We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Can it Get Worse in Bukoba?

We thought a little break in Bukoba would be a good idea during the Easter holiday. We thought some time walking to waterfalls and enjoying the beautiful banana, tea and vanilla farms would be lovely. So we packed our tents and supplies, set off early on Thursday morning, enjoyed a beautiful drive and arrived eight hours later. But the holiday didn’t quite go as expected!

When we found our campsite, it wasn’t quite the peaceful lakeside spot we were expecting. Maybe more like a beach bar beside a road with a stream of people cutting through the only spot on which to pitch our two tents. The ugly, giant Marabou storks hovered hungrily on the sand. People hovered and stared. Finally I hovered beside one guy and stared back!
Who is looking at who?
After setting up, we boiled some water and sat down with a cup of tea. As the load speakers started blaring music, a man, fairly high on something, wandered up and sat on our gas burner. After some awkward minutes, the eighteenth guy selling peanuts approached and on seeing the man sitting on our gas burner, quickly jumped away behind our car. But the man had seen the peanut guy and started to chase him. They came to a standstill, one on either side of our car and I asked Tim if we had locked the car as I expected one or both of them to hop in. Then the peanut boy dashed out, was tousled up by the other guy but wriggled away and was chased through our tents and tea and thankfully off down the road. We then made sure everything stayed locked in the car.
Laugh and eat burgers...
The man running the campsite was really helpful and kind. And that evening he gave us a key to one of the little beach huts so that we could charge our phones safely in there. I was also glad that we could sneak in to use the toilet which saved a trip to the rather public hole in the bar area. There was a communal area with one door saying Wanawake (Women) but in my experience there, the men had no regard for either the sign or the door itself!

By 9pm we were feeling very ready to settle in our tents for the night. Trying to ignore the loud music that had now been going on incessantly for 6 hours, we tried to go sleep. Surely it couldn’t get worse!
Later on, a couple came up to our tent with the campsite guy to wake us up. Arriving late, looking for a place to stay, they needed the key to the beach hut. I crawled out of bed and realised we had given the key to the girls. I went to get it, gave it to them and went back to bed. 

Soon after 11pm, Amisadai threw up. I settled her in my camp bed in the compartment in our tent, and went to join Louisa in their little pup tent. Around midnight with the loud music now blasting out more swear words than I had ever heard, I marched out of the tent to the bar to see what I could do. But I chickened out halfway and crawled back into the tent! Surely it couldn’t get worse!


Around 1am, I was horrified to see the shadow of a man creep up to our pup tent and crouch down to the zip. Heart beating fast, I prayed! The shadow moved away … and then I remembered I had left my sandy crocs outside the door of the tent. I unzipped the tent and realised, yes, my crocs were gone and zipped the tent back up. But then very cross, realised I didn’t want to lose my crocs, so unzipped the tent and marched out barefoot  in my pajamas to find the croc thief. There was a man and I marched over to him and asked if he had seen a man steal my shoes. He looked blankly at me as I continued rambling on in Swahili about thieves and shoes … he told me to wait there. Then he came back with my crocs. He told me there were thieves around and to keep them in the tent. I asked him if he could turn the music off. And went back to bed. It couldn’t get worse.

At around 3am the rumbles of thunder began. Pretty soon, the biggest thunderstorm hit the beach. Great cracks of thunder, bolts of lightning, torrential rains, waves crashing on the sand beside us. Our little tent was bent over and shaking. Drips were coming from the top and puddles were seeping from the bottom. It was really crazy and very noisy. Louisa was reciting over and over “The Lord was not in the storm. The Lord was not in the earthquake. The Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still, small voice.” We zipped up tight in our bags in the middle. There was a brief respite in which we were able to call out to Tim and Amisadai in the other tent. Amisadai was rather glad she had thrown up and got a camp bed! Then it started again! We waited until the end of the rains at 7:30am to crawl out into the grey morning. It couldn’t get worse.

We hung out our bedding and other wet things. Mopped up the tent. Amisadai was feeling a bit better and cooked up bacon and egg and fried tomatoes, baked beans and toast. Everything is better with a good camp breakfast! Louisa, by now highly security-conscious insisted everything be packed into the car and come with us as we went to find a women’s bakery and then some waterfalls. It was hard to convince her not to take the tents with us!

Drying out...

