South to South: Day 7 to Day 9

Boats that transport people and cargo between the ferry and the towns on the shore.

19 October – Day 7 | Lake Tanganyika | roughly 571km after Kigoma

This morning we slept late. And I mean LATE. We enjoyed a leisurely day on the ferry. As we cruised along, the vessel was often flanked by small rowing boats coming alongside from the towns and villages all along the shore. With every passing kilometer the ferry dipped deeper beneath the lake surface as goods were loaded and more people were boarding. The remaining open spaces gradually disappeared. We heard that many of these towns were mainly accessable by boat, not road.

Lake Tanganyika all along the Tanzanian shore.

Sundowners on the ferry.

Fish anyone? Lots of the goods loaded on the ferry contained these dried little fish.

We used the daylight to fix the battery cable and to do some washing. The afternoon we spent in silence out front on the deck, mesmerised by the deep blue waters we gracefully covered. We opened a Simonsig 1998, passed by Kipili and clacked our R2,99 plastic PEP cups feeling fantastic. Free. Before retiring for the night, we met Marcos and Manolla from Germany. A brief encounter, never seeing them again.

DW doing some minor repairs.

Cheers, from Stellenbosch!

Tranquility on Lake Tanganyika.

20 October – Day 8 | Lake Tanganyika | Still enroute to Kigoma

I missed the dawn. DW caught it. I slept. Too bad. Today the passengers on board seemed to multiply. When I opened the cabin door, there were people sleeping and sitting all along the passageway. The cargo load had risen, from the hull, to eye-level on the first floor! We must have stopped by a few more harbours through the night. We took out the Lonely Planet and the gigantic Africa roadmap and started to plan the rest of our trip. We still had until 08:00 tomorrow morning on the Liemba. We cruised past the Mahale Mountains and dreamt of one day visiting there. After a Salticrax and banana lunch we finished the last of our gigantic jellybabe for desert – a pack of 500g jellybabies that melted into one big babe! We also discovered that our paniers could expand… no comment. Supper was enjoyed with the pleasant company of Sergio, from Spain. Conversations flowed around issues of spirituality, Genesis and faith. His views revolved around love, higher energy, a mixture of Bhuddism and Sufism. We found his company very enlightening. We agreed to disagree on a few subjects and concluded with the realization that the presence of love was at the table, a presence we attributed to the Holy Spirit.

Dawn on Lake Tanganyika.

More boats paddling in from the shore.

More cargo piling up on the MV Liemba. We spent most of the journey up front, outside on the deck.

Lunch.

DW studying the Lonely Planet, East Africa as we started planning the remainder of our trip to Juba.

A captured view. A feeling impossible to capture. Engraved in the positive vibes of our memories.

After enquiring, most passengers politely declined any photography. I have to make a correction, I often used an iPhone 3 for some pictures too.

21 October – Day 9 | Kigoma to Gombe National Park | roughly 16km by boat

We woke up in the port of Kigoma. By the looks of it, we had reached our destination just in time because one more bag of kapentas and I’m certain the ferry would have sunk. Here are three pictures to demonstrate the rapid filling of the ferry:

1. The night we left Mpulungu – notice the empty hull (I think that’s what you call it?).

2. First day on the Lake.

3. Nearing the end of our cruise on the second day.

We did some calculations and decided to visit Gombe park to track the chimpanzees. Rates: 100$ pp/day + 20$ accommodation + 5$ chimp trekking… ouch! But we opted for the you-only-live-once convincing mantra and went for it. Sergio and Tim and Miraja decided to join us. The border crossing was a breeze. We left the Dakar at Aqua Lodge and grabbed a taxi to Ujiji. There we caught a lake taxi. An enormous hollow wooden boat with a slow engen and heaps of passengers and baggage. Made me think of a water matatu. The wind proved too weak to bring relief against the merciless sun, but not weak enough to destroy Miraja’s yellow Chelsea umbrella. Good-natured laughter followed from our fellow passenger and there were good vibes for the rest of the four hour trip.

This side of the boat.

The other side of the boat.

Inside the boat.

For sun and rain: a Chelsea umbrella.

The journey was slow, the engine was slow and all along the way we stopped to drop off passengers at the passing towns. We have seen how kids are often the best bridge-builders between strangers. Win the favour of a kid and you most probably will win a smile from their parents. Poor DW, however, sat next to a beautiful little girl who constantly spat like a camel – into the lake as well as into the boat… We arrived with the dusk. To our dismay, after emptying our pockets for this enormous treat, they insisted that we all share rooms. We protested but they wouldn’t relent. Sergio selflessly offered to sleep in one of the accommodation tents. Problem solved, thanks to Sergio!

Entrance to Gombe National Park.

The sun setting over DRC across Lake Tanganyika.

Today has been a long, good day.

Finally we washed away the dust and sweat of a long days travels in the crystal clear waters of Lake Tanganyika. Small, pretty stones decorated the floor of the lake and we spent a long time swimming. After sundowners we destroyed our pillows in preparation for an early rise, excited to trek the chimpanzees.

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