Whitlocks Round the World - Travel Diary for Tanzania

Click here to read the latest newsThe diary of our trip round the world. You can view other diary entries by clicking the highlighted months at the bottom of the page or by clicking on one of the countries visited so far. Click our logo (on the left) to see the most recent news entries. We are adding new entries from Internet Cafés as we travel, so updates may be irregular. Please check back often to see how we are getting along.

Countries visited so far: UK Latvia Lithuania Poland Slovak Republic Hungary Romania Bulgaria Greece Egypt Tanzania Malawi Mozambique South Africa Swaziland South Africa (again) Argentina Bolivia Peru Ecuador Vietnam China Mongolia Russia England

15 - 24 November Tanzania
Dar es Salaam
Nick, Pru, Chuwa and Lindsay - Click to enlargeThe journey from Cairo to Dar es Salaam was smooth and uneventful. Esther was asleep by the time the plane took off but Tom, excited as usual, stayed awake and even ate when they served breakfast at 3am! We had one stop, at Entebbe in Uganda. There was quite a lot of cloud about and I was a little disappointed at the lack of view over the mountains of Ethiopia, but we did get a good look at Lake Victoria as we landed and took off at Entebbe.

We had a little trouble obtaining visas on arrival in Tanzania, as we did not know the address at which we would be staying in Dar. Our flight came in a little early and Prudence, who was meeting us at the airport, was not there. The man at the visa desk did not believe that all we had was an email address. He marched me off to an internet café outside the terminal, although I’m not quite sure what I was supposed to do there! Anyway, Prudence arrived while I was there and a porter came to find me. In the meantime, though, another official (this one less officious) had stamped all our passports and ushered Nick and the children through the customs gate without any more fuss.

We stayed in Dar es Salaam with Prudence and Chuwa Eliapenda for ten days. They live outside the city in a village called Boko. Pru moved to live in Tanzania 19 years ago, having met and married Chuwa in England. By the time they came here they already had two children; David was 14 months old, and Ruth was 6 weeks. Pru had never been to Africa before! Those children are, of course, grown up now, and their third child, James, is 9. Chuwa is a local councillor at Boko, and Pru is involved with a variety of projects including the Britain Tanzania Society and Healthcare Christian Fellowship.

On arrival at their home we were first introduced to James, who wrinkled his nose at us, but shook hands when we told him who we were, and to Esta, the cook, and Costa, who works in the grounds of the five-acre holding. Then we went to meet Chuwa, who was having an informal meeting in a shelter in the garden with some visitors. We were shown to our house, a guesthouse near the main house, where the family lived for eight years, before the main house was built. The house was lovely; all on one level, with no glass in the windows, only mosquito mesh, and plain concrete floors. The breeze blows through the house making the temperature inside reasonably pleasant, although it is very hot and sticky all the time at this time of year. Pru told us that we are expected to eat our meals with the family each day. Fantastic!

James was still quiet at lunchtime, but after the meal we got him talking about football and mangoes and things, and then he and Tom went off to play, which they did happily for the rest of our time there. All we needed now was a playmate for Esther. As luck would have it, we had arrived one day before Chuwa’s cousin, a brigadier with the Tanzanian army, who has been posted in India for the last four years, and his family; Mary, his wife, and their children, Hudson, 16, Robert, 13, and Evelyn, 6. Evelyn and Esther struck up a friendship almost immediately, and played happily thereafter!

On our first major outing from the house our main priority was to buy cool clothes and mosquito nets. Pru took us into Dar es Salaam and suggested going to a second-hand market at Kariakoo - a chaotic place in the heart of the city, which we reached by catching a dala-dala minibus. We shopped with success, although the heat was taking some getting used to. Luckily we had been able to leave Esther behind at the house, playing (and getting up to mischief!) with Evelyn.

On Tuesday, our fourth day, we took a day-trip to Bagamoyo. Pru accompanied us there, and Evelyn came too. Bagamoyo is a historic town which is famous for its involvement with the slave trade. See below for Tom’s report on Bagamoyo. It was a fascinating place, and we really enjoyed the museum, and learning the history of the area. We had an excellent lunch at a hotel on the beach. Then we swam in the sea. The sea here is the Indian Ocean. The beach is white sand, fringed with palm trees and stretches for miles. The water was warmer than I would have believed. Tom was in first, calling “It’s as warm as a bath!” He was right!

