I am taking a day of rest back in Moshi after about a week spent around Lake Victoria on the north west part of the country. Moshi is a smaller town that is among other things used by trekkers that climb mount Kilimajaro as their base. The starting point for treks to the mountain are a few kilometers away. I arrived yesterday afternoon and had a clear sky where I could see the entire mountain. It reminded me of the landscapes of Ecuador.
So my week in Lake Victoria…
After the long bus ride from Arusha (described in my last post) I arrived to the welcoming Mwanza. In general, much more friendly than Arusha. It is the second largest city in Tanzania but with a small town feel. It sits next to Lake Victoria and is made out of huge rocks. It was very intersting to see how the buildings and houses use the rocks as part of either their landscape or the buildings themselves. It is the first place in Tanzania where I get to see a neighborhood that looks a bit more developed. After asking around I found out that it is mostly where the “musungos” (mostly business people live (miners, telecommunications, and people from the fish exporting business). A little disappointed by that, but it is the reality of this country.
I like water, so I decided to stay a little longer in the area and explore, so I took a bus up to Musoma (about 3 hours away). Everyone kept asking why am I going there…. I didn’t really know… I guess it was partly that I wanted to stay near the water, partly I had read something in my guide book and also I remembered my friend Lourdes mentioning it…. so I went.
Musoma… not much going on really. It is a fishing town with little infrastructure. I arrived there and as in most small towns I was the only “musungo” so I got a lot of stares and a lot of kids yelling out “musungo, musungo“. After having a few (half) conversations around with the kids and people around I ended up at the outdoor space of a hotel for lunch.
As I was eating my “Samaki na ugali” (Fish with Ugali) I see this older looking man walk in and sit on a table accross from me. We just greeted each other in English, but he didn’t look to me very “anglo“. He looked more familiar actually! So I asked where he was from…. “I’m Juan from Mexico” he said! and of course he asked me where I was from…. I said “what is a Mexican doing in Tanzania?” from what he replied “what is an Ecuadorian doing in Tanzania?”
He turned out to be a missionary from Mexico (cannot remember the religious branch) that was sent 18 years ago to build a school about 2 hours north of Musoma.
Soon after a younger guy walks into the restaurant and greets me as well…. Another Mexican! “no mames” I said! Guille, a young and very animated guy from Guadalajara, was working with Juan at the school as an English teacher.
They were in town just to buy supplies for the school (they come in once a month) After a brief lunch they had to go shopping before their 2 hr. journey back to their village. so it was a brief hello and goodbye.
The Lukuba Experience
The next day I took a small boat to go to Lukuba. Lukuba is an island about 2 hours into the lake (it is actually 2 islands from which I was going to the smaller one) that hosts a variety of birds, monkeys and lizards. I had read that there was only one hotel (a few bungalows) in the island and that it was quite expensive (mostly used for upscale safari travelers) so I wasn’t planning on staying there. I was just going to make it a day trip.
When the boat dropped me off at the beach where the hotel sits I had agreed (so I thought) with the boat conductor that the boat will pick me up from that same beach on the last trip to Musoma at 3:00 pm that day (I checked and double checked the time… in English and swahili). There was only one person in the hotel just doing some cleaning. He directed me to a foot bath to go around the island. I told him that the boat was going to pick me up at 3 and if I could arrange any food before I left. He looked at me a bit suspicious and said.. I’ll see what I can do! So I went on my way to visit the island. The island is almost made up of the huge rocks typical of the area. I bumped into a few “BIG” lizards (which I thought one of them was a crocodile… but confirmed later that there are not crocodiles in the area), lots of birds and a few playful monkeys.
When I went back to the hotel to wait for my boat… there was nobody there…. just some monkeys playing in the sand (I guess no lunch for me ). Actually at some point I was witness to a monkey fight of about 10 on each side… it almost look like a gangs fighting.
About 3:30 a boat landed on the beach and a few people got off… it wasn’t my boat, it was the boat from the hotel, with the hotel manager and two other people. We greeted and I told them that I was waiting for the boat back to Musoma which was supposed to be there a half hour ago.
The manager was nice lady from Zimbabwe who had been living in Tanzania for a couple of years. As we were talking and time went by I realized that the 3 o’clock pickup was never going to happen!! So I asked if I could stay the night. She said that of course, but they would have to charge me the regular fee. At that point I was more than happy to stay. (or I had no choice!! rather)
The beach was beautiful, cool bungalows, infinity pool, the playful monkeys around …
I even went on a kayak ride out to some islets in front of the island, and climbed to the top of the highest rock in the island to watch the the sunset!
They were not really prepared for me to stay. They usually have guest arranged a few days in advanced, but somehow they pulled all their resources together and fixed one of the bungalows and prepared a delicious dinner with cake and all (you have to understand that this is in an island in the middle of the lake!!, nothing around except Tilapia fish). It is a hotel that usually caters to “wealthy” clients, so they are used to giving good service. And I got it!
It is incredible what a difference it makes to receive a 1st class service… I was more than happy.
The next morning I woke up to see the sunrise!
3:00 pm the next day, the boat to Musoma finally picked me up! A day late, but very worth it’s while.!!!
The trip back to Musoma was quite a ride!!! First I have to explain the concept of a Dalla–Dalla. A dalla–dalla is a mini van that people use for local trasport around the country. It is usually a mini-van with a capacity of between 12 and 15 people. For Tanzanian standards this will be multiplied by 2… it usually carries 24-30 people!!
The trip back to Musoma was the aquatic version of the dalla–dalla. I don’t know how many people where in that boat, but it was definitely more than it’s “legal” capacity. Not only that, but the weather that day was a bit rough… windy… windy… windy. This meant waves that would be taller than the boat itself sometimes!!
Needless to say, the ride back to Musoma was a very wet one (splashes of waves coming into the boat for most of the ride)
I was worried at some point, but a few people on the boat looked like that was business as usual, so in a way that calmed me down…. if they have survived that before, than it meant it can happen again! We did.