importance of such research in the tropics for food security and human health before we were beckoned to board the ferry.
At the gates to the ferry compound a woman is doing a brisk trade in Omena and Pastor Gilbert buys three large bags, food for his rabbits he explains. Not so for others who use this high protein ‘sprat’ as a staple food.
The village of Luanda awaits us on the other side and is our last fishing village before we make haste to Kisumu. The trip across the lake is wonderful, bathed in warm sunshine I savour every moment, even sending a text home to boast of the incredible efficiency of Kenya’s mobile communications networks.
Luanda has yet another EU sponsored refrigeration plant and yes unfortunately it lies dormant with lines of clothes drying on the railings as I walk up to it. Goats shelter from the hot midday sun under our bus as we go through our now finely honed routine with members of the BMU. Some statistics are debated so other fishermen are summoned to clarify. The hut is so packed that I slip outside to observe village life. Even though this is the ninth village I’m still intrigued to watch every day life as it chugs along, no rush, no fuss but then again the heat of the sun does lend to a more sedentary way of life.
We reach the highway pretty quickly so the trip back to Kisumu is fast and I’m kept entertained with the views out the window. We’ve talked so much about Talapia and Nile perch over the past few days it’s only fitting that we find a lake side restaurant in Kisumu to sample the daily catch. Somehow it doesn’t have the charm of the villages we’ve left behind but we settle down to discussing our field trip and make our selection of the where we think would be most suitable for the pilots. Based on the set criteria we’re pretty unanimous so, all that remains is to agree on the management structure of the steering group. Our work complete, we say out goodbyes armed with a set of deadlines to meet.
We’re deposited back in Kisumu airport, iPhone less, tired yet happy that my journey is barely ten days old and I’ve seen and done so much. The short flight takes us back out over the lake, as if for one last look and it’s not long before we’re in the chaos of Nairobi airport, and I mean chaos.