On Wednesday Tom spent a day at school with James, who goes to an English medium school. He really enjoyed his day, although he was surprised to find that children were routinely spanked with a cane when naughty! Everyone there was interested in who he was, where he came from etc. He seems to have joined in well, putting his hand up to answer maths questions and singing a song in a music lesson. An excellent learning experience for Tom, I think!

On Thursday Pru and Chuwa were busy with meetings to attend. We planned to walk the 3km to Boko village centre. In the heat of the day this short walk required preparation as if it were a long hike. We applied suncream, put on sunglasses and hats, and packed water for the journey. It was very hot, but we enjoyed the walk. Lots of people greeted us; “jambo” (hi), “habari” (what news), or “karibu” (welcome). We arrived unscathed and bought cold drinks at the bar. We spent some time at the internet café, and then went back to the bar and had lunch. Tom and Nick played pool and Esther went on the swings for a while, and then we set off for home. We decided to catch a dala-dala bus back, which we did with success. Back at the house we had cool showers and chilled out until evening.

On Friday Nick had the unexpected opportunity to accompany Chuwa to visit a remote village, Kidogozero, 100km from Dar, to see how aid from the Britain Tanzania Society has helped to provide a fresh water supply, safe from the crocodiles in the river. See below for Nick’s report on Kidogozero visit. I stayed behind with the children and Pru drove us to the ‘Village Museum’ on her way into town. It was really interesting and excellent for the kids. The open air museum consists of twenty or so houses built in traditional ways to show how people from the many tribal communities of Tanzania live. We could go inside the houses to see traditional furniture and tools. I felt as though I was looking at something from centuries ago, and had to keep reminding myself that this was not a museum of history, but one showing traditions which continue to this day. Before catching dala-dalas home we sat in the shade and sketched some of the houses.

That evening, Nick and I and Chuwa and the Brigadier went out for a drink. Tom stayed with James, and Esther stayed with Evelyn. It was really nice to get out and relax for a while, and we had a good few Safari lagers!

On Saturday we had planned to go to ‘Wet and Wild’, a water park nearby, as a special treat. Tom woke Nick and I up at 10.00, but we didn’t feel at all energetic. After we had drunk some tea and had a few sweet potatoes for breakfast, Nick decided that it wasn’t really his thing, and that he would stay behind and get on with some more profitable activities (like sleeping!). The park was great for the kids. There was a well designed kiddies area that Evelyn and Esther liked, and Tom and James had a fantastic time going on fast slides and flumes where you had to sit in a rubber ring. Later I took Esther and Evelyn on those too. Mostly, though, Pru and I chatted in the shade, which was nice!

It was with sadness that we packed up to leave on Sunday. We really feel that Pru and Chuwa went out of their way to make our introduction to Tanzania comfortable and enjoyable. It was perhaps the most relaxed ten days we have spent so far, and we appreciated the warm and un-fussy welcome we received. It really was ‘just what we needed’ after a busy few weeks travelling. Thanks to the Rawlins for introducing us, and to the Eliapendas for all that they did for us in Dar.

Bagamoyo, by Thomas

Bagamoyo is famous because of its history of being a slave town.

Sometimes people would be captured whilst working in the fields and sometimes people would be invited into houses for food and captured to be sold. Also people would be tricked onto dhows and taken away.

If you were captured in the fields whilst working you would be put in something called a slave caravan. A slave caravan is lots of people tied to each other by their necks being marched to Bagamoyo. When slaves got to Bagamoyo they would be either sold or shipped to Zanzibar to be sold to different countries.

In 1890 slaves were granted*

*religious freedom.
*freedom to marry.
*free food and lodging.
*two days off every week.
*the right to get salary for the work.
*the right to possess property.
*the right to inherit property from the master.
*the right that families should not be separated by being sold to different masters.

In 1922 slavery was abolished in Tanzania and Bagamoyo became a freedom village.

