I wake at just before 7. The sun is rising, the smell of smoke from charcoal fires permeates the morning air. We are staying put today. After two heavy days of travel it is time to put our feet up and relax. One peculiarity of our accommodation is that all of us are in a separate single room. Awake I wander the gardens of St Benadet’s taking in the early light.
The guidebooks recommend that you stay at St Benadet’s Guest House, this place run by nuns is reputed to be the best place in town by far, and though it is not luxury it is certainly a lovely place. Sat atop a hill overlooking Mbamba Bay it affords some excellent views of the lake. It is peaceful and quiet here, not an oppressive silence, just quiet and relaxed. Just what we needed.
What we did not need was to find out that Mbamba Bay had no bank! We paid our first night in shillings intending to get more out to pay the second. We are down to our last few thousand shillings and have no way of getting more including tonight’s accommodation. The nearest bank is back in Mbinga a two hour bus journey away. We had intended to visit an ATM prior to leaving Songea, but our late taxi meant we had no time to spare. All we do have is dollars intended for touristic things. Luckily the sister is willing to accept payment in dollars though last night’s money has been banked. She is heading for Mbinga today and will exchange the dollars and deduct the accommodation – a huge sigh of relief.
Today we need to do one thing – to arrange a crossing of the lake. We are assured that there is a crossing on a Saturday. Even so we need to confirm something today.
We wander into Mbamba Bay and almost immediately meet a fellow passenger from the Songea bus – he recognises us! A brief conversation quickly leads to our travel plans. He say she will see if anyone is going across the lake.
Mbamba Bay is a small lakeside town, it could be a big tourist centre if it wanted to be, impressive views and white sandy beaches, no sign of bilharzia snails (unlike Lake Victoria) and clear waters. It hasn’t been commercialized and we like it that way. The town is quiet and relaxed, much like St Benadet’s.
We wander around the town and within minutes our fellow passenger comes back and leads us to a shop. Here the owner is introduced as a man who can help us get across the lake. He is going to Likoma Islands which are in Malawi. He can take us for 4000 TzS each. We would then need to get from the Islands to the mainland. As it’s an afternoon crossing we would probably need to stay the night! Another option which we will avoid is a ferry to the North of the lake. This is a way out of our way and would require a long trip South through Malawi.
We continue through town as the grapevine works – now everyone we meet seems to know our travel plans, even those well across the town. We speak to two police women who confirm the Nkhata ferry which will arrive tonight and departs tomorrow. This reputedly will cost $50 per person. Hence a dilemma cost over destination and on- costs. If the nun doesn’t come through it will be mute as we only have dollars and a tiny amount of shillings.
We wander to the beach and stroll along the shore. No sign of biharzia snail shells so we risk a paddle. It’s beautiful walking in waves and in the gentle breeze. We stop at a beachside bar for a drink (we have just enough Shillings!)
We continue on and meet a man called Adelini. He is a tour guide and offers services. We tell him we are leaving tomorrow. He can help us with passports – we need to leave Tanzania. He can also secure a boat leaving tomorrow for Likoma. He will come back to us with details.
We stroll to some rocks and then wander back to St Benadet’s. We decide to research Likoma. It’s sounds gorgeous, a real haven. The island sits in Mozambique waters but belong to Malawi. It is a change from our plans but sound amazing. We may well stay two nights camping in one of the tourist hotels.
After a relaxing afternoon we return to the beach bar to watch the sunset.
Whilst there we meet with Adelini who has a boat for us which will sail tomorrow night. The night crossing to Likoma founds interesting.
We will confirm booking tomorrow. The scheduled ferry ($50 per person is a no show so we will be going in a cargo boat whatever happens.
Our adventure continues!
Mode of Transport
- Guest House – St Benadets
- $12.50 per room per night
- Mbamba Bay