Friday, April 5, 2013

Lake Tanganyika

Made it back safely from my Easter vacation to Lake Tanganyika. The way up to Northern Province was quite a day of hitching. A group of us headed out around 6am, took 3 hitches down to Central Province, through Mpika, and finally made it to Kasama just after sunset. This was the first day I've spent the entire day in the sun. I even slept a bit on a canter. Luckily I didn't get as sun burnt as I would have imagined. The next day we headed up to Mpulungu to a lodge. It should have only taken about 3 hours to get there but we decided to flag down a cool looking truck which ended up being 1 of 10 mobile hospital trucks. They move slowly. We got there in 6 hours. But, it was neat to be in such a huge truck. Finally we made it to the lake for a few days of relaxation, beers, fresh grilled catfish, leftover banana bread, more beers, swimming, sleeping, and more relaxing.

The second day we decided to go to Kalambo Falls. Another group of PCV's had done the trip the day we got in, and hired a boat to take them across the lake a bit, then they hiked 10 km to get to the falls. We would have loved to do that, but didn't have the numbers to drop the price of the boat, so we took a minibus to Mbala, then hired a taxi for the afternoon. The falls are beautiful (see pictures), so far the best place I've seen in Zambia (even though I was looking into Tanzania). I wish we could have stayed longer, but our driver started getting impatient after a while about a storm coming.

The ride back we decided we'd try to take a more direct route to Mansa (home). We got a nice hitch into Kasama and started asking about the road that goes between Northern Province and Luapula Province. He said he would help us but needed to get diesel first. While at the petrol station, he poked his head out of the window, yelled across to another car asking if they were going to Mansa, and as luck would have it, they were. This is like stopping at a random gas station in Chicago and asking the nearest car if they are headed to Oklahoma City. Bizarre.

But it worked. We headed out shortly thereafter on our way across a road that pretty much closes down in the rainy season. Half the trip was pavement, half was gravel/potholes. Luckily it wasn't wet that day. We headed out about 10:30 and they said we'd make it by 16:00. Around 14:30 we picked up a lady on the road with a ridiculous amount of peanuts she was taking across the country, ended up filling the trunk so we were now smashed in the car with our bags on our laps. But we're only an hour and a half away, right? I thought I was uncomfortable about an hour after that, on the bumpy road, where my knees didn't fit, there was no arm rest, it was getting too dark and bumpy to read, my headphones weren't loud enough to drown out the blaring, incomprehensible Zambian songs on repeat, a woman was squishing me, my legs couldn't move, and my head was hitting the ceiling. We arrived in Mansa at 18:30. I have to say that was the most uncomfortable experience I've had in Zambia thus far. As we got back to the house for fried chicken, as our luck would have it again, we were told how amazing it was that we made that trip in the rainy season. Apparently it hasn't really been done before. Although it was a horrible ride, we made it back a day ahead of time, and saved a bit of money, so I can't complain too much.

Next week I'll be hosting second site visit for the new RAP intake, who arrived in country in the middle of February. The first site visit was the first week they were in Zambia, just like I did in one of my first posts. The second site visit is to go to their new province, stay with a current volunteer for several days, learning how to get around, shop, greet people, cook, ask questions, hold meetings, etc., then head to their individual sites for a few days to see their new homes. The new LIFE volunteers came through here on their second site visit and we got a change to meet them. It feels neat watching a new generation of volunteers come in as another prepares to leave. They seem like a great group, and we hear the RAP group is great as well.

Here's a map I made of my hut, I need to clean up a bit before I take real pictures, but this will give you an idea of how I live. 

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