8. Exploring Lake Victoria islands with OffGridBox

OffGridBox

There were a few things Jodie needed to sort out, so I had a leisurely start to the day, trying to capture a photo of a pretty blue bird I’ve seen a few times (to be able to ID it, I think it’s a kingfisher!). There’s also a stunning purple lizard climbing up a tree, he’s fairly skittish though.

Purple lizard climbing a tree in the garden

The blue bird is a kingfisher! Not managed to get a decent photo but I can tell he’s a magnificent kingfisher. Also saw a crazy black bird with bright red breast jumping around in the tree above me. The crazy part is that from some angles he has two patches that flash electric blue!!!

Tasty breakfast

Landrover ready to go

I’m on the road with Jodie to head to a port to visit some island-based projects out in Lake Victoria. And I’m having a moment where I’ve just got to pinch myself to believe I’m really lucky enough to be here, in Tanzania, driving down a rough dirt track in a Landover, past beautiful and alien landscapes filled with a collection of beautiful brightly coloured and enormous birds. #blessed never really appealed until now.

Jodie and I at the shore of Lake Victoria ready to head to the island

I was busy all day so I’m writing this up in the car on the way back to “town”. What a day!

Jodie inspecting the water purification unit inside an OffGridBox

We spend the day on Sozia Island in a fishing village that has recently had an OffGridBox installed. Jodie asked if I wouldn’t mind getting my hand dirty so I set up an installation of 64 USB charging ports and cables in the container and then sorted out 50 sets of adapter cables and power banks. Then I prepped the same bits for the other two island installations before helping to bundle USB cables with lightbulbs and switches.

Two men installing charging cables to supply power to the community

Bundles of lights and switches to distribute to the community

We took our lunch break at around 4pm. We went through the village to a place that would have also been home for the night if we had needed to stay on the island. First, we had some really hot water to thoroughly wash our hands and then we tucked into Ugali with a spicy fish stew. This was my first time eating the traditional way, where there’s a communal bowl of Ugali and you rip off a piece, roll it into a ball then squash a little dip into the middle and then use it to scoop out some fish and sauce. It was really delicious and I was very hungry after working for so many hours in the sun.

Something I find really interesting is that there is a significant lack of surfaces to put things on when you go into rural settings. I always find myself putting things on the floor or having to bend over uncomfortably.

Villagers gathering around the OffGridBox

It wasn’t until after 5pm that we were ready for the community meeting, once all the power banks were on charge and Jodie had briefed up the Box Guards that are trained to operate the water and power distribution operations of the box. They had even started registering the first customers.

Jodie explaining a distribution process to a team of helpers

Jodie speaking to the community at a large meeting

The community meeting was really interesting and it’s been amazing me all day that Jodie is so comfortable speaking in Swahili all day, but my admiration increased when she was standing up in front of the whole village with the chief explaining that the box operations now also mean that households can get a power bank each which powers LED lights which are also provided. The residents all had a chance to speak (thankfully relatively few people actually had questions because it was a fairly long meeting anyway after a long day).

The meeting adjourned and there was quite a lot of discussion in Swahili about whether we might stay on the island ready to head over the the other islands first thing in the morning. Eventually it was decided that we would head back ready to leave super early the next morning.

Maribou Storks and water birds on the rocky shore

We hit the water at about 6:30pm as dusk fell and were treated to a beautiful sunset soon after. The thing is though, the water was pretty rough and it got dark really quickly so our hour long crossing involved getting absolutely soaked but laughing quite a lot.

Jodie and I getting splashed with lake water at sunset on the boat ride back to shore

We made it to shore and needed torches to unload the boat and find the Landrover. The final things to be loaded were two Nile Perch which were stashed neatly under one of the rear seats!

Our nighttime journey back to Bunda was made more interesting when the windscreen wiper controls (which broke on the journey down and meant that we had to have the wipers on the whole way) began to spark. We had had a quick look earlier and I thought there was a wire exposed that shouldn’t have been so I suggested we tape it with electrical tape and that has worked.

Still on the road, bouncing our way back to Bunda and I just saw a gorgeous little hedgehog scurrying across the road. An overlanding group were staying at Tembea Mara with us tonight and they had had a buffet dinner. We arrived very late but Aisha and Yusuf had squirreled away a plate for each of us. I was really grateful as I was worried I wouldn’t get any dinner because it was so late.

I pretty much went straight to bed and zonked out after a long day in the sun.

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