Tanzania
Rukwa

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2 travelers at this place

  • Day476

    Building site

    February 15, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    The first buildings to go up will be an accommodation block for the supertecture group. The young architects have designed a group of old containers to sit on a prime location by the lakeside. In contrast, an adjacent building created in a more traditional African vernacular sits abandoned except for the occasional pig.Read more

  • Day465

    Food for thought

    February 4, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ 🌧 22 °C

    A 2016 study reported in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" discovered that fish stocks are inversely proportional to water temperature. So as the water in the lake has been getting warmer, fish levels have been decreasing. We no longer know why things are heating up - scientists had a pretty good theory but ScoMo and other politicians have set them right about that.

    Anglers going after Goliath tigerfish and Nile perch don't appear to have much effect on stocks; and nor do the traditional hook & line or gill net fishermen in their leaky canoes.

    Clearly commercial fishing, which in the 1950's started using the infamous artisanal lift nets and industrial purse seines, has had a pretty big impact. There are about 800 fishery sites and around 100,000 people involved. But the industry collapsed in the 80's so I am not sure how many fishermen are actually making a living, especially as there are an increasing number of juvenile fish being caught. The catch in 1995 was around 196,570 tons. This fisherman has hooked a piece of Tanganyika rock, or maybe its a stonefish.

    So here is the dilemma. Fish stocks declining as temperature rising. The only option is to reduce commercial fishing.
    But these fish provide 60% of the animal protein consumed in the region. And children are turning up at school malnourished even now.

    Go figure.
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  • Day473

    Dormitory block

    February 12, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 28 °C

    The buildings on this site of St Bernard's House, for it is not yet an Abbey or Priory, were erected by donation in the late 80s and have been decaying since then. The mattress, for example, crackles as the foam disintegrates and conforms to ones body shape - provide that shape is a concave U. At the back of the room a small, tiled corridor serves as one's private bathroom: the old plastic WC with a shattered plastic seat at one end and in the middle a shower rose, faded, from which dribbles muddy water pumped up from the lake. Underneath it a leaking tap fills a 25 litre bucket daily providing ambient music throughout the night.

    Yesterday evening I was summoned in the dark to help Bro James start the small 2 stroke Honda which moves the lake up to a tank above the dormitories. Since he had been trying to start it for 1/2 hour it was well flooded so the first task was to remove and clean the spark plug. Only there was no spanner: a boy was sent to rouse a nearby farmer who had one. Whilst we waited for him I removed the air cleaner and tipped the sponge filter onto the ground, not wanting to handle the black saturated grunge that served to clean the air. Bro James had no such qualms and picked it up to squeeze the oil and water out, but alas it completely fell apart and could not be reused. Eventually we removed and cleaned the plug and it started. Like the buildings, it had never been maintained.
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  • Day475

    Kitchen garden

    February 14, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 25 °C

    The smoke blackened room used as a kitchen is so uninviting that food is prepared on open fires outside.
    Susanna is seen here boiling beans whilst Anastasia is butchering some fish on the old bed springs serving as a kitchen table.
    In Africa, all sorts of hangers-on gravitate to the kitchens when food is available and this mother with her two offspring are enjoying their victuals provided by the monks meagre food allowance. Apparently our host Bro Gasper keeps some of the allocation to fuel his 4WD so that he can visit his mates in Sumbawanga. This has caused tensions with the German architects from supertecture who are actually doing the building work and feel that the addition of vegetables would give them a better balance diet and who believe that occasional fruits would not be a luxury: especially since their contract with Mvimba Monastery stipulates that they should be fed.
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  • Day481

    Big House

    February 20, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Since my host has spent the last 4 weeks away from the site I have not progressed far in helping sort out the project management, so I hitched a ride with the Abbot back to the main monastery so make a report.
    As one might expect, the monastery is populated with monk eys. There are only a few priests and many Brothers all of whom are generous in their welcome and hospitality.
    This place is a model of how the Kipili site should be, with agriculture, animal husbandry, workshops and vocational training facilities as well as monastic buildings. Why it isn't has been revealed to me, obliquely.
    It seems that Bro Gasper used to be the Procurator, (the equivalent of an Operations Manager,) here until a year ago. Then his inability to handle money in a transparent way provoked the Abbot into sending him to Kipili. Since he has no talent for management and feels he has been demoted, he avoids the place as much as possible. The Germans have noticed as well as me! Now they are stuck because they do not know what to do with him, and the African culture in a Benedictine environment does not allow anyone to make suggestions to the Abbot who is assumed to know everything about everything.
    My documents about improving processes has therefore been referred back to Bro Gasper for action, which nobody expects to eventuate.
    Since the handling of the money entrusted to him has been used in a way that I can only describe as dishonest, in Australia it would be illegal and the Charities Trust would investigate, I would have thought the Abbot would attend to the spiritual side - the immoral behaviour - without delay. But this is Africa; and the Catholic Church has survived for this long with a practical attitude to peccadilloes. And maybe the Abbot is doing something in a round-a-bout way, who knows?
    Benedictine communities belong to Congregations, which start with one Abbey grow by spawning off-shoots. This one belongs to a German Congregation, the Missionary Benedictines of St Ottilien, founded in 1884 which has spread into 55 Houses around the world . The procurator from HQ, one Fr Anastasius, has just been to audit the activities here and left rolling his eyes. For example, an African is responsible for looking after his family, and if he has money in his hand is expected to share some of it. The idea that the money is not his is beyond anyones's comprehension: I see the cash, its in your hand, therefore you have money, therefore you share it. Just because you joined another group does not relieve you of your duty so be sanguine. Some Brothers with less intellectually developed notions even question why they can't have a young girl to look after them.
    It all sounds as if stories of the Medieval Church had come to life and I anticipate a large meal with choice wines at the home of a Tanzanian Prince Bishop. Well, maybe I'm just having funny dreams after an unrestricted diet of beans, ugali and rice.
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  • Day484

