Rusugi River

Name ID 2460

See also

Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 145a
Extract Date: 1996

Our first sight of Lake Tanganyika

We crossed the Rusugi River in order to visit the salt flats. The operation seemed quite organized, as it must also have been in Burton's time. The flats are a huge area where the salt can be seen drying. We were there towards the end of the day and watched lines of women carrying the salt in baskets on their heads, the day's production, to a central building for further processing.

There were rock outcroppings all over the place � good leopard country. Burton mentions this, but only in discussing the children dressed in leopard skins. Nowadays, if any villager is caught with a leopard skin there is a very severe penalty involving a long jail term.

We took a sharp turn to the west on a relatively new road, but because it did not appear on the modern Tanzanian map we could not be sure where it went. However, the villagers assured us that this was indeed the road that led to Kigoma and Ujiji. After lunch, which we had under a tamarind tree, the road began to descend sharply. I knew we must be going down to the big lake, and my excitement grew.

Then our route took us alongside the railway line to Kigoma. At one point, where the land was very hilly, there was no road at all, and we considered shoving the two Land Rovers onto the railway tracks and driving to Kigoma that way. However, it was quite precipitous on either side and it would not give us much chance to get off the line out of the way of an oncoming train. So, instead, we just gunned the Land Rovers through the rough terrain. At Kalenga, two young boys tried to sell us a dead banded mongoose. I cannot imagine what they thought we would do with it. And then, at last, at 3:18 p.m., we reached Kidawe and caught our first sight of Lake Tanganyika.

It was overcast, and therefore I did not see the light shimmering on the waters of the big lake, as Burton had, but the experience was thrilling nonetheless.

Burton's description of his first sighting, on February 13, 1858, is almost ecstatic.

Extract ID: 5774