We ventured to western Tanzania. As Lonely Planet describes it, “… rough, remote frontier land, with vast trackless expanses, minimal infrastructure and very few visitors, serving for a sense of adventure now extinct in the rest of the country: much as it was back when Stanley found Livingstone here…” Hell yes, let’s go there!
Our hope was to catch the historical MV Liemba from Kasanga in southern Tanzania to Kigoma in the north. We read in the guidebook that the Liemba was primarily used for moving locals to and from lakeshore villages and for transporting maize and rice, but for that certain type of traveler it’s “one of Africa’s classic journeys”. As long as you have vast amounts of time and patience, that is.
After several painful extended bus journeys – bumpidy bump bump bump – we finally made it to the town of Kasanga where we nestled in at the Liemba Beach Lodge for a few days before the boat was to arrive. It’s not so much set on a beach, rather a rocky shore, but I’m not quite sure Liemba Rocky Shore Lodge has quite the same ring to it… Either way, it had a stunning view of Lake Tanganyika and to be honest, it didn’t really matter where it was, we were just happy to be looking at anything other than the inside of a bus.
It’s said to be safe to swim in the lake; surely it must be, the locals bathe there. And it’s apparently a diving destination of sorts, being the second deepest lake in the world, home to rare bright colored fish and cichlids due to the lakes ecological isolation. I wasn’t so excited at the prospect of swimming though as I’d been hoping to avoid the strange Bilharzia disease carried by snails and often present in slow moving waters in Africa. Oh Eryn, malaria first, now Bilharzia – stop being a drama queen.
Since leaving Zanzibar, we’d been transitioning to more austere accommodations – always necessary for long-term travel – so I was sort of hoping with its’ lakefront environment it would turn out to be a little more upscale. A splurge, yes, yes, we deserve a splurge!
Much to my surprise – not really – it turned out this was no Hilton, or a Holiday Inn, or a Motel 6 for that matter. There were droppings on the bed from some unknown creature, spiders and their webs in the corners and wasp nests in the light fixture, which coincidentally didn’t work since the town of Kasanga is without electricity. I suppose these are the side effects of having limited travelers in the west. On the positive side, we could sit on the porch and look out onto the beautiful lake and they even brought us a bucket of hot water every day to have a shower, for which I was extremely grateful. Ha-lle-lu-jah, hallelujah, hallelujah – the choir sings in my head… I even shaved my legs for the first time in… I won’t tell you how long. Oh glorious smooth legs, how I’ve missed you. J didn’t opt for the hot bucket shower. He was big and brave and chose the cold lake water shower that came out of the faucet. Ohhhh I can still hear the girly screams now…. Hehehehe. Honestly though, our time there was quite relaxing. Our real disappointment despite the bug droppings was that they didn’t serve cold beer; or warm beer for that matter, which is popular with the Tanzanians. No beer at all! Say whaaaaat???
Beer’s never really been my thing. I much prefer a nice red wine or even a mixed drink, but when you’re traveling in strange foreign countries and it’s hot and dusty and you’re tired, there’s just something immensely satisfying and self-indulgent about a cold beer. It’s cheap, it’s usually easy to find and generally beer is pretty safe to drink in a country where you have to worry about where your water comes from, ice cubes, etc. Can you picture red wine precious cargo on top of a dala dala for endless hours of sun beaten transportation? No thank you! Needles to say, I have learned to love the African beers… That is, until I reach a town/country where I can get a decent glass of red wine – dream on – and then my love affair with beer will abruptly end.
The day finally came when we were to catch the Liemba – a big day. I knew this would be a far cry from a Royal Caribbean cruise liner, but there was still something exciting about catching a boat up the longest lake in the world. We were curious whether it would keep to the timetable or not. We had read that it was frequently behind schedule and that it shouldn’t be depended on – at all. Hakuna Matata (no worries – Swahili) we weren’t on a schedule.
So we sat and we waited – bags packed.
The boat finally arrived, and only 4 hours late – not too bad. Only problem was that it had to go one stop further into the neighboring country to the south, Zambia to load up passengers and cargo before coming back to Kasanaga to pick us up. Because they were late arriving it was decided that the Liemba would stay docked in Kasanaga overnight and leave for Zambia first thing in the morning. Oooook, another night it will be at the Liemba Beach Lodge. It’s not that it was sooo bad there, it’s just we were ready to go! But, no… No, no, hakuna matata, we just were not meant to sail that day. We settled back into our porch chairs and continued reading from our kindles – without beer. Grrrr.
J is an avid reader and often has his nose into some interesting book or The Economist, his favorite magazine. And it has to be said, I do like a good book when I get the time, although it seems I rarely do. I left the states with several books and have collected a few along the way, but I found that if I didn’t start reading them right away, I had to give them away, except that time in December I was lucky enough to store a few of my favorites in Vicky’s attic. They were just too heavy to carry. Fortunately though, my mom sent me a kindle for Christmas. Awe thanks mom. At first I resisted the idea of this technological reading device, but I must admit it’s one of my favorite things to travel with now. Hundreds of thousands of downloadable books at my disposal, all in one light weight portable device. And you can even share libraries with another kindle user, so J and I are sharing libraries. Awwwwwe.
Since leaving for Africa, I’ve read:
‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed – Woman solo hikes the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast of the U.S. Thanks for those who suggested I read this book. Very inspiring!
‘Occupation Diaries’ by Raja Shenaden – Israel/Palestinian struggles and how Israel has occupied Palestinian land
‘The Happy Depressive’ by Alistair Campbell – The state of ones well being
‘Us’ by David Nichols – A story of a couple contemplating divorce
‘100 Days for the Earth’ by Åsmund Seip – Love Poetry Revolution by a Norwegian gentleman. Thanks for the book Gry, I’m still carrying it in my pack.
I’m making my way through the tragic story of the 1994 Rwanda genocide ‘We Wish to Inform you that Tomorrow we will be Killed with our Families’ by Phillip Gourevitch, and I’m almost done with ‘No Place to Hide’ by Glen Greenwald, the Edward Snowden NSA leak story.
All brilliant reads. This kindle is genius mom, thanks!
Stay tuned to ‘As the World turns in Africa’ to see what happens next when we are finally able to leave our porch chairs… Coming soon to a blog near you 🙂
Ahhh yes, we’ve arrived. That’s better…