|Big bird on the lake shore|
In 1858, John Speke, a British explorer, stumbled into the shores of a huge body of water, naming it Lake Victoria in honor of the Queen of the United Kingdom. He proclaimed having finally found the source of the Nile river. While subsequent explorations showed 'other sources', the lake is generally regarded as a major reservoir of the legendary river.
To break the long trip, we visited a soapstone factory whose products actually end up being sold in Europe and North America. While I'm wary and weary of "factories" as a side trip, I end up regretting not buying anything later on since those little things like soapstone coasters cost a lot more where I live.
|Soapstone factory worker outside Kisii in Kenya|
At the border town of Isebania, we exited Kenya and entered Tanzania without any hassle - formalities were quick most likely because we got there earlier in the day. Most of us had visas already affixed on our passports anyway - which cost a hefty $100 (meanwhile, my Singaporean roommate was grinning proudly at his visa-free entrance).
As soon as we arrived at our lake shore campsite, we immediately pitched our tents and helped set up folding chairs along the shore for lunch. Babu, the camp cook, prepared sandwiches, pasta and fresh fruits on the table. Kingfishers joined us for lunch as they darted above and dove swiftly for their own fish meal. Plenty of other birds showed up, a teaser of what lay ahead.
|Tanzanian huts in the countryside|
At 69,484 sq. kms in size, Lake Victoria is truly massive. It's like an open sea with nothing to see beyond the horizon. While Tanzania takes a lion's share of the lake, one couldn't even see next door neighbor Uganda or Kenya, both of which also share a chunk of the shoreline.
While the lake is continuously supplied with water from many rivers, it does become a source of rivers itself. Out from Lake Victoria emerges the Victoria Nile before it becomes the White Nile which merges with the Blue Nile (coming from its headwaters in Ethiopia's Lake Tana) to form a singular, life-giving river we all so know as the Nile. Some 6,000 kms. later, the Nile eventually empties out into the Mediterranean Sea.
3 years ago, I sailed on a felucca in Aswan, Egypt and wished I could go beyond and see the headwaters of this river. Now I feel like I've come full circle - seeing a part of what will eventually turn into a riverine beauty - a lake named after a Queen and a river where pharaohs have long ago sailed.