22nd November Tanzania
Nick's visit to Kidogozero
Chuwa with fresh water at Kidogozero - Click to enlargeStaying at Pru and Chuwa’s house gave me a special opportunity to see how aid work can help Tanzanians. Chuwa and I left the house this morning for Kidogozero village 60 miles west of Dar. The Suzuki jeep was our mode of transport; apparently we were taking a bit of a cross-country hike 5 miles off the main road. On the way Chuwa explained to me the reason for the personal visit to this remote village out in the Tanzanian bush. Chuwa Eliapenda, local councillor for the Boko area, is also an active member of the British Tanzanian Society (BTS), which has links with the village. Today all his council duties, of which there are many (getting him to find some papers on the BTS took me about 5 days), were put aside. As project leader his time was needed to assess the situation at Kidogozero and to generally talk with the residents on issues such as education and healthcare. The project was aimed at a problem of water access. The river is easily accessible; that was not the problem. It was the fact that mothers and young women we being taken by crocodiles while collecting their much needed water. This situation became too regular and the village chief, Selemani Isba Kamkunje contacted his friend Councillor Chuwa for some help in resolving the current problem. Now, 6 years later, due to aid actions of the BTS, this problem has been resolved.

A British firm placed a water pump using a bore hole taking water from the river bed (this was through trial and error as a first bore hole further up river was not so successful). The water pipe is linked to a collection tower some 500 meters away. The village is not connected to the national grid and, as Chuwa explained, this amount of infrastructure would be over and above the project’s budgetary capabilities. Because of this, and also due to environmental considerations, solar energy would be the electricity used to power the pump. Eventually the pumped/stored water reaches a number of stand taps placed within the village.

The dirt track was very bumpy as we made our way to the village. Our first port of call was the school. erected by the BTS in the 80’s. All the children were outside waiting, to be tested (I found out later), on their English. We were greeted by the head Sigsmund Pushal Woisso and invited into his office. This route of entry was accompanied by the hand shaking of the whole staff of the school. Visiting the children was such a pleasure and they made me feel very welcome with some excellent singing and clapping prompted by Chuwa who commanded their full attention. Sigsmund explained to Chuwa that attendance was not good at the school, and that he feels frustrated as he is a professional and too much time is wasted trying to get the message across to the parents that they must send their children to school. The children who were present were asked by Chuwa, “who has seen crocodiles in the river while their parents collected water?”, and there was a large show of hands. Then he asked, “who put in the stand taps”. They all shouted, pointing at me, “mzungu” (white man). I was told that the children are very happy with their safe water supply.

Then it was onto the village dispensary, again funded by the BTS, and a chat with the nurses, who pointed out to Chuwa the amount of wood rot in the building, but other than that were a happy three. Then the party which consisted of the councillor, the chief, the headmaster and the mzungu, went to the river to inspect the equipment placed there. Chuwa was eager to see whether the new wall around the solar panels had been completed since his last visit a year ago. Unfortunately these are a second set of panels the project has funded, the first having been stolen, after a programme on TV in Dar es Salaam showed the good work of the BTS and, of course, the panels. We arrived to see the completed 3 meter high wall surrounding the new panels. These were securely clamped to scaffolding and raised on concrete pillars. The whole structure was at least 4 meters high and Chuwa looked very pleased indeed. We checked the two pump control boxes as there was a complaint that there is sometimes no water from the taps, The chief said he could see nothing wrong with the boxes, but after a closer inspection we did notice the LEDs were not working on one box and this box could be the cause of the problem. Chuwa contacted the local engineer in Dar there and then on his mobile. We made our way back to the school in the jeep driving through the village, passing wattle and dorb houses with mothers and babies sitting in the shade outside them. Huge laden Mango trees everywhere and the smell of fire wood filled the air. It was another world! My visit with councillor Chuwa has helped me to see an actual aid project for real and it was fascinating. I also learned in the days that followed that there was a fault with the control box and it has now been fixed.

