05 January 2017

a babymoon trip to kigoma, tanzania.

It was early December and Michael and I realized how quickly Baby Leen's arrival was approaching. We had heard of this thing called a 'babymoon,' where a couple takes their one last opportunity to relax and travel before a loud, hungry, crying bundle of joy comes into their world. Given this impending reality, we didn't need to debate this babymoon idea too much.


But where to go? Luckily, we had recently spoken with friends who recommended Kigoma, Tanzania, a small town on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania. Knowing it would fit our budget and would be likely our last chance to see more of Tanzania, we decided to give it a shot.

Getting There

Not averse to the occasional roadtrip here or there, we signed up for the long haul to Kigoma in our organization's Toyota Hilux. Really glad we decided to bring that vehicle, because boy, did we need it!


For starters, a one-way trip from our spot in Mabatini, Mwanza to Kigoma will run your car for about 472 miles. This doesn't sound too bad until you factor in the frequent 50 kilometer-per-hour speed limits (that's about 31 miles-per-hour for you Americans) and the horribly rough, dirt roads you encounter along the way. Oh, and don't forget that one of your passengers is 32 weeks pregnant and doesn't want to bounce the baby out too early. Somehow, after about 12 hours jostling around in the truck, we made it safely to our destination. I wish I could say no worse for the wear but... I would be lying.

Lodging

We were really lucky to stumble upon guest houses run by an American mission organization, called Joy in the Harvest, in Kigoma, a recommendation from missionary friends living in another part of Tanzania. They have done amazing work in the Kigoma region, from vocational and other educational opportunities for young people to running a Christian radio station to lots of other inspiring stuff. In addition, they have a number of private guest houses on their property for visitors and fellow mission workers in Tanzania. The house was lovely and offered gorgeous lake views.


Thank you, Joy in the Harvest, for the generous hospitality!

Kigoma 

As I mentioned earlier, Kigoma is a Tanzanian town in western Tanzania, situated on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika. Lake Tanganyika is a beautiful, freshwater lake bordered by Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Zambia. It's so long and narrow (the second longest in the world, in fact!) that on clear days, we could see the Congo from Kigoma's coast.


Kigoma Region is home to an estimated 2 million Tanzanians, while the town itself only holds about 200,000 of those folks. The region is famous for the first European explorers to visit it: Richard Burton, John Speke, Henry Morton Stanley, and David Livingstone. Yes, even the phrase, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" comes from the meeting of Stanley and Livingstone on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1871. But I'm sure you knew that already, right?

What to Do

We spent all of our time on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, at a couple of beaches owned by Jakobsen's Guesthouse. Given that we can't swim in Lake Victoria (darn you bilharzia!), we were itching to get wet and relax in the water. There was a daily entrance fee (TZS 7,000...about $3.20)  to use the beach and its facilities, but that was it, given that we arrived with picnic lunch and snacks in tow! Although there are other beaches in Kigoma, we had heard Jakobsen's were the only ones worth visiting and we were really pleased with the cleanliness of the beach and the water.

We were joined by some additional visitors at the beach, including zebras, monkey, and scary caterpillars. I should probably elaborate.

The zebras were great - pretty much just doing their zebra thing, eating plants around the banks of the lake and drinking lake water. No big deal and really pretty to watch up close and personal.


The monkeys were not so great. They decided it would be cool to try to steal all of our food while we were in the lake swimming. I'm embarrassed to report that they successfully stole some potato chips while we sat five feet in front of them with our backs turned! It's a humbling moment when you realize you've been outsmarted by a fellow mammal one-fifth your size.


The scary caterpillars were exceedingly not great. As I accidentally brushed one with my arm, it embedded its stinging hair into my skin, causing a rash, severe burning and red swelling. Um, it hurt, y'all. As of the writing of this blog post, over one month later, you can still see the marks it made on my arm. So word to the wise: do not mess with the caterpillars.

Kigoma is admittedly not a place to go out of your way to visit but for those living in East Africa or already traveling in western Tanzania, it's certainly worth a one- or two-day stop to unwind and kick back at the beach. Given that we likely won't be doing a lot of traveling once #LittleLeen2017 has arrived, we were grateful for the chance to see a little bit more of our 'home away from home' country before the year ended!

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