Rachel - Dar to Mwanza and the MV Victoria
03/12/2010 - 04/07/2010
You find our happy travelers back in Dar es Salaam for the night, checked into the YMCA having a beer in the garden with a tray of stew and rice and a beer on the table in front of them. When who should do a double take and say hello but Tsur and Ido, some Israeli friends we met in the Mzuzu Zoo and again in Nkarta Bay (We’ll be seeing them again hopefully because they plan to be in Ethiopia the same time as us). A lovely turn up for the books because we were only planning a quiet night before our planned 16 hour bus journey the next day.
The journey wasn’t as dull as it could have been because the driver was some sort of madman and Tanzania seems to have sabotaged all of their good asphalt roads with foot high speed bumps which, no exaggeration I promise you, necessitated the seatbelt because every 2 miles or so you would be lifted high out of your seat to the ceiling and to the accompaniment of sounds, depending on the drivers speed ranging from grunts of discomfort, shouts of annoyance and squeals of fear. Dave was in the front (for leg room) and was witness to the countless near misses so his journey was not a dull one either. Actually this hasn’t been our worst journey but boy I was glad when it was over.
Mwanza is a largish city at the southern tip of Lake Victoria and from there we could make a pleasant overnight shortcut to the west coast near to the Ugandan border on the MV Victoria ship. Of course the first and second class sleeping berths were full so we did as the guide book suggested and bought third class tickets and would take our chance that we could find somewhere comfortable to sleep in the bar.
This was a day of indecision. First we debated staying in Tanzania to visit the Serengeti and Ngorogoro crater which were pretty nearby. And then we made serious consideration to making a detour to visit the Congo to camp by the crater of the active volcano just over the border near Goma. This is one of Dave’s burning ambitions and we had met Dean and Layni who had just returned from doing the same. But after an hour in an internet café we found a UN report of (still only) rumours that “something” was planned for late November and general warnings that the situation in Goma gets worse close to Christmas (Christmas looting for the holidays….for real) so in the end we decided that we’d feel like idiots if we got caught up in something and glumly, cursing the lack of reliable information, we settled for cheering ourselves up by playing pool in the next door bar instead.
Stepping on the ferry we were ushered towards first class by all the staff who seemed most puzzled that the mzungus would be in anything but. The main third class area was in one hard room that must have been above the engine room it was noisy, sweltering and cramped. So we went to explore the outside areas when the inspector, ignoring our assurance that we were in third class, insisted we followed upstairs and finally lead us to the quiet first class deck. Not a bed but it was breezy and deserted and best of all had access to the first class bar.
While we were poking about the front of the boat one of the crew must have been impressed that we were taking so much interest in the ship so he beckoned us to follow upstairs and into the darkened bridge. In the end we were kicked out for asking too many questions and distracting the clearly passionate crewman who was explaining the rules of the lake, prompted because he’d mentioned in passing that having two extra staff on lookout to potentially overrule technological misinformation was “Rule number 5”. So of course we asked what were the first four rules? The captain threw us off right at the end of the explanation of rule number 3 so we never did find out what was rule number 4! FYI, rules 1-4, 5 are:
1. The following rules apply to both sea and lake sailing
2. The captain is ultimately responsible for EVERYTHING that affects the ship
3. definition: The “draft” of a ship is the length from the bottom of the ship to the waterline and a ship with higher draft has priority over a more nimble ship with lower draft.
5. Two people must always be posted as look out
It was a fascinating insight, watching the radar and GPS and looking at the charts. These guys really have to know their stuff because it’s a shallow lake with lots of hidden islands and other ships. Hats off to you guys. We arrived at the break of dawn and a beautiful morning with birds squawking and shouts of the port crew unloading the cargo. Bus 0 – Boat 1.