Amisadai gets on with breakfast
After driving about and abandoning the car to proceed on foot, it was good to find the BUWEA women’s bakery and food processing centre. I had been in contact with the woman running it and was very interested to chat to her about the work and training they do there. They were busy processing Soya milk, yogurt and flour. They have a big fuel-efficient stove for baking bread and cakes and provide the neighbouring orphanage with bread. We were given some of the legendary banana muffins they also sell. 
Processing the soya


We went on to find a nearby waterfall for some walking and picnicking. But when we arrived at the trailhead, there was an empty shack next to a large board stating fees to walk there. Not sure we could safely leave the car, I went to investigate. Hearing the falls close by, I started down the trail. Suddenly a guy with a machete was running towards me, shouting! He was there cutting back bushes, but adamant we could not enter the trail without paying $10 each! But there was no one to give the money to. The machete guy said the guard had left for a while. We tried some negotiating, but there was no way. We would have to go and find some office to pay and get tickets in order to come back and walk the few metres to the waterfall. As the rain started coming down, and Amisadai not feeling well, we decided it really wasn’t worth all the effort and cost. We decided to go back to town and find the museum instead. After much driving around and following wild goose instructions in every direction, we gave up and returned to the campsite to eat a rather late lunch. Amisadai slept and we read our books. We lost count of how many peanuts we were asked to buy. Louisa rather stunned one of the guys staring at us as she forcefully burst out in Swahili questioning what he was doing and why he was standing there and told him to walk on!
As the loud music started up again in the afternoon, we decided to go and make the most of clear skies and find a viewpoint we had been told about for the sunset. The directions which sounded easy before we left, didn’t make any sense as we drove around with no hill in sight! We texted our friend at the campsite for further instructions. He sent very detailed instructions, 400m left, 200m straight on, followed by 100m right, directing us to the 72 steps to climb up. But it wasn’t clear where the starting point was! We saw a hill which looked promising and drove towards it and starting looking and asking in vain for steps. We gave up over three times as the sun was getting lower, but each time found reason to hope … and searched on. Finally, we saw a way up the hill! Tim was a bit concerned about leaving the car (which had absolutely everything in it!) but with our camera and binoculars, we climbed quickly up the 72 steps and arrived at a beautiful viewpoint. A quick photo opportunity, but seeing the people crowding around our car far below, Tim decided to go back down while the girls and I enjoyed the view a bit longer. We decided to climb up the rocks to reach the top. 

Poking our heads up as we summited, we realised we were not alone as we saw huddled further in the rocks, a group of guys smoking something. It would have been great to watch the sunset at the top, but the three of us felt it better not to hang around with our fancy camera and binoculars! As they spotted us and started shouting, we turned for a hasty retreat, me thinking it was ironic that Tim was protecting our passports and belongings down below! The girls were far quicker and more agile than me on the steep rocks. With the camera swinging from my neck, I was descending rather more un-elegantly on my rear end, when the girls turned and urged me in a loud hissed whisper to “HURRY, MUM! The guys are running after us!” My first thought was to tell them to wait for me! But then realised it was probably better that they hurry down! I bumped and slid my way down. Finally we reached the 72 steps. I saw Tim in the distance below and waved quite demonstratively, more to show the guys behind me that we had back-up below! About twenty people staring up waved back, and I realised we would actually be fine. But still it took a while for my adrenalin to stop pumping after we reached the car! So much for the peaceful sunset spot with the panoramic view.
On the way up! 
That evening, in stitches and tears laughing at how much had gone wrong, we decided maybe this was enough for a holiday… and we would cut our losses and return home early. We made the most of our last evening, cooking over a campfire with hot chocolate. As the music blared and we crawled into our tents the second night, I checked the forecast on my phone. 90% chance of thunderstorms after 4am. I prayed it wouldn’t be! At 6am, we woke to the sound of distant thunder rumbling across the lake. No! We would NOT be caught in this. I jumped out of bed, quickly folded up the bed and shoved the sheets into a bag. Running to the girls tent, as spots of rain started to fall, I told them to get up and out FAST and get the tent down before the storm arrived! We ran about in the dark, throwing everything in the car, the tents dropping to the ground as we pulled pegs and poles. 


Quick work!
A red light burned the rumbling dark sky as we finished and with spots collecting on the windshield, we were off before the sun was up.  By 1pm, we were back at the Busisi Ferry and the girls and I boarded … still in my pajamas! We pulled away from the shore, waving futilely at Tim who didn’t make it on with the car! We waited on the other side for him to join us on the next ferry. 

We picked up pizza in Mwanza and enjoyed it in the comfort of our home at 4pm. Holiday over! Not exactly relaxing but truly unforgettable and pretty hilarious now that it's over!