Saturday, 30 March 2013

MV Liemba

     What's your once-in-a-lifetime experience? The final pieces of untouched Africa are soon to be lost to shopping centers and autobahns, courtesy of the Chinese. But for the many villages along the world's longest Lake Tanganyika (670 km and  1400 m deep) the MV Liemba has been the lifeline for the past 100 years. Built in 1913 as a German warship, it is the oldest passenger ship in regular service in the world.
       The trip to the lake where I would eventually board the Liemba was not easy, and I have had some tough riding experiences, so trust me when I say not easy! The motorcycle engine lights stayed on, and every 10th of a km, the bike shut down. With 100 km to travel on bad roads to catch the ship in just two days, it did not look good. Waiting for a truck to take me and the motorcycle to the lake was hot and disappointing. After several hours in the sun, I solved the problem of the bike shutting down by disconnecting the battery cables and tricking the motorcycle computer into thinking I did something good! It's just like when we have inplugged our computers and plugged them in again to reboot. When I hooked up the battery cables, my problem was solved.
       The motorcycle was loaded onto the ship by crane at 7:30 pm and soon after the MV Liemba departed for Kigoma. Nineteen stops at villages along the way took about 48 hours. There were stunning views along the lake with Zambia to the south, Tanzania to the East, The Democratic Republic Congo ( DRC ) to the West and Burundi to the north.
My 1st class cabin was $95.00, but I spent very little time there, never wanting to miss the action on and around the ship. Day and night, small and large boats from shore were rowing out from villages to meet the ship. Villagers dropped off or collected passengers, business men took rice, flour, dried fish, solar panels, just about anything ... to the DRC. Traders also brought goods onto the ship to do business with the ship's passengers as they continued to their next stop along the lake.
Note - the DRC is in the background.

Coming aboard...dried fish, palm oil, flour etc.

Loading Rice  - destination DRC.

Taking part in the German documentary...
The cameramen cannot be seen but are to my left.

        Now considered a passenger ship, it's really a working vessel. I did get my two minutes of fame and will have to learn some German. In celebration of the ship's 100 years, a documentary is being made and the film crew were happy to see me and the BMW. They followed me around the ship with cameras and interviewed me a lot. It was probably not as big a film production as C.S. Forester's 1935 novel, "The African Queen" and subsequent film version also done on the MV Liemba, but it was fun.
       My voyage ended in Kigoma where I continued north along the lake to the capital of Burundi " Buj" or Bujumbura, where Stanley first met Dr Livingstone. Fear seems to keep travelers away from the small land-locked country of Burundi, so for me it was a feeling of West Africa all over again. The  francaphone country welcomed  me with smiles and probably a million people along roads shouting and waving hello. Riding Burundi's hillsides was like being in a parade. Stopping for a cool drink brought nothing short of several hundred people to look at the motorcycle, greet me, and ask questions. Small children sat and just stared, while some braver ones waited for the chance to touch the skin of the mzongoo (white man).
        It's a paradise for those willing to get a motorcycle into Burundi and enjoy the twisties. By comparison, only Rwanda's "Land of 1000 Hills" can compete for such a motorcycle ride. YES I am having a great time !! Love Garth :)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Turned 53 Yesterday

         I am always happy when travelling to meet someone older than I, doing more than I should at my age. I met Steve, age 65 riding his bicycle from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town. I loved his answer when I asked him why he was riding solo and not in a tour group. He said that if he only had 4 months to live and needed to get back to work maybe he'd do it that way, but right now he has all the time in the world.
         Before leaving Malawi I was invited to friend's for dinner. This was followed by pool as two villages played off until the sun came up. My old bones left long before thatto get some rest.
        The bike is now working okay... just well enough to get a speeding ticket for going 70 in a 50km. The ticket was $8.00. I talked the police down from the $12.00, because I showed him I needed money for fuel.
          It's a big change from West Africa where military police wait to pull a rope attached to a plank full of nails when I get close,  hoping I will stop.  None of the police have cars so it's kind  of fun sometimes to mess with them and let them think you're going to stop, before riding around their makeshift barracade to take off.
        Stopping on the road for a Coke or Fanta is nice for a break.  Yesterday I paid about 26 cents and had a little moonshine added to the Fanta for flavor :)  It was too strong to drink it and ride, so I finished it with my dinner.
        Many people ask me, "What are you doing?"  I am completing a counter clockwise trip around Africa. When that's done , I will proceed to ... I was sitting in my room typing, there was a knock at the door. It was immigration wanting to see my documents;  know what my business was here;  and where I am going in the morning.  This was odd , but probably they are just looking for someone.
        I am finally boarding the MV Liemba Friday night to Kigoma. It will take several days to travel the 600 km up the world's largest lake and before I have access to the internet again, so thanks everyone for remembering my birthday.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Lake Tanganyika

       Sorry it's taken so long to get a few words out. Poor internet, more bike problems, and just having a great time travelling to new places in Africa.
       It's the third time I am stopped waiting for BMW parts since I left in January. This time my back shock needs to be replaced before I can proceed. Nuff said on that :(
        Presently I am in the sister city of Coburg, Ontario -  Mzuzu, Malawi. On the 15th I will travel to Zambia and get on a boat to take me up Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania. It's something I have wanted to do since I got back from my last trip. The 40 hour cruise up the lake borders the DRC on one side and Tanzania on the other. My trip will end just before the Burundi border. It should be interesting, and I promise to send photos.
       Malawi is a great country to which I will return. I feel very at home here. There are many connections to home. Today I had my corn flakes and banana with a girl from Bella Bella, British Columbia.
        I am off to Lake Malawi for the rest of the week while I wait for the BMW parts to arrive. The plan is to sit on the beach and read a book, "The Challenge for Africa."  I am also still on track working to exceed my goal of 10,000 push-ups this year, and to stay healthy .
At night a large boat is loaded with smaller ones that help set a row of lanterns in a circle. The fish are chased into the nets by the lights.

These guys are a bicycle transport company in Malawi.
Notice the padded seat for the passenger's comfort.

Typical end of day setting along the shore....bath time for the kids!