27th November Tanzania
Mikumi - Iringa - Mbeya
We travelled to Mikumi later in the day than planned. This was because we had discovered, on Sunday, that we had run out of money! We did not even have enough to pay Pru the balance for our stay. Our tickets were booked for 7.45am on Monday, but clearly we could not travel then. ATMs on the Cirrus network are either non-existent or very elusive in Dar es Salaam, and Mikumi is pretty remote, with only its National Park nearby. We had managed to contact the bus company on Sunday and had made a somewhat loose arrangement for a later departure, allowing us to change some travellers’ cheques in the morning. In the event the ticket change was uncomplicated, and at 1.45pm we were on our way.

Traffic jams in Dar es Salaam set us back a bit, and we did not reach Mikumi in daylight as hoped. The last part of the journey passed through Mikumi National Park. The light was failing by then and we thought for a while that we were not going to see any animals, although Pru had assured us that we should. However, in the end we were not disappointed. First I spotted a giraffe from the window. Then there were lots. At one point the bus had to stop for a group of them that were crossing the road. One of them stopped in the middle, lit up by the headlights of the vehicle. The poor thing was probably frightened, but we had an excellent view, and then the driver beeped his horn and the giraffe walked off the road to join the group. We could see them so close; it was incredible!

The bus driver kindly dropped us outside a guesthouse, which he said we would like. The Kilimanjaro Village Inn provided two rooms with fans and nets for 20000 Tanzanian Shillings (about 12 pounds).

We spent Tuesday wandering around the village of Mikumi, hoping to arrange a cheap safari deal with someone or to team up with another couple and go as a group. Safari trips are expensive: $240 for a full day. At the inn we were quoted $150, and eventually the man dropped his price to $100. Unfortunately he didn’t tell us that, as the price fell, so did various other important details. The safari trip, in the end, fell flat on its face! We paid $100 for a day in the park, in a Land Rover with a driver to act as a guide. We got up at 5.30am on Wednesday, excited by the prospect of such an amazing experience. On arrival at the park gates, though, it turned out that all was not as it seemed. The day was going to cost us another $90, for entry to the park for us and the car (which was a very old estate car, not a Land Rover) and driver, and a guide. We took two disappointed children back to the hotel, and talked the manager into giving us our money back! If we learned anything useful from the experience it was that, with this type of day-trip, you get what you pay for! It was not an unmitigated disaster: on the drive into, and back out of, the park, we saw giraffes, zebras, gazelles, some baboons and a warthog!

The closest we got to wildlife at Mikumi was at the Snake Park, joined to the Genesis Motel. There we saw quite a few varieties of local snakes, and the man running the place gave us the run-down on which are poisonous, whether or not they are likely to bite, and how long you can expect to live once bitten! He also kept some blue monkeys, which were in a cage far too small for them. We were warned that they might grab us or steal things from our pockets as we walked by. Not surprising really; they must be incredibly bored. Likewise for the two medium-sized Nile crocodiles, which lived in a small algae-filled puddle. The younger crocs, from the local river, looked better, and we were told that they would be returned to the wild when they outgrew their enclosure.

After the disappointing safari episode, we checked out of the hotel a day earlier than planned, hoping to catch a bus to Iringa, halfway between Mikumi and Mbeya, our next destination. We met a large group of young men who were willing, for a fee, to find us a bus with space, however impossible the task! Every bus that passed pulled over, but was full to bursting point. They tried to cram us onto a couple of buses, but it was clear that there was no space, and it was a 200km journey. However, eventually they flagged down a very nice 4WD vehicle, whose driver agreed to take us. The agreed bus-fare was paid to our driver, Lawrence, and we set off in style! The journey was quite spectacular, passing through the Morogoro mountain range and through river gorges. Lawrence was very helpful and dropped us outside the coach booking office in central Iringa. We thanked him and headed off to find digs. We found a man running a stall who took us to the Santiago Lodge, where we landed in a basic but adequate room with two beds and a dubious-looking toilet. The night there cost us 4000Tsh, about 2.35 pounds. There was a bar downstairs, and the people were very friendly.

27th Nov - 1st Dec Tanzania
The Whitlocks with Kay in Mbeya - Click to enlargeAt Mbeya we stayed with Kay Rowse, an Australian missionary living there with her husband John, who was away at the time. Kay’s number had been given to us by Prudence. We were aware that Kay had rather a full house, but called her anyway and asked if we might camp in her garden. She said OK and came to meet us from the bus station. However, worried that it might rain on us, she had decided to make room for us in the house. With no reason whatsoever to be nice to us, apart from the fact that Kay is simply a really kind person, she had moved out of her own bedroom to sleep in a spare bed in the study so that we could have her bed.

