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    • Day 36–37

      Lake Tanganyika

      December 11, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

      Lake Tanganyika, approx. 670 km long and 50 km wide. After lake Baikal, the world’s second deepest lake with its depth of 1470 m reaching 688 m below mean sea level (cryptodepression). Many rivers flow in, just one river flows out, as a side arm of Congo river. Below the first few hundred metres, the water isn’t affected to any exchange with the upper layers which means that it basically does not contain any oxygen and is considered to be fossil water from ancient times, reaching back 10.000+ years. Fascinating, isn’t it? Where you swim, you bath in lukewarm, crystal-clear drinking water. Many of those desirable and colourful aquarium fishes you know from your local pet shop are being taken from here or Lake Nyasa and exported to our countries of wealth. Illegally! Because they are difficult to be bred in captivity. During transport, the majority of them die (> 70 %? I have to re-consolidate my source of wisdom later). Think about that the next time you fill up your glittering aquarium ☹!

      I camp at an overpriced lodge which lost its beach campsite due to the increased water level which I already observed in many of the other rift valley lakes in Kenya and Uganda in 2021. Here, the water rose around 3 metres. The Tanzanian owner lost a lot of his infrastructure. Wherever I am, the local people say that it correlates with the increase of precipitation during the last years, but, oh boy, don’t even try to neglect geophysics just because it appears to be sluggish! Take a look at the key facts: Water rising began in 2020, throughout nearly all rift valley lakes in Eastern Africa uniformly at the same time, along a stretch of thousands of kilometres, across climatically different areas, it happened quickly, within just a few months and since then the high levels are persistent. What do you say now? A "local rain phenomenon"? No way that rainfall alone is the reason behind all that. We probably experience tectonic ramblings with complex side effects, of which one might induce changes of groundwater level to the extent we are observing now. Conti-fuckin’-nental drift, brother! Digest that. At least, that’s my highly professional assumption. While writing these lines, I drifted away from Congo by 0.007 mm already (officially!). So damn exciting 😃!

      The positive aspect about sunken anthropogenic infrastructure is that when you go snorkelling, you find many of those famous fishies just in front of the lodge 🐟. Why? Because they love to hide between the stones, bricks and squiggly concrete features now being under water. Further out, where sandy ground takes over, you ain’t gonna find no damn fancy fishies any more. I have witnessed them not being there 🤓!
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    • Day 37

      Tales from the road: Glorifying the car

      December 12, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 24 °C

      My Toyota is just amazing. Having 2600 kg fully loaded with two people and food plus drinks for a couple of days it is light-weight compared to the tanks of above 3 tonnes many other overlanders are driving. And it is well balanced: 1250 kg front axle, 1350 rear axle. With the awesome all-time four-wheel-drive (Permanentallradantrieb) it just feels like riding a go-kart. The tyres show superb grip and when deactivating vehicle stability control, drifting through curvy gravel tracks starts to be real fun! Exploded tyres? Broken suspension? I don't know what that is (yet 😅). And nothing rattles. A quiet car. Dust only outside, not inside. An off-road couch.

      This region is rather sparsely populated. Endless plateaus, smooth road surfaces, gentle hills, far-reaching views, colourful cloud formations. Still, Vodacom covers all this with 3G-5G mobile network. I tune in either Rockantenne, Radio21 or some German Power Metal station and: Oh, what a fun to ride!
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    • Day 37–38

      Lake Rukwa

      December 12, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

      Eh, what a contrast to Tanganyika. It seems like no tourists are coming here at all. There is no touristic infrastructure. Generally, nobody talks about this lake. German Wikipedia says that the shores of lake Rukwa are nearly unpopulated. Arriving in the western part I can tell you that this is so very not true. It feels like one elongated village of super-friendly people. But still, the slopes of the escarpment leading down to the lake are dense with natural forest. Not (yet) cut down for charcoal production. The road down is awesome! Wiki also says that the lake’s depth is somewhat between 3 and 5 metres only. Driving planlessly in direction to the waterfront I quickly realise that what is "road" or "village" on the map is "water" in reality. The people laugh and tell me that the depth is rather something around 10 metres further out there. Now, nearly 1 km earlier than expected I have to start searching for a campsite.

      In the village I stop and talk to just the right person again. Peter the boat driver. He and his friends lead me to a nice camping spot next to a tree not far from the water. I share my beers with them. Later, Peter brings me one new beer as compensation for the one I gave to him. Unexpected!! There is no "beach" or whatsoever, just a smooth transition between land and not-anymore-land. You walk on grass. Then you walk on wet grass. Then you find yourself walking in shallow water. Better search for a boat now.

      The morning’s light is great. I have an appointment with Peter for a boat tour. It was a bit complicated to communicate the time of departure on the previous evening because he always kept repeating something like "at two hours". 02:00 at night? Hmm. At 07:30 I learn that the people here start counting the time of the day from sunrise on. Thus, at 08:30 we jump into a huge wooden boat with some of the other guys. Everybody in good mood, as always. The water smells a bit like a syphon. Also, it is generally opaque and brownish but currently covered by an additional intense green layer of algae. Peter is not a fisherman. He rather transports goods between villages. On our departure his colleagues are unloading huge bags of smoked, rolled (cat) fish which they say is exported to Burundi and Congo. I learn that the intense algae bloom correlates to abundant fish at the moment. I suppose that the fish are simply weak due to lack of oxygen and thus easier to catch. On our small round trip we visit fishermen on the lake and the boys show me different types of fish they commonly catch. Small fish 😕. Most of the time I am allowed to steer the boat while the boys chill. For that I will even tip them afterwards, lol.
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    • Day 38–41


      December 13, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

      The last stretch of 60 km from Namanyere to here leads through untouched forest and I would have never thought to arrive at such a surreal, fancy establishment, the Lakeshore Lodge. Surrounded by beautiful landscape, with small islands in front and wonderful views on the mountain stretches of Congo. As I arrive, Vanillekipferl are being baked.

      I spend my trip's last days with hammocking, bread dough raising, cooking, roasting coffee or cocoa or groundnuts and fixing minor issues around the car. One morning, I spontaneously join a boat tour to Mvuna island for snorkelling. Good decision! But, diving masks attached to beards really don't make sense. I also learn that extracting oxygen from water is better left to the fish.

      And there will remain a hundred other things yet untold this time.
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    • Day 121

      Zweite Reparatur

      March 25 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

      Wenn man erst einmal mit den Reparaturen anfängt ... 🙈

      Beim Scharnier der Motorhaube ist ein Befestigungsbolzen abgerissen, als ich die Mutter festziehen wollte. Neue, größere Schraube angeschweißt, Loch angepasst, fertig 😜Read more

    • Day 484

      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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    • Day 481

      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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    • Day 475

      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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    • Day 473

      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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    • Day 465

      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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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Rukwa Region, Rukwa, Mkoa wa Rukwa

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