Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Cruising Lake Tangayika on the MV Liemba

The MV Liemba, a large passenger boat commuting on lake Tanganyika from Kigoma down to the South tip of the Lake into Zambia once a week, was brought into Tanzania by the Germans, it was submerged on purpose when the Germans had to flee the arriving British troops in the First World War, years later lifted by the British, and recently rehabilitated with Danish support. Travelling on the Liemba along the largely untouched Eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, observing the trade between villagers and fishermen which is performed on the lake, as there are only very few ports deep enough for the Liemba to actually reach the shores, is one of the most enjoyable and exclusive way to discover Tanzania. It is well worth to book a first class cabin and to stock well on some fruit, while the on board restaurant prepares nice Tanzanian dishes and even gets fresh meat on board from the villages. You can get off the Liemba to visit Mahale National Park and track the resident Chimpanzee population (about 24h from Kigoma) , or go all the way down to Kasanga (about 2-3 days from Kigoma), where a daily Landcruiser connects to Sumbawanga town. There is also a very simple guesthouse in Kasanga, a Mission where possibly you can get accommodation, and a local guide that offers boat cum hiking trips into nearby Zambia to the second highest water falls in Africa, well worth the effort (day trip);

Monday, 16 July 2007

Your own temporary Holiday House at South Beach – the Bungalows in Pachikonjo

Vivienne and her husband rent three simple bungalows with double beds, a bathroom with cold running water, and lovely terraces over viewing the Indian Ocean high above the beach. Just behind the bungalows a little kitchen area is established, where very friendly staff provides a charcoal grill, hot water as well as a fridge to keep your food stocks fresh. A steep trail leads down to the virgin beach, which allows for long walks in each direction, provided the tide is out. The waves can be quite rough when the tide is in, and allow even for some body surfing! Sitting on the terrace during sun set, four white headed sea eagles passed right in front of us – an absolutely amazing sight! And just below us, in the coastal bush resident monkeys vocally reminded us that this is their territory, when we descended with our dog to the beach! For bird watchers: there are black storks resident to a little wetland just when the access road reaches the main road to Dar es Salaam and endless trails along the fields of local farmers allow for extended walks – there is a lot of Okra grown!
To rent a bungalow, contact Vivienne, Tel. Mobile 0754 32 42 46 or Peter, Tel. Mobile 0754 88 07 59; A bungalow costs 50US$ per night; To reach Pachikonjo, follow the road from the ferry in Dar es Salaam South, direction Amani Beach; However you pass the turn off to the left to Amani Beach, cross another five villages, and then at 46km from the ferry, at the end of a village, turn left where a small signpost close to the ground indicates Pachikonjo in yellow letters. From this turn off, it is about 1km to the bungalows; Take your own food stocks, mosquito net and towels.

Sharing the life of a Tanzanian Mountain community - A warm welcome at the Tchenzema Catholic Mission in the Uluguru Mountains

At night it is pitch dark in the mountains and villages around the Catholic Mission in Tchenzema at the end of the road winding its way along the West side of the Uluguru Mountains. The little generator, which allows father Moses to watch his favourite TV series, but more importantly to watch the news and play the keyboards during Sunday mess, has just gone off, and with it the last light. The Waluguru people have no choice – they get up with first light, and to bed shortly after last light. Tchenzema Mission was established in 1948 in the thick walled buildings of a former German Coffee Farm. When last year the bishop visited, doors and frames were painted in bright blue. The two resident nuns maintain a little garden and raise chicken around the former farmer’s house; father Moses adores his two sandy coloured dogs. The couple of rooms they rent out to guests come very simple: a bed, a cupboard with a pile of song sheets, a candle and a bucket of water when ever you need it. However, sitting on the little terrace, lulled in by bird song, with the morning mist slowly disappearing and allowing more and more of a view on terraced hills, villages in banana groves and the dark green of the forest is hard to beat, particularly if you have brought your camping equipment to brew a nice cup of coffee and a good breakfast. The stream of visitors to the mission is steady, and thus gives an excellent insight in rural Tanzanian life for any visitor. Father Moses on top is an excellent analyst, and more than willing to explain about his people’s life and challenges, but also his views and initiatives on how to address the problems.We climb the trail behind the mission, which once was planned to be a road, but never finished, as the money for the bridge across the stream mysteriously had disappeared, and everybody wants to talk to father Moses. The “Pombe”, locally brewed alcohol, which was generously drunk during the evening’s traditional girls’ inauguration, has loosened the tongue of this otherwise very modest and hard working mountain people, of which some still follow matrimonial rules. The next day we climb to the end of the dilapidated road, and reach a beautifully located graveyard on a little pass, amidst a sprawling village. What ever the people need here, they carry it up on their heads. We have a little rest, and people stop work in the near by fields to watch these two Wazungus. However, the landlord of the near by house pays us a visit and welcomes us most warmly. There are hundreds of kilometres of walking trails through the steep fields or up through the mountain forest onto Lukwangule plateau, a hardly touched high altitude landscape on more than 2000m, with fantastic views on the virgin forests.Father Moses mess on Sunday is another thing not to be missed. A highly gifted choir is singing, dancing and accompanied by drums and whistles, the Church songs are enriched with elements of traditional music, and sound great. All the ladies are dressed in colourful kangas, sitting separate from the men, children join for the songs and leave into the church yard for games during the prayers. Father Moses returns with two little baskets full of small coins - despite the difficult living conditions, mess visitors contribute each week end about 20US$ to the community!

Good to know: You reach Tchenzema Catholic Mission at the end of the road winding its way along the West side of the Uluguru Mountains. From Morogoro head direction Iringa, turn left at the signpost for the Mzumbe University and then continue to Mgeta, from where there is only one road continuing into the mountains. The last few kilometres of road are rarely driven, and absolutely to be avoided after rains, as they quickly become very slippery and dangerous. In this case leave your car in the last village and hire a guard, and walk to the mission. Take your own mosquito net, several metres of string to fix it, torches and food stocks, except vegetables that you can buy locally. Contact Father Moses in advance, Tel. Mobile, Tel. 0787 12 39 75