Tuesday, February 21, 2012


This past weekend, Dan and I traveled together from Zobue to Songo to reunite with other volunteers from Central Mozambique.  We were headed to Lake Cahora-Bassa, the long, thin lake that stretches across the western half of our province.  Since it takes about two hours to travel from Zobue to Tete City and another three hours to reach the lake itself, we switched our Friday classes and took a three-day weekend in honor of this social gathering.

Road (red) from Zobue to Cahora-Bassa

Because we are a little isolated in our corner of the country (our closest American neighbor is actually a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi), it was nice to visit with other volunteers who are serving across all of Central Mozambique.  We were at a good point in our service to exchange stories and ask for advice, since we had just completed our fifth week of school.

The lake that we were visiting, the fourth-largest in Africa, is about 150 miles long and about 19 miles wide at its widest point.  We were staying near Songo, which is at the far, far eastern end of the lake.  Because the Zambezi River flows from west to east, the famous Cahora-Bassa dam is also located at the eastern end of the lake.

While at the lake, we stayed at Casa da Pesca (Fish House), on a houseboat that we had (accidentally) rented.  We had originally planned to book a chalet at the rather famous Ugezi Tiger Lodge, but it was very, very expensive.  Instead, for just $13 a night, we chose to book several rooms at the nearby Fish House.  These rooms, it turned out, were on a boat.

I am not complaining about this.  The houseboat not only had three bathrooms and a kitchen, but a dining room and a full set of dishes, as well.  It was an exciting surprise, considering we thought that we would be staying in a simple hotel room.  On our first morning, a crocodile was spotted in the water just off the lower deck.

The highlight of our visit was a boat tour of the lake.  Though the driver didn't pack enough petrol,

(Driver:  "How much petrol do we have?  Ten liters?  Fifteen?"
 Assistant:  "Five."
 Driver:  "Well, shit.")

and had to rush back to shore lest we run adrift in croc-infested waters, it was still our first opportunity to see hippos and crocodiles in Mozambique.

The following pictures tell the story of our first vacation in Mozambique:

We inadvertently booked a houseboat for the weekend... 

...A houseboat with a draw-bridge.

Our houseboat on Lake Cahora-Bossa, Mozambique
Our bedroom at the back of the boat
Jamie (Moz 17- Manica Province) beams from her bunk bed in our shared room
Dining Room on the second story of the houseboat
Lake Cahora-Bassa at sunset
Single-tree dugout canoes.  These go out into the crocodile-infested water every day.
Jetty to launch our boat tour.  Note that the steps do NOT go all the way to the shore.
Loading onto the boat for our tour of Lake Cahora-Bassa
After some deliberation, Jamie braves crocodiles and parasites to board the dock
Ian and Hannah (Moz 15 - Sofala and Tete Province) on board the boat on Lake Cahora-Bassa
Speeding down the Gorge
Jamie and Lisa (Moz 17- Manica and Tete Province) on board the boat tour 
The steep walls of the gorges of Lake Cahora-Bassa
Low-lying crocodiles in the lake
Hippos in the lake.  They spout like whales!
Our wake in the water and the steep terrain of the surrounding landscape.  Speeding back to land.
Coca-Cola in re-fillable glass bottles (some of which are very old).  Fifty cents.  Very common in Mozambique.
Dan (Moz 17 - Tete Province) climbs a Baobab tree at a nearby lake lodge
A monkey at the lake
A dung beetle rolling down the road.  A very exciting find!
"C" for "Central Mozambique"  -  "C" for "Cohesion"

And here is a fun fact about Lake Cahora-Bassa:  It is widely believed that there exists a colony of breeding "Zambezi Sharks" within the boundaries of the lake.  The current theory is that a number of bull sharks were trapped upstream following the construction of the Cahora-Bassa dam and are now existing quite happily as a single, isolated population.  Local tribes have reported shark sightings and shark attacks in the lake itself, but, as of yet, there has been no hard evidence of freshwater sharks within the dam.

While this is very exiting, it is interesting to note that the hippopotomus, not the bull shark, mamba, or even the lion, is considered to be most dangerous animal in Africa.  Hippos are extremely aggressive, fast, and territorial.  The other dangerous animal found in the lake, the Nile crocodile, is considered to be the "most prolific predator of humans among wild animals." These two species combined account for hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths in southern Africa every year.

Suddenly, sharks seem quite tame in comparison.  At least they stay in the water.  Hippos and crocodiles are amphibious!

When you consider the abundance of exotic and dangerous life under the surface of the water, however, it is alarming to realize that hundreds of local tribesmen depend on the lake for survival.  Every day, they go out onto the lake to fish.  What is their mode of transportation, you might ask?  How do they stay safe when the water is churning with hungry, grinning, toothy beasts?  On a dug-out, single-tree canoe no bigger than the width of their hips, of course!

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