We stayed with Kay for three nights and were very grateful to her for all her hospitality. While there we were lucky enough to meet Catherine and Robert from the charity Grass Roots, and to see some of the amazing work they are involved with, helping orphans to get a basic education and a decent start in life. I forget the exact number, but I think there were about 150 orphans who were involved with the Mbeya project, and Catherine, Robert and the team were in the process of providing them each with a school uniform, a pair of shoes, a school bag and some exercise books and pens. While we were there Kay’s house was full to bursting point with huge piles of these items which all needed to be sorted by size and packed in time to be distributed before the English team had to fly home. We were hugely impressed by their level of dedication and commitment.

One of the children involved is Amani, the young son of Pasia, Kay’s cook. Amani is classed as an orphan because his father died when he was just a baby. In Tanzania a woman without a husband does not generally have the means to bring up her children herself and therefore the children are expected to return to their father’s family, and are classed as orphans. When Pasia’s husband died of tetanus, not being able to afford proper treatment following a fall from his bike, his family took Pasia and her children to work for them in their household and treated them badly. Pasia was lucky, though, and through the work of missionaries, was re-educated to work as a cook. Now she works for Kay, her children receive an education, and she has a dignified life. To see the look on Amani’s face when he received his school uniform and (second-hand) shoes was really special. Thomas and Esther enjoyed playing with him, too!

Also at Kay’s we had the wonderful experience of going for a meal at her favourite restaurant. It was a Chinese, unusual in Tanzania, but not as unusual as some of the dishes on the menu. Among those we tried was “Tossed Assorted Stuff”, which was actually very tasty, although I couldn’t say exactly what it was! Among those we didn’t was “Squirrel-like Fish”. Hmmm!

It was with reluctance that we left Kay’s, but spurred on by tales of the lakeshore, we travelled on.

1st December Tanzania
Journey to Matema Beach
The journey to Matema Beach was an adventure in iteself! We needed to catch a bus to Kyela, where we planned to find out more about the ferries on Lake Nyasa before going on by whatever transport presented itself to Matema. Mini-buses leave Mbeya for Kyela on a fill-up-and-go basis, and one was full-up-and-ready-to-go, but they insisted they had enough space for us and our bags and levered us on anyway. I was shown to a seat near the back which already appeared to have someone on it. Pointing this out made no difference, and it turned out that I was supposed to squeeze myself, with Esther on my lap, into about 3 inches of space between two people. Tom sat in a similar ‘space’ in front of me and Nick stood, his head on one side as he was too tall to stand straight. The journey to Kyela was 2-3 hours. After 2 hours some people got off and we had more space, but then we had to change buses. The next bus was also very full, and the boot wouldn’t close with our bags inside, so they tied it up with a bit of rope. Luckily the bags didn’t fall out!

As we travelled the countryside changed. We climbed steadily higher into the mountains, although Mbeya is quite high itself. The landscape was very green and crops included corn, bananas and tea. We bought some bananas from a lady selling them through the window; the small, sweet African kind (Nick adds: the bananas, that is!).

By the time we arrived at Kyela we were hot, sticky, dusty and bedraggled! We were still about 45km from Matema. We went to find info about ferries, but found that this was limited to a chap who said they left on Thursdays!

Various vehicles claimed to be going to Matema. A highly overloaded pickup truck was leaving any minute. A lorry taking passengers as well as goods was filling up to go, and a bus driver also said he was going there. We chose the bus which, it transpired, was only going as far as Ipinda, 27km from Matema and 10km from Kyela along a dirt track. We got on the bus, but then had to wait about an hour in the sticky heat until it was full enough to go. Here we learnt an important lesson about travel in Africa. As Tom puts it: “always choose the fullest possible vehicle, or you’ll have to wait until it is as full as possible before it will leave”. Actually, we don’t think that there is a Swahili translation for the word ‘full’!

