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Pole to Pole

Day 106: Kigoma to Mpulungu

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe pull away at 5 p.m. The Australian and New Zealand overlanders have taken over the stern deck, and the locals crowd into the bows or the lower covered decks, squashing in with their boxloads of plastic sandals, pineapples, and even Lion Brand Mosquito Coils - 'Keep Out of Damp' - and with apparent good grace accepting the presence of two white-owned Land Rovers, which further reduce the space. At least we can all feel ourselves better off than the several hundred tired and confused occupants of the Kabambare, a barge just arrived from Kalemie in Zaire. They are refugees from the inter-tribal violence which has recently flared up in their country. They do not know if the Tanzanian authorities will accept them.

A last look at Kigoma from the departing ferry. I had come here expecting dense jungle, snakes, monkeys and swamps. Instead the town at the centre of Africa resembles a small port on a discreet Scottish loch, with the railway line running picturesquely between the water and low grassy hills - reassuring, comfortable, rendered exotic only by the bright slash of purple from the jacaranda trees on the shore.

My cabin has the stamp of Tanzanian Railways all over it. It claims to be air-conditioned but the fan is missing. There is a basin but no water, hot or cold. All but one of the light bulbs is missing.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 106
  • Country/sea: Tanzania
  • Place: Kigoma
  • Book page no: 240

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