We were traveling all night. This time the trip had been very popular and no seat was vacant. In the morning we arrived at our beautiful destination: Beyin Beach. The scenery reminded vividly documentary scenes. The sea shore seemed endless. Exceptionally high palm trees were laying on the beach. Beach houses made by wood and palm trees’ branches were standing on poles above the ground. Even the toilet was bizarly marvelous, while an open window was right ahead of it offering unrestricted view to the ocean.
We were all expecting to visit the unique village of Nzulezu (=surface water). As its name states a village on the water. The canoe station was at walking distance from the huts. We went aboard the big, but rather short canoe, and indulged the beautiful trip. At the beginning the passage was short and could not fit two canoes at the same time. Later it became wider and the nature thicker. In the end a big lake appeared- Lake Tadane. An incident brought be violently back to reality. A little local boy, who was traveling with us, sunk his bottle into the still lake water and took a big sip out of it. Instantly I remembered a similar scene from documentary in Siera Leone, which had made me crying.
After a while there it was. Nzulezu, a village on stilts nominated for Unesco World Heritage Site, was spreading in front of us. Photography fee paid and our tour among people’s houses began. The locals seemed to be familiar with the tourists, for sculpted miniature canoes were on sale in the little shops and receipts were offered to the tourists. Other than that life on the village seemed to be usual. Women were preparing family lunch and doing the laundry while kids were playing around. The sole path led us to the school, which for some of our team had a sentimental meaning. A few years ago they had realized a social project, through the same student NGO, concerning the school library. When we were on the narrow corridor in front of the school, observing the outstanding spectacle of houses made of rafia on the water, a cracking noise was followed by a feeling of descending. Thankfully the corridor moved only by an inch or so and did not drop us into the unwelcoming lake waters.
We were seated at an open air venue next to the school and informed about the history of the village. At the end, we were offered the floor to make questions. Some wondered about rubbish collection, electricity, rain issues, burial. There seems to be an “extension” of the village on shore,with which Nzolezu is connected and supplies it with the necessities. Moreover we learnt that “Thursday” is a sacred day at Nzulezo: no fishing is permitted and no tourists are allowed at the village. Snails are revered by the inhabitants, since it is believed that the early settlers or the ancestors were led there by a snail. Another interesting fact concerns the “judiciary system”. The elders of the village and the chief, hence the most respected personalities, form a regulatory body and decide upon criminal offences, apart from felonies.
Leaving the village on the water behind, I and my Greek friend started singing Greek songs from classic black and white movies. Maybe this was the first time that the lake creatures have heard such peculiar tunes!