Sunday, June 24, 2012

Karibu Kigoma!

Against all odds, we are in KIGOMA! And the lake never looked so good!

Incidentally, the fact that we arrived is the only thing that’s gone right in the past 48 hours. 

After a 3am wakeup, we were off to the airport for the first leg of our flight to Mwanza (home of Lake Victoria, famous for the problematic Nile Perch).

Ryan, Lesley, Vanessa, me, Renalda, and Yvonne on the edge of Lake Victoria

One more flight and we were in Kigoma, and basically all things have fallen to shit since we landed. So far the field season is off to a bad start, which is bad since we haven’t actually started.

1.       We arrived at the lab to find that there is no lab.  
We’re working out of our hotel rooms this year. Oh, joy. The space we’ve used in the past is apparently being renovated, and we never got the heads up. This Sucks.

2.       The place we store all of our gear from year to year was broken into. Apparently nothing was stolen, however…

3.       The boat we were counting on to replace our old Zodiac (full of holes, transom falling off…) is GINORMOUS and our motor is too small to fit it. Oops.
It took the train back to Dar today, and maybe we’ll get our money back. Now we’re down to our spare boat which is iddy and barely sea worthy…

4.       The (very expensive, very data-rich) thermistor chain that we so carefully deployed offshore in the lake last year magically found US today.
This piece of equipment has been a point of contention for a Very Long Time. It’s basically a long rope with temp loggers attached at various depths (down to 160m!) so we can detect (via a thermal shift) if an upwelling occurred (hypothesized to be a periodic source of nutrients for the nutrient-poor lake). We threw it out last year with a pinger and a good luck charm and hoped for the best. Last week some folks accidentally (?) brought it up with their fishing gear, which saved us the hassle of trying to relocate it I guess.

But overall, I'm just giddy to be out of Dar, and I truly love Kigoma.

The fun thing about coming back to a place you’ve been is that people remember you, and since I’m now a seasoned veteran of Tanzania, I have people. The lady who cleans the rooms and washes my (filthy, disgusting) field clothes gave me a huge hug when I arrived at Aqualodge today. The night guard was excited because I knew how to say hello in Swahili. 

The best was a reunion with my buddy George, fish parataxonomist extraordinaire and completely wonderful human being.

Georgie! This shot is from last year after we successfully deployed the thermister chain.
So now we’re going through gear, sorting our stuff, and trying to prepare for our expedition to Mahale. It’s long, dirty days, and we’ve all pretty much (already…) given up on the notion of being clean. But I LOVE it here, and being back on the lake reminds me of why I wanted to come back in the first place.

In the words of my nephew Nolan, age 3: “I happy.”


  1. Awesome post Ellen! Thanks for sharing - glad you are so happy to be there! Have a great time, I am SO jealous! Glad to hear you have people there to share hugs with! :)

  2. Happy to hear that all is well, thinking of you often and enjoying the blog postings, take care, love to you

  3. Ellen,

    I love your posts! I got teary eyes reading this, actually. I cant wait to join you in Kigoma. I'll arrive on Thursday after you've left for Mahale (i hope you will've left by then). Glad you guys got to go to the shores of Victoria while in Mwanza.

  4. Ahhhhhhhhhh! You are in Kigoma, well done! Never mind the setbacks, you will make it work, I have no doubt about it!! Happy that nothing got stolen (how lucky is that). Great thing about working in your room is that you don't have to walk all the way to your bed every night and that your music collection is always in the right spot ;-)

    Enjoy the lovely surroundings and keep hugging those lovely people!!

    Wish I was there (as you know) ;-)