A tale of two swamps – Still no boat trip

Our next stop was a meeting with the headsman, the guy who looks after the village for the local chief.  We were driven a short distance out of the village centre and parked under some shady trees next to a substantial brick house.  We were led into a back room that served as the village council chamber.  We sat round on sofas and on hastily found plastic chairs, but left empty a large armchair covered in heavy throws.  First the village secretary came in and introduced himself, then he was followed by an older guy who again did a series of handshakes around the room before filling the vacant armchair.  We talked of the situation and challenges of fisheries in this region for some time; none of it was particularly a surprise to Ian.  We followed this up with a meeting at a school attended by members of the fisherfolk association and its officials.  All in all it was a productive day and we got several angles on the fishery and I started to get a sketch of the layout of the landscape I had to map.

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Meeting participants

Next morning I was up early once more and took a longer walk.  I thought I might get a better view of the lake from the hill behind the hotel so I although I started out on the same track as I had traversed the previous day I soon turned sharply uphill.  The track became deeply rutted but still was passing through some low density housing; each building set in half an acre of its own garden.  I learnt later that these were originally the houses of the civil service from colonial days; the ones sent out to administer the far flung districts like Samfya.  Despite rising a long way there were no really good vantage points to see the lake – the very top of the hill was covered by a series of radio and mobile phone masts.

After breakfast we met up again with the fisheries officers to see if there was a chance that we might go across the lake, but no, the open water on the lake itself was still too choppy.  This was unfortunate as I really wanted to see what the hidden villages in the swamp were like, and head down narrow channels in amongst the reeds to find them.  Some of these villages were temporary; used by fishermen only in the open fishing season.

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Morning walk

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