    Roadside halt to be.

    February 23, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ 🌧 18 °C

    On the way back to the airport at Mbeya I Stopped at Sumbawanga, where Mvimba have a house and the secondary school, (see photos from 20th Jan). This time in true cargo cult style, the brothers offered a good meal, wine and free lodging as I was travelling with the German moneybags who had to placated with rich offerings so that he would keep returning.

    One of the projects dear to the heart of the Bro Superior - Nicholas, the bloke in charge - is the construction of a truck stop / service area on the main road heading East. We spent an hour and a half getting there, subjected most of the journey to an excited expose of his concept. In summary, he wants to build a super-loo, (sic), surrounded by a restaurant, motel, rest area, car wash, market and a secondary school for girls with babies. The multi-story loo, though a little potty for some, will be a wind powered, content rich and flush-full of various stimulating and attractive designs to tickle the imagination (at least); thereby drawing visitors to the edifice like flies to its contents.

    Attached to the complex is a large agricultural expanse. Capitalising on the output of the former to feed the crops, the range and variety of plants will extend beyond the existing sunflowers and maize to include school dinners and a tree plantation - and raw materials for the superloo.

    It all seems so obvious when explained like that; cause, effect and solution all in one facility. Hopefully it will be equally compelling to the 2 buses and 3 cars per hour that use the road currently.

    We had fun in the group flying the German's drone around to measure the perimeter so that the architects could mull over Design focussed on Award Winning Colonic Vacation. Someone parked their wheelbarrow out along the road but I could not see any Irishmen so I left it. It was full of holes anyway.

    After flight above ground we decided to walk through the ground as the morning rain had loosened the surface nicely and we favoured enhancing by tactile stimulation the architects Vision. Perhaps studying the output of a Great Artist like Twoloos Lautrac might have been more productive, but instead we walked barefoot a couple of km, squidging warm, soggy mud and something else through our toes, down to the shallow lake where we lunched and had a siesta on an artificial hill above the primal ooze.
    Work on site has commenced but not very advanced yet, so instead of a visual of the above, be amazed at the at the guards' houses and marvel at the cattle. (Ah! Thats where the 'something else' came from.)

    Now don't poo-poo the concept too quickly. This is a country where only 30.2 % of households have, (to use the Governments words,) "improved toilet facilities", ie running water. It may be a novelty but it also fulfils a necessary utility. Remember the words of the sage: "If you can do do do."
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  • Day451

    Mvimba monastery school

    January 21, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    Well, after my relaxing morning I discovered that Bro Gasper was not there, but another bus ride away in Kipili. I also found that Bro Clement was in fact the headmaster of a school of 700, including a hundred orphans who boarded. Before catching the bus at 11:30 he gave me a tour of his school.
    I didn't ask about the Chinese writing on the wall adjacent to the playing fields, except to discover it was the translation of the Latin beside it, but I am intrigued and will investigate.
    The government is trying hard to encourage people to switch from cooking fuels, from charcoal to gas. These three bean cookers caught my eye as the gas conversion (look at the window) reminded me of the bunsen burners in school biology labs.
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  • Day451

    Kipili at last

    January 21, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ 🌧 20 °C

    Then on to the very local bus with a couple of young chicks for the hour long journey to Kipili. Well thats how long the first guy said it would take. The second said 2 hours and Bro Gasper texted me to say 3. It took 4 and didn't go to Kipili but stopped 8 km short as the road up to town was a spur off the highway. Luckily I had WhatsApp access so could let Bro Gasper know. He came down in their LandCruiser and carted me and 2 other muzungus who were visiting the opposition (Lutheran missionaries,) back to the village.
    And here I am beside the waters of Lake Tanganyika .. .. ..
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  • Day464

    Low point of my trip

    February 3, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    From being under the high point of Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro, I am now at Kipili beside the low point. The Great Rift Valley here is submerged by Lake Tanganyika, (named from Tanganika, "the great lake spreading out like a plain",) whose bottom in this southern basin lies 642 meters below sea level; a depth of 1470 m. About 18% of the world’s unfrozen surface freshwater is held in it.