After an uncomfortable journey we arrived at Ipinda and were met by a sort of welcome committee! It was about 6pm and we were getting pretty nervous about the onward journey, as it would be in the dark. We thought about staying in Ipinda. The village, although fairly remote, had a post office, some bars, a market and, we found, some guest rooms behind the post office, for people who had no choice but to stay! Accommodation was cheap but hot and unpleasant and had ground floor windows through which small children peered at us as we looked around. We decided not to stay there, and plumped for making the trip to Matema, albeit after dark.

A gathering crowd of men and children followed us down the street as we discussed the possibilities. Then we met a friendly looking man called Byrton, and he helped us! A man with a pickup was assigned to drive us to Matema, and, after a little more waiting around, we set off, waving goodbye to the crowd of gathered spectators and bracing ourselves for an hour and a half of rattling around in the back of the truck. The ride was rough and rocky, but more fun than the sardine-tin buses, and we made it to the Matema Lutheran Centre at about 8.00pm.

1st - 10th December Tanzania
Matema Beach
Lindsay and Esther canoeing at Matema Beach - Click to enlargeThe staff at the Matema Lutheran Centre simply have to be some of the most wonderful people in the world! We arrived intending only to stay for a couple of nights, but couldn’t bring ourselves to leave so soon and ended up staying an extra week!

Our “room” was a little chalet on the beach, built of brick with a thatched roof. We had four wooden beds with nets. The beach at Matema, the Northern tip of Lake Nyasa / Lake Malawi, is a long sweeping stretch of shingle, dotted with trees. At times the waves from the lake beat against the shore so that it was hard to believe we were not at the seaside, and at times it was perfectly calm and quiet. The weather was hot but, as it was the beginning of the rainy season, there was usually a shower each afternoon, and at night the lake was lit up spectacularly by electric storms. We had to agree with the ‘Lonely Planet’ writer who called Matema “the kind of place you could settle into for a while”. It really was a gorgeous place, made all the more special by being so remote. The Lutheran Centre look forward to the day when they will have the benefits of a surfaced road and mains electricity, but we were secretly glad to have been there before any of that arrived.

Really, though, it was the people who made our stay fantastic. Pastor, and manager of the centre, Ipyana, and his staff, made us feel so welcome and so safe there. We had never experienced such warmth and hospitality, and we doubt we’ll find it anywhere else in the world. Our decision to stay beyond the few days we had intended was fuelled by Ipyana’s initial friendliness and genuine warmth. We chatted with him about our visions of what a lakeside paradise should be, and he did everything in his power to make it happen for us. The result was a close relationship forming between us and all the staff, who were relaxed, open people, and there were tears in a few eyes, including our own, when we sailed out of the bay ten days later. Leah and Janet, who worked in the kitchen, welcomed Esther to help with the breakfast, lunch and dinner preparation every day. We never had to worry about where the children were – they would be chatting or playing with or ‘helping’ the staff. Michael, the chef, cooked us the most incredible buffet-style meals. If we so much as enquired about the availability of certain foods, they would miraculously appear on the table the following evening, and there was always so much food that even Nick had to admit defeat! In the evenings we relaxed with Ipyana and chatted about Tanzania and ‘put the world to rights’.

We asked whether it would be possible to have a barbecue on the beach one night. Ipyana insisted that if a barbecue was to be done, it would be his chef, Michael, who would do it! We said, in that case, would you and all your staff please join us, so that we can all eat together and enjoy each other’s company? The result was a big party on the beach, which happened on the night of the full moon. The Youth Choir lent their two guitars for the event and we played and sung around the fire with other guests as well as staff. It was magic!

