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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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    Roland Routier

    What you lookin at? Never seen cattle cicatrization before? Man, tats and brands are sooo 20thC they are mooseum pieces.

    Tony Hammond

    Enough to leave anyone feeling a little flushed.....

  • 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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    Adam Hammond

    You sound exgasperared...

    Tony Hammond

    A fascinating resume of the problems and frustrations you've encountered in Africa....

  • 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

    i prefer the traditional

    Tony Hammond

    At least the lakeside view is lovely....

    Tony Hammond

    A distressed shipping container - very now....C

  • 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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    Tony Hammond

    Can't help but agree with the Germans that some fruit and veg would help the burnt fish to go down....

    Tony Hammond

    Coronavirus wouldn't have a chance...... C.

  • 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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    Tony Hammond

    No wonder St Bernard is looking so disgruntled!

    Tony Hammond

    Nice bougainvillea. C.

  • 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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    Tony Hammond

    On scales of one to ten what would you do? I make no bones about it people have to eat....

    Tony Hammond

    fishy business really - thats Africa for you. x C.

  • Day454

    Speaking in tongues?

    January 24, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    Here is the rotund Brother Gasper Toke, who, surprisingly in view of his name, does not carry a nominal Government Health Warning, (Surgeon General advises ...) He is hosting me in his camp at Kipili.

    The first thing he wanted me to do was to drive with him down to one of the local towns, Namanyere, where his buddy the parish priest was organising a workshop for young parishioners. I was to tell them about my travels and experiences, no doubt as an antidote to a day of earnest solemnising. So I told them to stop believing in Father Xmas and that people would help them if they helped themselves.

    Then Toke, as he is known by the multitudes, translated into Kiswahili. He spoke for 3 times as long as I had and managed to get them laughing and joining in every 3 minutes. I still have no real idea what he wanted me to say; or if he translated what he wanted me to say rather than what I did say; or even what the whole workshop was about. But they seemed to have fun.
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    Tony Hammond

    I hope he didn't have a BELLYful of your travel anecdotes!

    Mona's Meanderings

    Looking great Roland

  • 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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    Mona's Meanderings

    Such an adventure Roland. Keep having fun. Beautiful locals and landscapes.

    Tony Hammond

    Well done Mbekwi all the you need now are your water wings!

  • 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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    Tony Hammond

    At least you don't have to put up with any bean counters!

    Rose Siva

    Chinese writing???

  • Day483

    Centre for advancing backwards

    February 22, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Look up from the Monastery towards the hill in the distance: then gaze down in silent contemplation of the buildings from the site of a future meditation centre.
    The Man himself: Pambo Abbot of Mvimba glows brightly as he poses with an insouciant yet debon air on top of his rock on which he too wishes to build a church.
    The landscape up here is a primary pebble-dash, though the pebbles are quite large. In fact, with a little application it could be turned into an African mega-zen garden - eminently suitable for a retreat centre.
    Of course, there is no money for a project like this and the reason the Abbot is with us is to butter-up the German representative of supertecture who has been visiting and who is to be cajoled into finding donations. The monks descriptions of their ideas end up sounding like an advert for a French Village de Vacances, where impoverished street kids can bask in the healthy air, absorbing the peacefulness of the unspoilt countryside. I keep my mouth shut about the cost of getting to the place which would eliminate 99% of poor Tanzanian children since I know this is benevolence on display and really, they just want a church to brag about.
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    Tony Hammond

    Looks like that leaves them between a rock and a hard place!


You might also know this place by the following names:

Rukwa Region, Rukwa, Mkoa wa Rukwa