Mpulungu I

A large, brown stripe divides the sea of shacks that seam the southern shore of Lake Tanganyike.  As if a fat, brown snake had eaten her way through the village and laid her body down at the shore to drink some water from the deep, deep lake.

It is the town of Mpulungu that we will discover within the next few days. A collection of flat houses and shacks grouped around the only port of Zambia, the southern African state which is most famous for the Victoria falls.

Although Mpulungu is a Zambian town, it shares more features of a Central African settlement. The days when the old Liemba after a three day long journey down the eastern coast of Lake Tanganyika reaches Mpulungu, the town becomes a bustling, tumbling place embracing the chaos that the Liemba brings with open arms.

It is a strange place. Not only captured between the Southern African and the Central African culture, it also seems to be trapped in a sphere between land and water. In fact, it is a dry sphere. Even though Mpulungu is located right at the mighty Lake Tanganyika, it seems to be constantly fighting the dust that comes in waves from the unbelievably vast hinterland, at times giving in to the reddish wind that then colours the main street in this only colour that you can say is truly African.

It seems that places captured in between different spheres, such as Mpulungu is one,  do not know where they belong to, what sphere of civilization they originate from and where they are heading to. Interestingly these places also seem to be the most honest ones. Mpulungu welcomes its visitors with a big sign: “Welcome to Mpulungu. The only porttown of Zambia. Live chastely cause we got a lot of AIDS!”


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