Tag Archives: Tanzania

Purple Patches

All along our journey from Mwanza to the Usambara Mountains -the landscape remained arid and dusty; yellows and browns the predominant palette. However breaking up the colourscheme throughout, the Jacaranda trees providing eye catching purple patches across the plains, mountains and valleys of Northern Tanzania. In the Usambara they flower against a greener landscape. They herald the yet unseen rains and will continue to flower until Christmas before returning to their usual green for another year.

Beautiful Bougainvillea

The rains are imminent – in fact three storms have come and gone – nothing on the scale that is to come, but a sign things are changing.

Even so the ground remains parched and yellow, dusty and dry – the exception being the Bougainvillea which is in bloom at this time and throughout the dryest time of the year and provides a welcome splash of colour to the garden.

 

The Road To Kigali

We departed Mwanza just after 5:30pm on Friday. Destination Rwanda! Our first stop was to be Shinyanga just three hours down the road but enough to shave off our journey to allow a realistic arrival at the border

As we travelled south we saw flashes of lightning indications of the oncoming storm. 

  
As night fell so did the rain but the road to Shinyanga was fine other than the extensive use of speed bumps and the insistence of most Tanzanian drivers to keep their lights on full beam. There were many Kamikaze frogs leaping out in front of us on the roads as we travelled.

  We finally pitched up in Shinyanga at 9pm and looked for the recommended hotel- not as easy in the dark. Eventually we found the Diamond Fields Hotel. Initial perceptions were good, the rooms were clean and the food menu was extensive. 

For three of us the food promise fulfilled expectations but the fourth meal, a cheeseburger was missing the vital ingredient- the burger. There followed a long discussion in Kiswahili about what actually constitutes a Cheeseburger, our waitresses and chefs adamant that the constituents should resemble a hot cheese roll. After over ten minutes of arguing  and resorting to google images we eventually got a burger! At midnight!

We resolved we would leave at 6pm forgoing the breakfast! Although our rooms were comfortable enough sleep was a little disturbed by the sound of the adjacent nightclub, alternating with the cacophony of croaks of the locals frog chorus and finally the local Imam who sounded like we was praying right outside our door for the morning call to prayer!

Our morning journey went well – the roads were good and we made excellent progress. 

  It was as we were nearing the border that the roads began to crumble. Speed slowed as we needed to negotiate significant pot-holes. The number of lorries (especially Petrol Tankers) did nothing to speed us on our way. 


The cars taking vicarious routes along the broken road.  



There were vain attempts to repair them with earth being used to infill the pot-holes. 

We reached the border late afternoon and waited for the officials to process our visa applications. 

The other side of the line there were changes. Rwanda is a much cleaner place, a ban on plastic bags contributing to a lack of litter. The roads are much better too as we climb through the hills to Kigali, passing rice paddies and other farms.             

       

 At 6pm we reached Kigali and our accommodation -Discover Rwanda Youth  Hostel. 

  
 

Grey-capped Warbler

This is one of a series of occasional blogs highlighting the wildlife (and often more specifically birdlife) which visits our Mwanza Garden

This recently discovered visitor is  the grey-capped warbler. A striking visitor as so many are – this one is also a noisy one.

Lakeland

When many people think of Tanzania, they probably think of the Serengeti with it’s arid plains teaming with Wildebeest and Zebra.

… or possibly Kilimanjaro’s snow capped peak.

… or maybe Zanzibar and it’s white sands and azure waters.IMG_9951

All these are amazing places and we’ve been to all three  (though we’ve yet to see Kilimanjaro’s peak personally), but Tanzania is as much defined by it’s lakes as anything else – more so in that much of it’s Western Border is Lake and a portion of it’s Northern Border too.

There are three Great Lakes here : Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyassa (more commonly known as Lake Malawi in the outside world – but not in Tanzania or Mozambeque which share it).

We have been lucky enough to visit all three in the past 15 months – in fact we live next to the largest (Lake Victoria) so we visit that one all the time.

Lake Victoria

Shared Between: Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya

Area:68,800 square kilometers (26,600 sq miles)

Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest freshwater lake by surface area; only Lake Superior in North America is larger.

Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by area, and is also the largest tropical lake in the world.

The lake is an average of 40m deep and its deepest point is 83m deep. It is therefore quite a shallow lake.

Named after Queen Victoria by it’s European discoverer John Speke it is known as Lake Nyaza in Bantu languages.

Sadly the lake’s ecosystem has been decimated by the introduction of Nile Perch and eutrophication. Thus hundreds of native cichlids have been driven to extinction in the past 50 years. The perch have no natural predator and have destroyed the natural food chains which existed. Increased algae have further choked the lake and the drop in fish population has severely damaged the fishing industry here.

The lake looks lovely but you wouldn’t swim in it’s toxic waters. Raw sewage is dumped into the lake by factories and settlements and increases the eutrophication further.

Bilharzia snails are present in high quantities and as a carrier of Shistosomiasis a potentially fatal disease if left untreated. Sadly locals do swim and wash in it, having no choice but to do so.

It’s sad that this massive body of water on our doorstep is so polluted.

