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

Friday, 14 February 2014

Backpacks and Lifejackets: Our Island Trek

We thought that our journey going out to an island in Lake Victoria was adventurous enough, but it was nothing compared to the journey home! Some may dream of island cruises to celebrate Valentine's Day; well we will never forget our first trip to the island... although it was rather far from romantic!

We left early at 7:30am on Wednesday morning, with two backpacks, three lifejackets and six bottles of water. We went with Dr Makori and his good friend, Naha. The boat was much bigger than we expected, seating 150+ people and even with cooking facilities on board. They had huge pots of rice and chai cooking on charcoal stoves at the back of the boat. We were on the boat at 9am ready for departure but were delayed in the port for an hour. We finally docked at our island, Kome, around 4pm. It was a scrum getting off the boat, hoards of people clamouring over goods loaded (thrown) and chains and ropes! We scrambled over the rocks in the water to shore, lugging our luggage and keeping together!

Backpacks and lifejackets

Coming off the boat

First views of Kome Island
We found Dr Isaac waiting for us (more about him later) and he took us to our lodgings. We were pleasantly surprised, as we had been expecting the worst after Tim's last trip to an island a number of years ago at which the "hotel" was a rat-infested shack. We saw lots of the wooden shacks, which Tim nervously pointed out to me, but passed them by to stay at a nice brick built guesthouse/bar. Our rooms even had what Tim called an ensuite, although they didn't have a suite of any kind. Maybe you could call it an enhole. And we had an enbucket as well.

We ordered some "lupper" (lunch/dinner) when we arrived at 4:30pm and sat to wait for it. It finally arrived at 9pm! But it was very tasty rice and tilapia fish.

 After a good night's sleep amid the noise and activity of the island bar, breakfast was chapatis, eggs ... and fish. Lunch we ordered at 1pm... and that was so late it was dinner! We finally ate our ugali and yes, fish, at 6pm! But we had an amazingly interesting day! I think I will save all the amazing interesting bits about the island work for the next blog and get back to the backpacks and lifejackets of the journey for now!

We rose early this morning at 4:30am ready to return. We had forgotten our flashlights (torches) and it was no easy feat getting the four of us ready to go in the pitch blackness - even just aiming over the enhole was pretty tricky. And we didn't even bother trying to clean our teeth and spit! But we were out to meet our daladala ("local bus") at 5am for a different way home. The six of us sat there with a whole load of others crammed into one little vehicle... waiting for the driver. He arrived. Nothing happened. Some guys fiddled with the battery under our seats until life surged into the daladala. We were off. At breakneck speed over the bumps in the darkness. A little tingle of nervous apprehension! We sped across the island, arriving in time for the 6:30am boat. Still in total darkness, we clambered out of the daladala, bought our boat tickets and boarded the small ferry boat. We sat on metal benches in the darkness, waiting as antiquated pickup trucks and dodgy daladalas drove on. The state of the vehicles was unbelievable! On one truck guys were securing the back wheel with rope! Another had a terribly flat tire. Others were ridiculously overloaded.

The early morning boat

Watching the sun rise on Lake Victoria
The sun rose with us over the Lake. We crossed in an hour and got back on our daladala. There were more people now and I ended up sitting on a sack of something, near the two fish flopped on the floor with another man basically sitting with his bottom at my shoulder. Not a pleasant view. But going over the bumps, I guess his rear end did cushion my head! As we hit the road (quite literally) I couldn't see how we could make the journey in one piece. Overcrowded with bodies (and sacks and backpacks and lifejackets) we were hurtling along rough dirt roads. More than tingly apprehension now! Then bang! The front suspension collapsed. We figured that was it. We weren’t going anywhere. We all piled out onto the dirt road to wait. But men quickly hoisted the vehicle up, crawled under and with a strange amount of hard whacking seemed to get us in action again … I think they had done this before! We all piled in. Fifteen minutes down the road it happened again. More hard whacking. Piled back in (but this time I had a seat and no man’s bottom).

Suspension Problem

Fish beside my green sack "seat"

Overtaken by the truck who fixed his wheel together with rope!

... and again!

We arrived at the next town (Sengerema) at about 9:45am where we had to pick up another mode of transportation to get to our next ferry. We found a taxi, and all happily fell into the car, only to find that he was seriously overcharging us so we exited to find another daladala. We found one, and piled in, with backpacks and lifejackets and significantly less water. After half an hour sitting in it going nowhere, a fight broke out. Police arrived. We were kicked out and our driver was taken off with the police. We found another daladala which was empty. But then sat in it for an hour (now pretty hot!) while the driver waited to fill it to capacity. Which he more than succeeded at. Now Tim had his knee up an ample woman's bottom (no, not mine!). Now was real fear as the dirt road was straight and the driver just stepped on it. We flew over bumps, careening on the road. I wondered how the tires could take such a beating ... until we came to an abrupt halt. Puncture! Yet another wait on the side of the road. Seriously cannot believe this journey!
Puncture Problem
We finally arrived at our next ferry at noon, in time to see it just untie the ropes and float away. We waited for the next one an hour later and enjoyed a rather peaceful calm crossing straight to the heart of Mwanza. We unloaded all backpacks and thankfully unused lifejackets into a taxi and arrived safely at home. We had thought we would be home in time for a latish breakfast at 10am. We delved hungrily into pizza at 4pm!

Waiting in the final ferry line ... with the lifejackets!

So we are thankful for God's sovereignty! It was definitely Him protecting us on our journeys ... as our safe arrival in Mwanza, you can clearly see, had nothing at all to do with human responsibility! And we are thankful for an amazing time on the island, which I will tell about next time!

How many husbands can top this for taking his beloved wife out on Valentine's Day?
(Actually, I think this was a real "love" adventure in lots of ways!)


  1. Amazing. One is tempted to say TIA but it never ceases to amaze that anyone gets anywhere in such chaos. What you missed on the rats you certainly made up for on the travel. Thank you Lord for safe journeys

    1. Yes - very grateful there were no rats :)


Please leave us message! We love to hear your news and thoughts too!