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Boarding the Ferry on Lake Tanganyika

Mplungu, Zambia – We got up and after packing our day packs for our ferry journey we took a walk around this port town. Not a lot in town but the port itself so we went and vegged our at our nicely landscaped campsite. While we were sitting there killing time waiting for the ferry I ran into a British dude, Thomas, who I recognized but couldn’t place. He told me we’d met at the Sable Lodge – chalk up one for the travel river again!

One o’clock rolled around and it was time for us to head to the ferry. Our truck was supposed to make the three day drive around the lake in time to pick us up at the port in Kigoma, Tanzania, but since the radiator was laying on the grass ten feet from the truck when we left I’m not counting on it being there. For some unknown reason Jim, Tom and Mike all wanted to make the hell drive around the lake so they were staying behind with Boz and Mick. The rest of us headed over to the port, and since it was a few days travel by boat were carrying a ton of food and two jerry cans with treated water for us to drink. The girls got to carry the food and Rich and I ended up carrying the water – which weighed a ton.

We had a fair walk ahead of us so after exhausting both of our arms we ended up following the old saying “when in Rome . . .” and put the jerry cans on our heads. The things were so damn heavy and using your head (excuse the pun) definitely was easier, but after a while your neck and back begin to hurt from the pressure. After actually carrying something on our heads both Rich and I earned a new found respect for those African women who can balance the weight we were carrying on our heads and have a new born infant strapped on their backs. I was the first to arrive at the port and since I was so close to being able to drop my load on the ferry I was practically running through the gate towards the boat. As I went through the gate this dude sitting near what looked like a guard’s post called out for me to come to him. He didn’t have any uniform on so I thought we just wanted to sell me something so I waved him off and kept on truckin’ towards the boat.

Little did I know that there was a Zambian police officer sitting next to him due to a tree blocking my view. I then heard two voices screaming at me sternly – one of them being the police official. The only thing they tell you about Zambia is not to piss off the government officials because they’ll get on a power trip and really make your life difficult. I’d just broken that golden rule and when I realized what I’d done I had a major adrenaline rush to assist with my already scrambled thinking. I went over and talked to the police officer in the politest cocktail party manner I’ve ever mustered – the last thing I needed was to miss the boat due to some power hungry official causing me problems.

He was visibly pissed off, but after some of my charming (in addition to my acting like the dumbest person he’d ever met) the beast mellowed out and told me to wait over on the grass until the immigration and customs office opened.

The whole experience really unnerved me, especially since they’re not too keen on issuing U.S. citizens with visas (how we got ours in one day I’ll never know.) The others arrived and after waiting a bit we all managed to clear customs and immigration without a hitch. We got on the boat and it turned out to be pretty nice – personally I was expecting a cross between an Egyptian train and a Malawian bus. We’d been booked into two second class cabins over the engine room which weren’t too bad except for the thirty eight degree C constant temperature.

The boat pulled away from port and we were off! Met this Zambian dude in the second class cattle car section who had a bow board so after a few games of bow I grabbed Rich and Brenda and we went up to the bar to try this Primus beer we’d been hearing so much about. The owner of the bar took us into his office to change our dollars into Tanzanian shillings (illegal) so we could go spend our newly acquired currency in his bar. The Tanzanian immigration officer tracked us down after a while and gave us landing cards, but since he was holding a Primus in his hand at the time he said he’d deal with the papers after supper. We never did see him again.

This Primus beer is definitely the strongest beer I have ever had anywhere in the world. You’re definitely drunk after one bottle and after two it’s about nap time. Three and you’ll be stupid and stumbling. Haven’t made it to the three bottle mark yet; I always end up taking the nap after bottle number two. After dinner and finishing my second Primus I went down to our second class sweat box to get some sleep.

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