Hello from the “warm heart of Africa – Malawi!” What a wonderful surprise we got when we arrived in Malawi. The people are really friendly. Even the cops are very chatty and friendly. Silly friendly really! Unlike the rest of our travels where when a cop stops you, he is looking for ammunition to use against you – the cracked windscreen; you driving bare foot; no triangles….you watch those eyes scanning the car. Malawian cops just want to chat and welcome you, the weather, the people where are you going, how did you like? We were stopped by a cop that had been to South Africa. On a busy road, we discussed Kempton Park & Midrand the traffic built up behind us. Eventually when the traffic build up could not be ignored he waved us through the roadblock.
It is relaxing and just warm and comfortable. We have lazed in the sun at the lake and have just enjoyed the relaxed pace. At the moment we are in Lilongwe catching up with admin and yes we have to admit shopping at shoprite! There are no more Nakumats (the wonder shop of Kenya). Locally there are the PTC (Peoples Trading Centre). They carry most items one would need. I now have a new respect for Heinz baked beans. They are everywhere!
After spending a wonderful time in Arusha (thanks Johan!) we headed straight out the country and for Malawi. Crossing the border was rather uneventful and we quickly got our first glimpse of the lake. It is huge. Generally one cannot see the other side of the lake. Local communities scatter the shores. Houses are built from bricks but have a shaggy roof made of grass. Fish sits elevated on stick tables sunning. Fishermen paddle their dugouts along the shore. Children walk barefoot on the road and wave enthusiastically as we go past.
Our first night was spent at a local hotel at Karonga. We drank Carlsburg beer, ate fish (chambo) and swam with the locals whilst they washed their clothes and bathed! Ah this is Africa!!!
We spent a couple of nights at Chitemba at a camp run by a South African (they are everywhere). It was a really lovely stretch of beach but it was strange as the locals were not allowed on the beach in front of the resort.
Livingstonia (legendary mission) was rather uneventful. The mission is still occupied. It was built on top of the rift valley for health reasons (no malaria). The drive up to the mission was quite spectacular and at times rather nerve-wracking. The road is a dirt road comprising 20 switch-back bends that were so tight we had to take the corner in several moves! Viva our TDI! We met a couple who made it up in a series 3 landy and they looked positively traumatized! Every bend required several moves.
We stayed at an eco-friendly camp on the Rift Valley amongst brachystygia woodland vegetation. Sadly Malawi is terribly dry and vaste areas of the woodland were burning. We stayed in an A-frame hut and woke to wonderful views of the lake. We were wined and dined in true style. A local cook prepared our meals that were tasty, well spiced, healthy and mostly vegetarian. We drank filter coffee and ate locally made bread. All we can say is it was awesome!!! One showered with ferns and sat on the throne with views of the lake.
From the heat of the lake we headed for Nyika plateau. Out came the thermal underwear and down sleeping bags. We spent a wonderful couple of days just walking amongst the rolling hills. It is the first wildlife area we have come across that allows one to walk freely. We saw roan, bushbuck, eland and reedbuck. The campsite was very well organized – another surprise! The rains had begun in the area and the wild flowers were out. We met a wonderful family (Maggie and the gang) who were out wild flower hunting. We spent a fun morning wading through the bogs looking for orchids. Great excitement when one was spotted. Just as we were departing, the landy started talking to us in a rather unwanted tone. We looked at each other and hearts sank. We limped back to the camp were Dr Ross diagnosed the problem and performed the surgery. He successfully changed the front drive shaft universal joint!!!!! After our unplanned mechanical training, we headed off to Makuzi on the lake.
What a wonderful piece of paradise! We camped on the lake for a couple of days in this isolated bay. We read, drank beer and just lazed. We dived in the lake, which was quite a different experience from the sea. There were no currents or surges and certainly no corals. There were plenty of ciclids that swam amongst the rocks.
Senga Bay was full of local action. Unfortunately we arrived over the weekend. Just like Tanzania the local population really uses the picnic and camping spots. We had several people swimming and picnicking around us. A few truckloads of British soldiers even arrived and proceeded to re-hydrate! Luckily the day was not too hectic. The fun only got better as the sun set. First a microbus got very stuck in the sand. It was so buried even body work was under sand. The soldiers tried to rock the car out. Then a local landy tried to pull it out. In its great enthusiasm it only snapped several towropes and cables. After 3 hours, plenty of digging and a slow organized plan, another 4x4 managed to pull them out! Once they departed (later returned to sleep on the beach due to car trouble) our neighbors began smoking the pipe and partying. Needless to say we did not get much sleep.
We are learning to do things local. We bought fish from a fisherman in a dugout and Ross filleted it. We cooked it over a fire and it tasted wonderful. Ross has mastered the art of baking bread on a fire and treated us to several buns and loaves. Our morning highlight is brewing local coffee in a flask and then filtering it through a sock (we have nothing else). It makes great coffee and feeds our addictions that began in Ethiopia!