Lake Victoria shoreline …

The room that I am staying in now is about 50 metres from the shore of Lake Victoria. I sleep with my screened door open and under a mosquito net. This morning I woke up about 7:30 to the deep croupy bark that I recognized as coming from a hippo. I bounded out of bed and down to the shore in time to catch two big hippos swimming past about 20 metres off shore. It reminded me of seeing dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico … only a little heftier. They would submerge and then come up with a snort for a breath of air as they cruised along the lakeshore.

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There is also a pair of African Fish Eagles that have a nest in a high tree behind the local clinic and they have entertained me annually with soaring flights over the shore about sunset.
This year they have not failed me. One seems to have taken to sitting on the bow of a local boat to scan the waters and surrounding area. Last night one of them was perched by the dock, seeming to enjoy the sunset. I tried to get a photo of him but found the light from the sun too bright. But with a little repositioning, his shadow in the setting sun made the photo I was looking for.

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Getting to Mbita …

The trip to Mbita from Nairobi involves a short flight to Kisumu, a two hour taxi ride to a ferry dock at Luanda and a one hour ferry trip across Homa Bay to Mbita town. There is now a relatively new Tarmac road to the ferry. Before this road was made asphalt, it was muddy and twice in the past, the McGill student group has been stuck on the road, once having to leave one of our overlander trucks mired in the mud overnight.

imageThe ferry trip is always amusing. This trip I arrived about 15 minutes after the ferry had left and had to wait two hours for the next one in a dirt-floored lean-to with benches adorned with ripped cushions, the stuffing belching out of them. It is certainly hotter in this part of the country. In Nairobi the temperatures were pleasant and actually cool. In Kisumu it was in the mid-thirties.

As I waited for the ferry, I watched the fishermen come into the landing nearby in their wooden boats, typical of the region. There is always an on-shore wind early in the evening and the lake actually turns from calm to treacherously rough.

Finally the ferry arrived and a few cars and passengers disembarked. However, there was a small herd of cows that had spent the trip on the main deck and they had to be cajoled and whipped to leave the boat down the car ramp. The region has had more rain than usual in the latter part of 2012 so the lake water level is higher than I have seen in the past. This meant that the ramp for cars ( and cows ) was steep so the cows balked and slid as they exited the boat. In their anxious ride over they had produced a fair amount of dung which littered the deck and the ramp, so much that the cars that were boarding ferry were having trouble getting up onto the boat, their wheels spinning in the “bullshit” and spraying it around. Eventually, two and a half hours after I had reached the landing, the ferry was loaded and ready to depart.

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I happened to meet Linda, an Amercan woman who now lives on Rusinga Island. Our paths had crossed on my previous visits the region. She  was returning to Rusinga Island with some new wicker furniture including a couple of nice chairs, so the two of us sat on the deck of the boat amidst the dung having a visit and watching the sunset.

My "home away from home" for the next three weeks.

My “home away from home” for the next three weeks.

The bottom line is that I arrived safely in time to have dinner and a Tusker with the film crew for Nightrunners, the movie. I feel quite at home at the ICIPE station here and figure it is my 8th stay here. I know all the staff and vice versa. I will be staying in the same room I have had for the past few years, overlooking the grounds that lead to Lake Victoria.  I have already had welcoming  hugs from Tabitha, the lady that cleans my room. Another of my international homes.image