The car stops in the sand with the headlights into the bushes. We had definitely reached the end of the main road. Calling this a main road is charming. It is two tracks of sand through the forest made from persistent driving over time with one single land rover and the total distance was about 3 miles. It could not be much longer because it is the total distance across of the island. It is late afternoon and the hot sun slowly turns orange making the light wonderful for photography. My photographer friend and me wanted to be dropped of and walk back, through three small villages ending in our hotel. Experience Matemo Island by foot. The car leaves us in a small dust cloud and disappears on the main road.
The sound of car engine dies out and the air fills with the buzzing sound of insects and the slow beats of waves on the beach. Life is great. We start walking.
First village appear behind bushes and palm trees. We approach a small square surrounded by mud huts. All the people outside have not noticed us yet. I always have a small anxiety inside. How will they greet us? I did not have to wait long.
“Mosongo”, “Mosongo”. A small herd of screaming kids comes running towards us. It is Swahili and means “white man”. They grab our hands and clothes and starts leading us into the village. We stop on the small center square. I kneel down and take a photo of the children. I turn the camera around and show them. What happens next is incredible. Those little images on my camera screen release an explosion of joy and laughter. They crawl on the ground laughing. All the kids grab my camera and want’s to see. They pose, make faces and push each other in front of the camera. I do it over and over and over…. then I let them do it. I let go of the camera into chaos of small hands. Pushing every button. I show witch one to push and I hold on to the camera strap just to have some control. It is impossible not to let the joy reach my heart.
Outside this chaos of fun and laughter I see parents smiling at us. My anxiety is gone.
This is Africa like you have seen on countless TV documentaries for decades. Beautiful women carrying heavy loads on their heads, smiling kids, animals everywhere and the men preparing the daily catch and repairing fishing nets on the beach. Everybody is friendly, smiling and talk constantly even though we have no common language. I try with gestures and simple drawings and somehow we establish some sort of language. They want to show us everything, want us to taste the food and drinks. A small gang of kids wants to sell us bottles of water. I try to reject as polite as possible. Just looking at the water I can see it will probably be an instant weight loss program lasting for days.
The sun slowly touch the sharp horizon and soon will darkness swallow this beautiful island. I can see our hotel. Warm sand are sneaking into my light shoes, drops of sweat run down my face and taste salt. When I smile I can feel my face is slightly sunburned. This was a small walk in time and distance but the experience will last a lifetime.