Tanzania - Lake Victoria
Thu 9 Oct
Found Yona, the purser, who’d been told by the owner to look after me. He found me a chair and put it on the walkway outside the wheelhouse and stored my bag in his cabin. It soon became clear I was in for some sort of VIP treatment. Later after I found how crowded the normal passenger space was I was grateful to be given my own seat in the "crew only" area.
The ferry was a proper diesel powered, steel hull vessel with a drive-on reverse-off front cargo area, and two passenger decks, one with a counter serving food and drinks. The only cabins were for the crew. I guess it was about 25m long. By the time we departed the ship was truly loaded up with people and luggage - one guy walked on carrying a brand new, boxed, outboard motor - it looked really heavy. By 1000 I was ready for a "chai" (sweet black tea) and a "mandazi" (donut). I went to order it at the food counter on the lower deck and was told to go back upstairs - they would bring it. After a while someone came up with water so I could wash my hands and a whole Thermos flask of tea for me. The donuts were slightly oily but delicious.
We made many stops along the way with the ritual unloading and loading. The cargo, as you might imagine, comprised crates and crates of beer, sacks of maize or rice or flour, sheets of corrugated iron, wooden poles (these were destined to the one island that wasn't heavily wooded) and foam mattresses. These island villages survive on fish and I suspect timber. Many islands were heavily wooded and the houses were made of timber. This meant (unusually in my experience) they could build huts with a second storey, although this seemed to be limited to the village guesthouse or eatery.
As the sun got higher and any shade disappeared I sat on the bridge. It was quite fun chatting with the crew and watching the radar, GPS, and sonar. Lunch was brought to me and I was invited to eat it in the Captain’s cabin. While enjoying chomping through rice, meat stew, green bananas (savoury) and spinach I spotted a power point. I got hopeful about charging the camera but was told I’d have to wait till nightfall when they would start the generator.
We made our penultimate stop at about 1800. It looked lovely in the soft sun-setting light. As we sped away darkness was soon upon us - but I only managed 60mins charging before we reached Iguza; our furthest island and my destination. Yona asked one of the disembarking passengers, a chap called Peter, to "look after me" and we went ashore into a pitch black night.
Tanzania - Lake Victoria