I will always be grateful to everyone there for the genuine care they showed me when touched by malaria during our stay at Matema. Uncertain of the precise symptoms to look out for, I did not realise that my general tiredness and sore throat might be the onset of the dreaded disease, and by the time alarm bells rang for me I had a high temperature and needed treatment quickly. It was late at night, but Nick was able to find Ipyana, who walked with me to the nearby mission hospital. I was weak and dizzy, but he saw to it that I was treated promptly and properly. I became very sick during the night and, by morning, was dehydrated. Then I was admitted to the hospital and put on a drip. Again Ipyana came with me. He wheeled me to my bed in a wheelchair and saw to it that someone, either himself or a member of his staff, remained by my side until I was discharged 24 hours later. In the evening Michael came to see me to find out what I would like to eat. I did not feel hungry but felt that I had better eat something, so I asked for a little rice. An hour or so later a tray arrived, filled with little dishes of different foods to try to tempt me into eating! In the centre was a whole pineapple with the flesh cut up inside. It is an image I’ll never forget! They sat and watched, pleased, while I ate and regained strength, and remained with me all night long while I slept. In the morning Tom and Esther came along the beach to the hospital to see me. I was still weak, but ready to go back to my bed in the chalet. I was discharged, Ipyana helped me to my feet, and we all walked together back along the beach.

While at Matema we went on two guided walks. One was a trip to a place at the river where we hoped to see crocodiles, and the other to a waterfall. The crocodile walk was nice, but the crocs had other ideas! We saw a fleeting glimpse (we think) of a couple of babies making their escape into the water, but that was all. The waterfall walk, though, was fantastic! Ipyana had estimated that the walk would take about 2-3 hours. He lied! Also, we had not expected our ‘walk’ to mean a tough scramble up the rocky river bed! It took us around three hours to get to the waterfall, with our guide, Baraka, carrying Esther most of the way. When we reached the river the path disappeared, and we made our way along the rocks, often climbing along ledges on the steep sides of the gully. The mountainside was forested and there was quite a lot of dense vegetation to get through, where we had to deal with millions of red ants. Nick and Tom had not worn suitable footwear for such a scramble, being unaware in advance of what was required, and they both fell a few times before we arrived. It was worth it, though. The waterfall falls from high, high up a cliff face into a large, deep pool. Swimming there was wonderful. We dived off the rocks into the cool water and, with Baraka’s help, climbed up under the waterfall and stood while the water hammered down on us with all its force. Then we sat on the rocks and talked before setting off to trek back the way we had come.

We decided (reluctantly) to leave Matema by taking the ferry to Itungi. We saw the small boat, the MV Iringa, make its way across the bay on the Tuesday afternoon, making its journey South. We hurried along the beach to try to catch it to ask at what time it would come back along the shore the following day. We were not quick enough, but I did manage to talk to some men who remained on the beach, who told me the approximate time (in Swahili time, which is another story). I thought I had understood, thanked them and set off back to where I had left Nick and Esther, unable to keep up. On the strength of this information we packed in the morning and waited, accompanied by Ipyana, Baraka, Andrew the security guard, and a few others who stationed themselves on the beach to help us to watch for the boat in the distance. They all insisted that there was no need to actually go until we saw it on the horizon. When the boat was spotted we all set off. No-one would hear of us carrying our own bags, and, to begin with, Janet even carried Esther, until Baraka came by on his bike and gave her a lift. It was a brisk half-hour walk along the track that runs paralel to the beach, but we reached the point where the ferry comes in with plenty of time to spare. It was not easy to say goodbye, as they helped us up the wobbly ladder onto the busy ferry with all our bags. There was much hugging and shaking of hands, and it was with great sadness that we waved goodbye to our “relatives” at Matema, standing in the sunshine on the beach.

Stay in touch, Ipyana!