Lake Tanganyika

Shared Between: Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia

Area:32,900 square kilometers (12,700 sq miles)

We visited this beautiful lake over half term, staying near Kigoma at Jacobsen’s Beach.

It is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest.  It is 570m deep on average and at it’s deepest it is 1470m deep. Only Lake Baikal in Siberia is deeper and has greater volume.

It is also the world’s longest freshwater lake.

The name “Tanganyika” means “Great Lake spreading out like a plain”

Located in the Rift Valley the lake is relatively unpolluted. Over 250 species of cichlids live in the lake and 75 other species too.

Fishing is a major industry here and has impacted upon the fish.

No lake in Africa is free of Shistosomiasis but it seems to be low level/ risk  in Tanganyika unlike Victoria. We will take praziquantel to be certain but you have to wait a couple of months.

Lake Nyassa (Lake Malawi)

Shared Between: Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique

Area:29,600 square kilometers (11,400 sq miles)

We visited this lake in the summer travelling from Mbamba Bay in Tanzania to Likoma Islands on to Monkey Bay in Malawi.

It is the ninth largest lake in the world and the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa.

It has a depth of 292m on average with a maximum of 706m.

It’s over 1000 species of cichlids makes it very bio diverse. It has in fact the most variety of species of any lake.

The lake is subject to a border dispute with slaw I claiming the entire lake up to the shore of Tanzania whilst Tanzania claims the border is in the middle of the lake.

It is probable that the lake contains Shistosomiasis and slthough we were assured otherwise and although we did swim in it’s clear waters at both Likoma and Monkey Bay we have taken medication to be safe.

Three Great Lakes – all different in their own way and all part of Tanzania.

Sizing Things Up

Maps of the world give a distorted view of things. The countries nearer the poles are enlarged relative to those nearer the equator and so if you look at a map of the earth Tanzania looks much smaller than it is in reality and the UK and USA look much larger than they really are.

UK SizeThere is an interesting website that attempts to rectify this error and I have used it in this blog to show how big Africa and in particular Tanzania are. The website called

http://thetruesize.com/

superimposes a scale sized map of one country onto another.

The maps below were created using this site.

Here is a map of the UK  for reference


UK (Mwanza Kigoma)Having spent 14 hours on the road yesterday traveling from Kigoma to Mwanza it is worth looking at how far it would mean in Britain – the map has been rotated to fit the journey.

On this scale a journey from Mwanza to Kigoma is like traveling from Lincoln to St Austell (in Cornwall) via Brighton.


UK (Mwanza Dar)A trip from Mwanza to Dar Es Salam is equivalent to a journey from from John O’ Groats in the North of Scotland to Thanet in Kent.

Luckily we can fly to Dar  at a reasonable cost.


US (Mwanza Mbale)

Our travels from Mwanza to Mbale and Jinja via Bukoba and Kampala at Easter (including  Murchison Falls in the North) were all taken by bus.

This would be the equivalent of a journey from London to Middlesborough via Bristol, Liverpoool and Manchester with a hop across to Northern Ireland.

Notice that Lake Victoria fills most of Southern and Central England.


UK (Mwanza Moshi)A trip to Moshi where we will meet the Mums at Christmas is like a journey from Edinburgh to Southend via Ayr and Blackpool.

We will fly this December but we went the opposite way by bus in the summer.


For our epic journey of Eastern and Southern Africa – a map of Britain won’t do so instead a map of the USA

USA

We traveled from Mwanza to Zomba then to Livingstone (Victoria Falls) and back again.US East Africa

This was the equivalent of a journey from the North of Ohio via Washingston DC to Southern Alabama and on into Texas.


This shows how vast Africa really is and perhaps how much smaller the USA and UK are really.US Africa

If you want to see how big your country is compared to any other part of the world check out the site for yourself

http://thetruesize.com/

Election Fever

It’s almost upon us – in three days time the country will decide and so will end months of rallies and political speeches.

The country will vote in local elections, for MPs and for a new President. There are a number of parties (including ACT) but in reality there are two main parties CCM and Chedema. 

    
 The ruling party CCM have never lost an election and have governed Tanzania since independence in 1962 – Nyerere’s party is probably likely to win again but….

 
 
 
  Locally Chedema is popular and won the election  5 years ago. Mwanza is firmly in opposition territory and along with Moshi, Mbeya and Arusha are likely to vote the same way again. 

Indeed a former leader of CCM has defected to Chedema and has made this election much closer to call than anticipated.  

 

 It is difficult to know what might happen after the results are announced  next Wednesday. Last time there were some problems in town and many ex-pats are leaving for the week – traveling overseas or to quiet parts of the country. We too are heading out of town (but in country) of which more in a later post.

As I write here a noisy rally is taking place nearby- in fact the two Presidential candidates have spent a lot of time here in the last fortnight. Each day trucks loaded up with speakers troll the roads blasting out messages from as early as 7am.  

      

  

 The crowds at both Chedema and CCM rallies have been joyous and good natured from what we have seen so far but will that change when inevitably one of these parties lose the election. Some doommongers predict dire consequences in the post- election fallout others are more relaxed feeling nothing will happen. In reality it will probably be somewhere in between.