    The area first came to the attention of Europeans when the famous Welsh actor, Richard Burton stumbled upon it with his fellow thespian, Richard Speke, whilst making "Mountains of the Moon". More recently, you might have seen a Monty Python version called "Pole to Pole" where a slightly stunned Michael Palin sails the length of the lake on the ferry, MV Liemba. Rumour has it that David Livingstone was also on location here, but I can find no mention of any film of that in IMDb.

    The scenery is as pleasant as you would expect; but doesn't reveal it's uniqueness, so here are some "fun facts" for the next Trivial Pursuits game in your local pub.
    ⦁ It is the longest fresh water lake in the world and the second deepest after lake Baikal in Russia.
    [depth = 1433 m / 4700 ft; length = 677 km / 420 miles; width = 50 km/ 31 miles]
    ⦁ its somewhere between 9 to 12 million years old, though some claim the bottom waters may be over 20 million
    ⦁ the Rift Valley here has formed three basins without any drainage: the contents either evaporates or overflows
    ⦁ the lake surface may have fluctuated up to 300 meters lower at than it is today: with the high evaporation rate it rarely overflowed into the 320 km Lukuga tributary of the Congo River and the sea. On average water remains in the lake for 440 years.
    ⦁ Tanzania’s second largest river, the 475 km Malagarasi River, is older than the lake. It used to flow directly into the Congo River from the East but now is captured by the lake.
    ⦁ Life has not yet been found in the bottom 1200 meters of the lake as it is too high in hydrogen sulphide or too low in oxygen. But I'm haven't found anybody who has looked.
    ⦁ Unusually, the water in the lower depths is only 3° C colder than the 25° C surface temperature. Nobody knows why.
    ⦁ Winds can stir things up a bit, even causing 6m waves during storms; which helps stop bilharzia snails spreading but doesn't mix the layers of water up very much.
    ⦁ The nutrient carried into the lake is negligible; fish rely on algae fed by nutrients rising from the bottom.
    ⦁ There are over 350 species of fish, 95 % endemic, (4 predatory and 2 types of sardine,) as well as indigenous snails, shrimps and crabs. The lake's incredible diversity makes it an important resource for the study of speciation in evolution.
    ⦁ The locals say that the crocodiles - freshies not salties luckily - and hippos generally don't cause a problem except perhaps at dawn and dusk.
    ⦁ All the usual invasive plants, such as lantana, duckweed and the toon tree, can be found choking the shoreline. Surely some, like the coffee senna, the castor oil plant and my favourite, the Nile Cabbage could be harvested?
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  • Day467

    What Stanley really said.

    February 6, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    The press are quick to spot a good line and render it more immediately resonant to local audiences. So it is with Henry Morton Stanley's famous quote of which Dr. Livingstone was the recipient.

    In fact he said, "Father Schynse, I presume” when his Emin Pasha Relief Expedition stopped in the neighbourhood of Bukumbi Mission in September 1889 to pick up linen, shoes and donkeys from the priests. Lacks impact though, since nobody has any idea of who Fr. Auguste Schynse was, hence the alteration.

    Bukumbi belonged to the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa of Algeria better known as the "Pères Blancs" or "White Fathers", founded to feed and indoctrinate the many Arab orphans left after the Algerian famine of 1867. Unusually their vows insisted that they dressed like locals and ate the local cuisine.

    In 1878 ten missionaries left Algiers to convert the Arabs and negroes of Central Africa. A couple of previous attempts had ended in the guides massacring the caravans, but this time they got through, establishing posts at Lakes Victoria Nyanza and here by Lake Tanganyika. Unlike other missionaries who did everything they could to stop the valuable slave trade across Lake T and soon got forced out, the White Fathers bought as many as they could; and released them. Whether manumission was conditional on submission to the Pope I leave for you to decide.
    This ruin by Kipili was one of their centres as far as I can tell. It was closed over 50 years ago and abandoned. The local Bishop who owns the land wants to make it a tourist attraction but I think it is too far gone as nobody has even weeded the place since the priests left.

    More trivia to amuse and divert you.
    · the Pere Blancs are not a religious order according to Vatican rules. Individuals can own their own property; but they may use or dispose of it only at the direction of the superiors.
    · in their Rule, each house must contain not less than three members, which means you need many brothers to set up strings of missions across Africa.
    · they never changed from wearing Algerian Arab clothing: white gandoura, (cassock,) and burnous, (mantle).
    · rosary and cross are worn around the neck in imitation of the mesbaha of the marabouts.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Rukwa Region, Rukwa, Mkoa wa Rukwa