Sumbawangwa to Tanganyika
25.09.2009 36 °C
We had a seriously restful day in Sumbawanga – The highlight of which was breakfast of pancakes, jam and sweet tea in a small cafe talking to the local crazy man who is going to rename Tanzania – Tanganyika when he becomes president.
With a spring in our step we headed off towards Lake Tanganyika – 160km away – 2 nice short days. They turned out to be more challanging than anticipated – Rough hilly roads and Pol's gear cable snapped so she had to cycle the final 130km in 1 gear!!
We found a beautiful spot to wildcamp by a dry riverbed and were able to have a shower standing on polished flat rocks – feeling as if we were on a 5* safari – no photo I'm afraid folks – but rest assured we are now looking quite chiselled!
The following day we had an introduction to the infamous Tsetse fly. Careering down a steep rocky track I felt a terrible sharp prick in my butt... then another and another.
“I think I'm suddenly developing a terrible allergy to that soap powder” I shouted to Pol.
“No” she said”there are big flies on your bum”
The flies are the size of an English horse fly but much quicker and more robust. They have no trouble biting through clothes. You'll never be fast enough to swat one which is a pointless exercise anyway as they are crush proof. The locals say the only way to kill them is to pull the head off the body. We also later found out that they are attracted to black and blue objects so we'll be covering up with light colored clothing for the rest of this leg.
Soon we had our first glimpse of our goal – the fabled, beautiful Lake Tanganyika- the longest and second deepest lake in the world. 700km long and over 1500m deep!
By midday we were at our destination 'Tanganyika Adventure Safaris' the only tourist accommodation by the lake for 100s of km. Run and owned by the very enthusiastic Chris and Louise it was well worth the battle with the dusty roads.
We spent 5 extremely relaxing days camping in the shade of an enormous mango tree.
Sitting in our hammock.
We made use of the canoes and the luxurious facilities
Eating amazing food freshly plucked from the garden
Strolls to the nearby village to buy supplies made a change from pedalling.
The ruins of a monastery remind us of the 'White Fathers' who walked here over 100 years ago from Dar es Salaam – a trek that took 3 months and saw almost half of them dying from malaria and dysentery.
The commitment of the missionaries back then was brought home to me as I read extracts of the diary of a 23 yr old Scottish engineer. William McEwen, whose task it was to build the road between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi to open up the centre of Africa to Livingstone's 3 C's. Christianity, Commerce and Civilisation - via a network of roads joining the great lakes of the rift valley. A potential trade route covering 1500 miles needing only 275 miles of overland transport.
Mc Ewan came out in the 1880s at a time when 1 in 4 Europeans who spent more than a year in Central/East Africa mysteriously died of fever and/or dysentry. He was only 23 yet was expected to lead a group of over 100 'natives' to create a road over a mountain range. The only tools for the workers were crow bars and picks and payment was not with cash (as there was no formal economy) but with calico cloth by the yard.
McEwan's problems included 'wild beasts' and the ruthless Angoni tribe which would regularly raid and kill his African workers. But his main problem, as with all the missionaries, was ill health. For more than half of his time on the project he was either incapacitated with 'fever, jaundice and diarrhoea' or caring for his friend and colleague Monro with the same. An entry on Christmas day 1884 reads:
“who could think of Christmas with the surroundings of an African village.... Monro was looking bad this morning. I myself wasn't feeling quite the thing, but it doesn't do for 2 white men to be ill at once, so of course I gave way”
Boxing day saw them both too unwell to get out of bed and the following June McEwan died, 'jaundiced, pale and Haemmoraging from everywhere'
His road now looks very similar to how it would have done 100 yrs ago but the African Churches are more numerous and the ruthless Angoni and wild animals have since been pacified or shot and the present day mzungus are taking antimalarials!!
Watching the fishermen go out at sunset, their kerosine lanterns light up the lake at night as if they are trying to rival the stars in the crystal clear night sky.
Rob managed to get his hands on a speargun and satisfied his hunting instincts again. Shooting enough for everyone to feast on fish cooked in banana leaves for our last dinner in this little piece of paradise. (Ironically this fish is an 'englishman' but this could well be the first one shot by an Englisman!)