Gombe Stream safari:
So, in our attempts to see as many different facets of Tanzania as possible in our time here, on Good Friday Patricia and I got up at 3 a.m. for a 3:30 taxi to the airport. After a two hour flight we landed in Kigoma, in the north west corner of the country, on the shores of Lake Tanganika. (The Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi are on the other side of the lake, so many refugees cross the lake to Tanzania. There are 3 refugee camps in or near Kigoma.)
Tomu, our cook for the next 3 days, greeted us. A ten minute drive got us to the harbour where we boarded a covered, largish wooden motor boat. All our luggage, the food Tomu had ordered and a propane tank cookstove were loaded. There is no food available in the park.
The boat’s engine was not running smoothly for what was supposed to be a 2 hour boat ride northbound along the east bank of the lake (on a very pleasant day) to the park. It chugged along on what sounded like three cylinders. We passed ferry loads of workers coming south from the park to the town for a day off, all in bright orange life jackets, saw many little villages spaced along the shore, and many fishermen, until we crossed into the Gombe Stream National Park. Then signs of humans became extremely limited. Fishing and hunting (by humans) are prohibited.
About 15 minutes by boat from camp, I thought the sputtering engine finally would conk out….and it did, but not the way I expected! We hit a rock and the motor fell into the lake.
Luckily it was tied on and the helper (who had been driving while the Captain slept) kept hold of the handle. However the motor was immersed… and once out, it refused to start (no surprise). I wasn’t sure how the story would go from there, as we were far from any villages and there were no other boats in sight. As we waited while the Captain took apart the engine, we watched brilliant blue butterflies sitting on the beach eating, fluttering their wings, rising briefly off the sand whenever a wave came. The rocks were granite, like in Muskoka, only smoothed, with pebble beaches. Little rivers flowed out from the woods. Baboons also searched the sand for food.
It became clear that the boat was going nowhere without help…and none was to be seen. So Captain Baraka, going above and beyond the call of duty, jumped into the water and pulled the boat along the shore for over 1.5 hours, with his helper keeping the stern of the boat off the rocks with a paddle. Luckily it was a gently sloped shoreline. Every once in a while he would need to cool off by diving under water, then went back to guiding the boat along the shore. We knew we were nearing the camp when we saw hikers in the woods: relief all around.
Once we arrived at Gombe, Baraka arranged to transport the motor to the nearest village, as it would need to be repaired to make the return trip. Not having a boat meant a bit more walking for us, as we sought out where the chimps were. Luckily, just after we arrived and started hiking, two chimps, Fudge and Tomu, came CHARGING down the path after some baboons , then started calling and drumming, apparently to gather their clan. Very exciting! The day ended at the waterfall, with a standing rainbow.