11th December Tanzania
Lake Malawi/Nyassa
Nick admires the view  from the deck of MV Songea - Click to enlargeThis entry was extracted from a letter sent by Lindsay and Nick and posted by Lindsay’s parents
We are aboard the MV Songea travelling from Itungi at the northern end of Lake Malawi to Mbamba Bay on the eastern side – a journey of 18 hours. We have two cabins on the first class deck – not that posh, and the lights aren’t working. It is very hot especially in the cabins. We have a view of the Livingstone Mountains which is one of the main reasons for making the journey by boat. It is pretty dramatic with the mountains rising steeply from the lake.
We spent the past 10 days at Matema Beach at the northern tip of the lake. It is very remote and beautiful with a long sweep of golden sand, the mountains rising to the east and the lake stretching to the horizon. At Matema, we were taken care of by some of the loveliest people you could meet (although we have met many lovely people in Tanzania, these were special!) I had a touch of malaria while we were there and had to spend 24 hours in the mission hospital but, for the whole time, someone sat by my bed and waited for me to get better. They cared so much, as if I was a dear friend or family member.
We left Matema yesterday to catch a small local ferry to Itungi and a party of six people walked the 2 Kms down to the beach with us and waited to wave us off.
From Mbamba Bay we plan to travel to Malawi, having spent longer in Tanzania than the original plan. Some of the cargo in this boat is destined for Malawi so a boat should be waiting for it. Hopefully, they won’t mind us coming along too!
There is a wildfire on the side of one of the mountains we are passing now. It looks just like a strip of fire along the ridge, and in the evening light stands out like glowing embers. There are some villages along the lakeshore that must be cut off from the world except by dugout canoes. How incredible to be so remote.
We have just had our first stop at a small place called Cape Kaiser. The boat stopped for an hour and throughout that time the water around us has been filled with people selling fruit and fish and other things. Some in canoes, others wading up to their chests carrying trays above their heads.
The lights are working now, I’m off to read a book.

12th - 14th December Tanzania
Mbamba Bay
On the MV Songea - Click to enlargeThe voyage with the MV Songea was comfortable, exciting and generally enjoyable. Even when the water was quite rough, the boat coped well and steered its way with ease. Tom made friends with the crew and spent much of his time on the bridge, chatting with the captain and being in charge of the horn! We ate very well from the ship’s kitchen; chicken, meat and ugali or rice were always available. Probably due to the wind and waves, we arrived in Mbamba Bay several hours later than planned. The 17 hour trip ended up taking about 26 hours.

Mbamba Bay is a small place and is very remote. The journey from there to Songea, the nearest town of any size, takes about six hours by road, and the village relies heavily on the boat to bring in supplies. We stayed at the Nyasa View Lodge, which was basic but clean-ish, and they had electricity for a few hours each evening, when they turn the generator on. Otherwise the whole place is cut off in every sense.

We visited the port office on arrival and made friends with Samuel, who didn’t work there, but had sort of self-appointed himself as our guide and helper for the duration of our stay. He was a very sweet, well-educated, middle-aged man who seemed to have nothing much to do except await Songea passengers and welcome them to his town in any way possible. For the three days we were there he took care of everything, arranging our transport out of Tanzania on the Big Boss, (a small and highly unsuitable cargo boat), organising our liaison with the immigration officer (another man who cannot have had much to do!), even going shopping for our lunch for us! Of course we gave him the shillings we had left for his troubles, but it was only a few quid. He was very grateful, although we felt rather apologetic as it was so little. We felt rather sad for Samuel.

Having looked over the Big Boss and met her captain, we sat down to wait for our chance to ‘escape from Mbamba Bay’! We had the distinct feeling of being stranded there. In many ways the place was a traveller’s dream. Completely remote, peaceful and beautiful, we could have stayed there for ages and never have been ‘found’ by anyone from our world. The food at the lodge was OK and we had a steady supply of mangoes, bananas, coconuts and bread from the local children, who found us delightful as a steady source of small change! The people there were friendly and, if curious, also cautious. They treated us with the usual dignified reserve of Tanzanians. And the setting was superb; a wide, sweeping sandy bay backed by tall coconut palms and hills covered with enormous boulders. But we had spent two weeks already on the lake and were ready to move on, and to return to “civilization” (ie: a choice of foods to eat, rather than just what was supplied, shops which sold things like shampoo, mains electricity and perhaps even an internet café!)

An image that will always stay with me is at the beach, when I took the children swimming on our first full day at Mbamba Bay. There was a group of boys washing and playing in the water when we arrived. Although people there were generally used to seeing the odd intrepid traveller getting off the Songea, I think white children were something of a novelty. When Tom and Esther stripped to their underwear and splashed into the water, all the local children scrambled out of the water and back into their clothes, and formed a long line of spectators behind me on the beach. I felt a bit uncomfortable with them all sitting behind me, so I shuffled backwards to sit with them. Two or three small boys got up and ran away, but soon those who were left started chatting to me, trying out their English and laughing at my attempts at Swahili. Later some of those children played on the beach with ours, and we felt we had ‘made contact’.

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