Tomorrow we are going to Lake Tanganyika.
Because of this – and because our safari will mean she misses several days of school – Hat has embarked on a project Hat in the Footsteps on the Great Explorers. She is reading a child’s history on Livingstone in honour of our expedition and tells me Livingstone was cool. She is astounded that Burton – who with Speke discovered the lake in 1853 – mastered 30 languages and she is hard pressed to comprehend the significance of Stanley’s ”Livingstone, I presume?” when he finally found the doctor on the lake’s shores in Ujiji. He was the first white man to sight Livingstone, who was missing and believed by many to be dead, in six years I tell her. She’s not quite as impressed as I’d hoped she’d be.
Tanganyika is the second largest freshwater lake in the world, and the second deepest. Which is why the first explorers dubbed it an inland sea. It is bordered by four countries: Tanzania, Burundi, the DRC and Zambia and is clearly visible from space.
The lake has played a prominent role in history since Burton and Speke’s time: it was the scene of two important battles during WW1; in the mid sixties the Argentian revolutionary Che Guevara used the western shores of the lake as a training ground for guerrila forces in the Congo and in the 90’s Michael Palin spent time on the lake during the BBC’s Pole to Pole series aboard the MV Liembe which was once a German ship called the Graf von Götzen. Bombed by the allies in June of 1916, scuttled by the Germans a month later, in a bid to prevent it falling into enemy hands and eventually repaired and reborn as the MV Liemba, the ship is still busily afloat and doing lake runs today.
Hat’s wish list for the weekend is growing according to her reading: she wants to witness the place of Stanley’s immortal words to the doctor, she wants to take a ride on the MV Liembe and she wants to ”sit on the beach”. Her father wants to swim and snorkel – the lake is home to over 400 species of fish, many of them as brilliantly coloured as tropical seafish. And he wants to buy fish to bring home for the deep freeze.
Like he did when we went to Mwanza on Lake Victoria – further north than Lake Tanganyika and ascribed as being infamous Source by John Hanning Speke. Mwanza is a straggling ugly town, the worst kind of example of African urbanization: chaotic, ill-planned, straddling the ”balancing rocks” and kopjes that abound upon which have mushroomed the town’s extensive slums.
Not suprisingly, therefore, Mwanza generates alot of sewage which might be a problem elsewhere but which it isn’t there since lake is handy dumping ground. The city’s effluent is poured into the lake and the fish – as a result, and certainly those close to the town (most of them I should think, certainly those with a bit of savvy about where a meal is to be found) – are very fat.
During our evening in Mwanza we enjoyed an excellent chicken curry. Not fish, husband said, ”absolutely not fish, I know what they eat around here”.
Quite, I agreed and got stuck in my Chicken Tikka.
I was somewhat suprised the next morning, then, to hear husband announce he was off to buy fish from the market to bring home for the deep freeze.
But you wouldnt’ order fish, last night, I said. On account of its diet.
I know, he said, but I shall buy fish that were caught from the middle of the lake. Not those that feast on crap near the town.
Ah. Right. Silly me.
And you would – of course – be able to tell, in the fish market, which fish came from where.