Trip blog post #03 (14th January – 26th January)
As we had to wait for our COVID-19 test results to come back, we now had a few days on our hands to spend before we could go on with our journey. Being in Africa gives one a sense of adventure and nudges you to seize every opportunity, so when we got the chance to go to the Serengeti National Park, we didn’t hesitate! Of course, this was out of our own pockets, but it was most definitely worth it. The morning of the 14th we drove to the Park, one of Africa’s best and biggest gems. The afternoon and the next morning we went on the ultimate game drive, catching the end of the Great Migration. We saw lots of different wild animals, and to watch them living untouched, undisturbed, was a pleasure to see. Highlights included lion, cheetahs, buffalo, elephants, hippos and thousands of zebras. The afternoon of the 15th we drove back to Mwanza, unable to stop talking about all that we had seen. It truly was an amazing experience. The Park values the conservation of its animals and landscapes above all, and it was rewarding to see what nature looks like when it is being protected.
The morning of the 16th started as any other morning, but the day quickly went wayward. The idea was to reach Bukoba by the end of the day, but because we (ahem, Xander and Pieter) thought a short cut might be a good idea, we ended up getting the bakkies stuck next to rice lands for a whopping six hours! At first only the one bakkie got stuck, and we thought it’s not a problem as the second bakkie is fully equipped to pull it out. But the clay soil got the best of us, and our second bakkie soon also got stuck. The villagers only studied us from afar as we got down on our hands and knees to start digging the bakkies out. We stayed positive at first, but after digging for quite a while and getting drenched in mud, we became quite anxious. It must have shown on our faces, because the villagers tentatively came closer to see what was going on. As most of them did not even understand Tanzania’s first language, Swahili (never mind English!), our communication with them was reduced to playing charades. It is quite challenging to get the message across without using a common language, but eventually they understood enough to bring us their tractor. By now we and our bakkies were surrounded by half the village, and every movement we made was followed by big eyes from the children. We were an anomaly to them! When the tractor managed to pull out both bakkies, everyone, Vet Books members and villagers alike, cheered loudly. It was a beautiful moment of people coming together from different backgrounds, ethnicities and ways of living, and rejoicing together over a shared victory. We were very relieved to get going, and from then on, the drivers were extra vigilant to prevent us from getting stuck again. We wasted a lot of valuable time that was meant to be spent on the road that day, so we made the decision to push through to still get to Bukoba. It meant that we ate dinner on the road and the drivers had to push and swop quite a few times, and eventually (at half past three the morning) we got to our next camping site. We aren’t planning on doing that again!
Since we set up camp in the pitch-black darkness, we could only appreciate the beauty of our campsite the next morning. We were on one of the beaches of Lake Victoria, and it was breath-taking! It gave the illusion of being on an island, with coconut trees, rocks and waves dancing across the shoreline. The water spanned the horizon, sometimes calm, sometimes making chopping movements. It was here that we spent the next day recuperating: the bakkies needed to get a bit of maintenance, our food supplies had to be replenished and we needed to do some serious washing of our clothes! After all the chores were done, we spent the rest of the night on the campsite’s deck, enjoying the view and getting to know the owner of the facility, Mary.
In light of the political instability going on in Uganda and after a lot of deliberation, we decided to rather forego our visit to the country. It was a difficult decision to make and we hesitated quite a bit, but when they deployed the Ugandan army into Kampala, we made the call. We hope that the next committee will be able to visit their university in two years’ time.
The morning of the 18th we hit the road very early to cover 559 kilometres all the way to Kigoma. It was a full day of driving and we only got to Jacobsen’s Beach by nightfall. The next day was used to do much needed repairs on one of the bakkies. Once again, we were very lucky to be staying at a beautiful campsite, this time at Lake Tanganyika. The lake isn’t nearly as big as Lake Victoria, but it is very deep and every bit as stunning. After getting the bakkie back good as new and finishing off admin work and upkeep of our campsite, we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the lake. We ended the day off by enjoying the sun setting over the lake, casting golden flecks that were dancing over the water. It was an awesome sight to behold. The next day, due to not going into Uganda, we had an off day to explore the town of Kigoma and buy some souvenirs. The next morning, we were very sad to be leaving and promised ourselves to one day return. The next two days were spent traveling the western side of Tanzania all the way down ta Sumbawanga
The 23rd we travelled across a border into Zambia and got to Kapishya Hot Springs through some beautiful rocky scenery along the way. Kapishya must have been one of the most idyllic spots on our trip so far. The place has hot springs which feed into the warmest, purest natural pool. We had the privilege to swim in it and bask in its warmth! It is truly amazing to see the wonders of nature at work.
The 24th to the 26th the Vet Books team got to spend time in one of the wildest, most remote places in Zambia: North Luangwa National Park. We got to see various aspects of the park management and how much energy they put into conserving and protecting the area. It was spectacular to have witnessed the sheer passion the staff of the park have towards its animals and its natural environment. These people literally give their lives to protect this wildest and most beautiful Zambian fauna and flora. It was a special treat to see, as conservation at this level is literally what the Vet Books mission strives to achieve.
The last week and few days have provided a lot of highs and lows, and every day we are aware of the fact that this is a very big adventure. We are thankful for the opportunity that has been given to us, and aim to make as big a difference on the last leg of the trip as is possible.