06-Mar-2016 -- Kigoma is the end of the rail line, the remote Western frontier of Tanzania that takes several days to a week to reach overland from coastal Dar es Salaam. It is an attractive and peaceful place. Nestled on the banks of superlative Lake Tanganyika, the dark mountains of DR Congo visible beneath a low shroud of clouds on the opposite shore, Kigoma is now continuous with its older neighbouring village Ujiji. Ujiji’s claim to fame is as the site where Stanley finally tracked down Dr. David Livingstone (four years after he disappeared into the jungle searching for the source of the Nile), and uttered the legendary greeting. A memorial and museum mark the presumed spot. To the north is Gombe Stream National Park, location of the Jane Goodall Institute and home to several communities of Chimpanzee. Just beyond Gombe is the border with Burundi, from where over 150,000 refugees have poured into the Kigoma area since their President controversially announced a third term, kicking off waves of violence. This probably accounts for why we had to jump through immigration hoops on arrival at the domestic airport, despite having valid visas and introduction letters from the Ministry.
By the weekend our work activity had all been cleared and, in response to my description of the Degree Confluence Project and request for help to arrange a driver, the regional manager for our development partner organization generously offered to drive me and my colleague Takunda to the uncharted confluence point himself.
We passed out of Kigoma along a winding route over emerald hills decorated with palm plantations. To my surprise, the roads were tarmacked all the way to Kazuramimba, a journey of just over an hour. Naturally, Sam knew the way, though it would have been easy to use a maps app and a GPS unit as I’d planned. The tricky part, if I had hired a taxi or my own transport, would have been on arrival at the village. We parked at the side of the road and strolled along dirt paths between brick bungalows. A mzungu like me stands out blindingly, and, without a good grasp of Swahili and convincing reason to be there with recording equipment, would immediately be viewed with suspicion. Reactions to my presence varied but were unthreatening and mostly veered towards curiosity.
Sam translated his vocal exchanges with the locals: “We are heading towards the Village Chief to seek his permission to visit”. As luck would have it, we reached the confluence point (approx. half a mile from the road) before reaching the Chief. A crowd of cute children gathered to behold the bizarre sight of a white guy trying to precisely position a GPS unit so that the zeroes all lined up. There were warm smiles all round in the glorious African sun as we celebrated a mission accomplished.