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    • Day 454

      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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    • Day 451

      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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    • Day 451

      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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    • Day 467

      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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    • Day 464

      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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    • Day 455

      Typical Insectgram post

      January 25, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ 🌧 17 °C

      Ah! Protein!

      If I understood correctly this is called kumbi-kumbi.

      Imagine cooking a bean in its skin; and then sloughing off the skin and drying it a little. That is what it tasted like. Nothing much at all.Read more

    • Day 477


      February 16, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

      About a kilometre away from the monks, three jolly Benedictine sisters have created a self-contained but still decrepit House and warmly welcome visitors.
      The big attraction at the moment is the huddle of 1 week old puppies with whom the cat has fraternal feelings. They keep pigs, chickens and a bowl of pigeons for nourishment and to sell the eggs. Behind the birds a mosquito net has been hung over the dog basket.
      One of the visitors is a German lady who has been trying to establish a micro-bank in a nearby town. She has returned because the capital her church had collected mysteriously disappeared. The ladies who received the funds used them as intended and paid back the loans, but the manager of the funds cannot explain where the money has gone. Africa!
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    • Day 481

      Head office

      February 20, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

      The grounds cover an area of rich agricultural land about 3 by 4 km square. About 60% I would guess lies fallow for lack of manpower - and equipment.
      They have all the usual farm animals and also a crumbly cat. One Brother has started a salami factory leisurely extruding some tasty beef. They use pre-mixed German sausage spices so could do with a bit of spicing up! (Garlic, pepper etc)
      The new church is the Abbot's pride and joy. Just love the scaffolding.
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    • Day 483

      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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    • Day 476

      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

    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Rukwa Region, Rukwa, Mkoa wa Rukwa

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