On The Shores Of A Huge African Lake

What do you say we plan a day at the lake?

Sounds nice, right?

Since I was a boy, I’ve loved going to the lake—to swim, to fish, to picnic, all of it done with the water, the waves, the shore, the breeze, and the loon’s call setting this scene of peaceful invigoration.

Now how about a day at the lake—in Africa?

Tropical fish, tropical plant life, tropical people.

This we gotta see.

After last week’s piece describing the natural splendor around Tanzanian’s southwestern city, Tukuyu, we now follow my journey in early July as I headed a bit further south. I planned for a couple of nights in a village called Matema Beach right on the northern tip of giant Lake Nyasa.

Along the two hour ride via minibus and then switching to a van, the tropical aspect made itself known. Tukuyu had been heavily forested hills. Nearing the lake, one the other hand, things flattened out with palms whose fronds were so enormous, they resembled giant bushes.

We stopped frequently, once me needing to switch rides. Another time there was a lengthy pause for reasons I still don’t know. No matter. When you’re traveling like this, the journey is just as big a part of the experience as the destination.

I hopped out to greet children and adults in the roadside village. Their tribal tongue and the brew I discovered them cooking were perhaps the only two variables in these typical Tanzanian small-town conditions.

Also typical, the boys wanted something from the foreigner. But they did give me pose, so I complied with cookies.

Different group of boys, same excitement for the camera.

The one there had a condition I hadn’t seen before–had never heard off. Half albino. His pigment-less half split him right in two.

And I think I bumped into his mom and sis behind the roadside buildings. I wanted a closer look at what I’d been seeing on this van trip south: 30-gallon barrels over a fire and filled to the brim boiling with some pasty white concoction.

They told me it was made of maize. Not sure if it was alcoholic.

We hopped back in the van and drove on for a short while before entering another village for which I was told to exit. This village was indeed the one I sought, Matema Beach. I couldn’t yet see the lake in the village center. There were wooden stands of produce and a few small shops and one-room restaurants. Before I could take in too much of this, I was approached by a man as I stood there with my suitcase. “Hello!” said the friendly, young, hefty man. “My name is Moyo.”

Not surprising, he was looking for a little cash for his guidance. But in this case, I was grateful because he took me to a guesthome my guidebook hadn’t mentioned and was only a couple hundred yards from where we were.

Off we went:

The plain leading to the lake from the north runs into the Livingstone Mountains running along the lake’s east coast.

The guesthouse was also half the price of the other lodgings and had everything I needed—and yes, it was right on the beach.

Another benefit of this guesthouse was that it was away from the others—away from the other tourists, that is, but in the middle of village activity. I put my things away, and the next thing I did was what I’d come all this way to do: take a walk on the beach.

It was equal parts natural beauty and local living:

It wasn’t all fun and games. The lake is where clothes get washed.

Scrub them clothes in the coarse sand.

Black grains in the sand

The lake also makes for a giant bathtub.

Perhaps these boys could have used a rubber ducky:

Some young guys got my attention. They were the rare adults who invited their picture taken:

This first day was just a walk on the beach. The next was a dive into the lake’s biggest impact on the villager’s lives: fishing.

Next week I show you the tree-trunk-carved canoes and the hauls they bring in each morning.


What say you?